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US Airways slashes life of frequent flyer miles

US Airways has quietly changed its mileage expiration policy, reducing by half the period during which Dividend Miles members must have account activity in order to preserve the life of their miles. And they've introduced a new reactivation policy permitting expired miles to be extended, for a fee.

Here's the policy statement as it appears on the US Airways website: "Effective December 1, 2006, active membership status is based on having earned or redeemed miles within a consecutive 18-month period. With our new Mileage Reactivation Policy, Dividend Miles members have an opportunity to reinstate their Dividend Miles accounts to active status for an additional 18 months for a $50 processing fee and reactivation fee of $.01 per mile. If members do not extend with this reactivation option, the Dividend Miles account will be closed and all miles forfeited.

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"Members who have no account activity for a consecutive 36 month period will have their accounts closed and will forfeit all miles in their accounts. Once forfeited, miles cannot be reinstated."

Some ultra-frequent flyers may welcome the change. They face no danger of losing their miles since their regular travel will keep their miles active. And by winnowing less-frequent travelers out of the program, there will be less demand for award seats and hence better availability for remaining members.

But for the great majority of Dividend Miles members, the policy will be a hardship. And an unnecessary one: most airlines extend the life of their members' miles for three years after every account transaction.

And for potential members, it's a good reason to sign up for a program with a more user-friendly mileage expiration policy.

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