Your article regarding partnership frequent flyer programs is very timely. I have miles on American that I would like to transfer to US Airways. American tells me I have to book a flight prior to August (when the partnership ends). I do not plan to make any travel reservations before August. Is it in my best interest to book a flight to transfer the points and then cancel it? I am sure there would be some penalty, but it might be worth it. What do you think?
For background, American and US Airways have a frequent flyer relationship in place that allows members of either airline's program to combine miles from the other's program when taking an award. So, for example, a member of both programs could-as Suzanne is contemplating-transfer American AAdvantage miles into her US Airways Dividend Miles account and redeem the combined miles for an award ticket on American. Note that the pooled miles can only be used for awards on American or US Airways, and NOT on other airlines participating in either of these two programs.
The mileage-pooling feature will be terminated this summer, in anticipation of United's proposed acquisition of US Airways. Date-specifically, all requests for awards using pooled miles must be made by August 23, 2001, and all award travel must be completed by June 30, 2002.
Hence Suzanne's question. The response...
If you have some AAdvantage miles that would be best used in combination with your Dividend Miles mileage, by all means, pool and redeem them for an award ticket while you can (i.e., before August 23). You can then have the ticket reissued for travel until June 30 of next year. Your best option would be to have the award ticket issued for the origin and destination you will actually travel. In that case, when the ticket is reissued for your actual travel dates, there won't be any charge for the change. If the reissue requires a routing change (either the origin or destination changes), you'll be assessed a $50 fee.
This strategy was used often in years past, when many programs had expiring miles. To protect miles before they expired, it was common practice to redeem them for an award ticket with a dummy itinerary. The award ticket was valid for 12 months, during which time the holder could have it reissued for travel on an actual itinerary.
There are, it should be mentioned, some other possibilities for using those "orphan" American miles. You could:
- Redeem them for lower-level awards offered through AOL AAdvantage Rewards
- Convert them to Diners Club Rewards points through Diners' Miles-to-Points
- Convert them to other "flavors" of miles or points through Points.com (http://www.points.com)
- Use Hilton HHonors' Reward Exchange to convert them to HHonors points
Tim Winship Contributing Editor SmarterTravel.com