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Making the Most of US Airways Trial Preferred

How do you make the most out of US Airways Trial Preferred Status?

A few months ago, I posted about my own adventures with a US Airways Preferred Trial.  However, the decisions I made were the result of me going for platinum last second after a lot of work-related flying.  Jamaica and the Bahamas happened to be the cheapest last-minute flights I could find that would allow me to hit the 6,224 miles I needed to complete.  But what is the best strategy when you are aiming for status all along?

Reader Phil asked:  I’m shooting for my first status – flying CLT-SFO for work in August so I’m well on my way to getting Silver with Trial preferred.  I’ve got free weekends in Aug-Oct, so I’m shooting for the stars here.  Any advice?

Important

To earn miles towards status with a US Airways Preferred Trial, you must be flying on US Airways metal.  That means the plane should say US Airways when you get on it.  A codeshare is not good enough, so if you show up and see  United on the side of the plane–uh oh!

Planning the Flight Route

CLT is a good spot because Phil has a lot of routes to look at and lots airports are relatively nearby.  It is great to capitalize on stop-overs when on a trial because US Airways gives you a minimum of 500 miles for each leg.  I tried to jump between DCA/CLT/PHL as much as possible when I was on a trial because that can add up quickly.

You can map out your flights here using the airport codes for each leg of the flight:

http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=clt-phl-sfo

Just replace anything less than 500 miles with 500.

Also make sure you have enough time for your longer legs with all those stop overs.  I padded the time pretty well and I bought a trial membership to the club for my preferred trial.  (I ended up keeping it after that).  It is $120 for 90 days and only works in US Airways Clubs.  Since I had all my stopovers in US Airways hubs/mini-hubs, that didn’t matter for me.  This may be worth it to help you pass time time or fix itineraries if anything goes wrong.

Figuring Out the Cost

As for flying the weekends, figure out how much status is worth to you. Then keep looking at flights until your status is in a price range you are comfortable with.

If you have specific locations you’d love to travel to, the Fly.com fare calendar can be useful:  http://www.fly.com/Flywidgets/CalendarSearch.aspx    I used that when pricing out a potential trip to IST (unfortunately on United).

Finding Flights

How do you find flights that are worth it?  Since flights can fluctuate in price day-to-day, it is important to look at potential flights broadly.  Bonus points if you don’t care really where you are flying.  I have a “as long as it is interesting” rule for my mileage runs.

http://matrix.itasoftware.com/search.htm

That’s where the ITA Matrix Software comes in.  In this search, you can look for flights on specific carriers and leave a lot open ended.  (You can search a within 300 miles of a specified destination).

In the departing area, you put the name of the airport you are leaving from, plus something extra to make sure it only looks at US Airways flights.  In this case, to search for Phil, I would type:  CLT :: US+     .   The    “:: US+” part is needed to tell it to look at US Airways flights originating out of CLT.

Edit:  In my haste, I made an error.  You need to put US+ to get all the routes   Thank you to HansGolden for pointing this out!

For Destination, let’s try SFO.  So we type SFO into the destination box, but then hit “nearby”.

I select within 300 miles so I can see as many airports as possible and then hit “select all”.

Using ITA Matrix Software to look for flights, multiple airports can be selected at once.

I select to search by calendar of lowest fares departing in the beginning of August (the start of his mileage run).  I put 1 day as his length of stay (since I assume he isn’t really looking to vacation) and search.

Here’s how my filled out search form looks:

Using ITA Matrix Software, you can look up great flights for mileage runs to maximize every flight and hit elite status.

After I hit search, here are the results I got:

Using ITA Matrix Search Software, you can find great flights for mileage runs towards elite status and maximize your US Airways Preferred Trial.

Notice the $407 standing out.  You can change the date of your search easily in the upper left-hand corner to continue looking at the next few months.  That flight turns out to be CLT-SFO  then SJC-PHX-CLT.  So you’d have to arrive in San Francisco but leave from San Jose.

With the great circle mapper, I found out that is 4,691 miles.  I scrolled down a bit to see if any of the flights connected in Philadelphia (for extra miles) but couldn’t find any.  And to make it easier to put into perspective with other flights, it is costing you  8.87 cents per mile flown.  It is getting you over halfway towards the next level of status.

I searched around Seattle and the cheapest I found was CLT-SEA-CLT for $475, not as good of a deal.   Let’s look internationally.  When looking internationally, it is useful to look at the US Airways flight map so you have a good idea of where US Airways metal flies.

US Airways flies to Zurich.  So let’s try that one out.  I put ZRH into the destination and checked within 300 miles.  Be careful with this one.  Since it is searching multiple airports, it may suggest you fly into Frankfurt and out of Zurich.  I get $1,056 for a roundtrip flight to Frankfurt.  That’s 8,793 miles and just above one level of status.  Please note that you can BUY Chairman for $3,000, so this may not be the best route to take.  Plus, we’ve gone up to 12 cents / mile.

I will keep looking at flights for you Phil.  Keri is currently on a US Airways trial too, so maybe we’ll pass you in the sky!

Things to Remember

You cannot book through ITA Matrix Software.  You must find the same flight when booking through your preferred method.

The amount of days you are staying in your location can change the price of the flight.  If you don’t mind staying longer, that may positively affect the price.

These miles are counting ~3x their normal value, so don’t compare cents per miles to normal mileage runs.  I think the 8.87 cents per mile on the San Francisco trip is okay, but I also think we can do better.

Think about off seasons.  Part of the reason I thought to  for cheap

Short flights may be your answer if you don’t mind waiting around in airports and going from place to place.  Also, look at airports nearby if you don’t mind driving.  If you are based in CLT, you may want to head to DCA to get the bonus miles from connecting in CLT (And oddly, sometimes the flights are cheaper with the extra leg).

Hope this helps, and I’ll keep looking!

 

 

About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

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5 comments

  1. Putting in US by itself limits ITA to non-stop US flights. You need to do US+ to allow connections.

    • Whoa, huge mistake there. Thank you for catching it! I need to write posts like these on more sleep. Thank you!

      • If you want ITA to do all of your work for you, you really should use o:us+ as your routing code to ensure that the flight is operated by US Airways, as is required for the challenge. In this case, US doesn’t codeshare UA flights on the non-stop (n/s) CLT-SFO (in fact, UA doesn’t operate CLT-SFO at all). In this case the cheapest US fare doesn’t allow routing via DEN (US does codeshare the UA DEN-SFO flight, for instance) so you don’t need to worry about CLT-SFO given the current fares filed. However, an airport just outside (329 miles) of your 300 mile SFO search, MFR, is served only by UA, not US, so if you flew there on US flights, you would have to take UA-metal. The same situation is with my home airport of ICT.

        So basically, give ITA as much info as you can and specify o:us+ just to narrow the search and to avoid having to manually weed out code-shares.

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