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US Airways puts elite status within reach of more travelers

The principle governing elite-qualifying miles (EQMs) has traditionally limited their accumulation to frequent users of a single airline. Because elite status was meant to signify that you were particularly loyal to the airline which hosted the program.

That narrow focus has expanded somewhat over the years, with EQMs being awarded for flights on selected partner airlines—in particular, members of the same global alliance—and sometimes for other transactions.

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US Airways' new "Everything Counts" promotion casts those constraints to the wind.

Through December 31, miles earned by Dividend Miles members for transactions with about 50 program partners count toward earning elite status for 2007.

Dividend Miles has more than 100 program partners, so the participating companies only represent about half of the full Dividend Miles roster. The promotion is thus misleadingly misnamed and is likely to confuse at least a few program members who read the title and not the fine print.

Still, it represents a significant expansion and a rare opportunity for travelers to reach elite status. Note that the list of participating partners, while extensive, is mostly limited to hotels and car rental companies. So gaining elite benefits will still require considerable time on the road.

While some Dividend Miles members will be delighted with the easier availability of elite status, the promotion is likely to irk another segment of US Airways' customers: Those who already have elite status, who "earned it the old-fashioned way," rightly view the swelling of the ranks of fellow elites with suspicion, as it means more competition for first-class upgrades, the key benefit of earning elite status.

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