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The Way US Airway’s Companion Certificate Can Complicate Things

I’m still a huge fan of US Airways’ upgrade process and I don’t want to see it go anywhere.

One of the best things about the upgrade process is that as long as you have an elite on-board for every non-elite in your group, everyone gets treated as the top-tier elite.

So if you have one executive platinum (chairman), one gold (silver), and two non-elites, all get upgraded as a ex-plat/chairman.

The US Airways Companion certificate (which still exists with $40,000 spend on the Silver aviator card, and for those who haven’t used their 2015 ones yet) allows you to book a ticket and add one or two extra people for $99 each.  You cannot save that second person for another ticket.

So if you are only going to use one, it’d be nice to ask around and see if anyone wanted to hop on for a really cheap trip.

The only problem is, if you are the only elite on the ticket, you just cut yourself out of any upgrades.

The other thing to know about it is they do not allow you to add anyone else to the PNR.  You cannot book three seats under the companion certificate and then add a fourth full-priced person.  You cannot merge the reservations afterwards.  (I think this has something to do with the way the system prices these tickets–it does not list two people individually as having $99 tickets.  It divides the total price by three people and displays that as the individual passenger cost).

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So this creates a complication if you are traveling with four people–two elites and two non-elites.

Usually, it’s an ideal situation.  All four will be eligible for upgrade benefits.

When using a companion certificate, you’ll either have:

Two elites and one non-elite on a PNR, plus one non-elite on their own.

That version makes me nervous because in irregular operations, that person may get left behind.  In fact, when Keri (Heels First) were on the same flight but different PNRs, even though we were both Chairmen, they would not let Keri also rebook me with the same options she was getting.

Or you could do, one elite with two non-elites–who would at least receive the rebooking benefits of the elite attached to their PNR (but no upgrades), and a solo elite.

I’m not usually a super-we-need-to-get-upgrades-person, but when traveling with specific people, I’m all about the upgrades.

I was traveling with my husband, mom and father.  Bill, my husband, is an American Gold.  My parents have no status.  My dad used to be my yearly recipient of a free US Airways silver membership as part of the special dividends program, but that benefit went away with the merger.

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I was booking us via a companion certificate.  I want my parents to get upgrades, but neither situation would have been good.  We could have gotten three upgrades if we put all the elites on one PNR and then we let my parents have both F seats.  But then we risked one parent getting stuck if there were any unforeseen circumstances.

If I put both my parents on my PNR and my husband on his own, we’d only have a chance at one seat in F.

What I ended up doing may be seen as a waste of miles, but the peace of mind I got from it outweighed any potential loss.

I booked my mother into first class on miles.  I put her in the last row at the aisle.

I booked myself, my husband, and my father on one PNR with the companion certificate in the first row of coach behind her.

That way, if our upgrades didn’t clear, we’d still be together… sort of.

If our upgrades did clear, I’d move everyone around into their preferred seats.

We have the benefit of the elite status for any rebooking.  She has the benefit of being a F passenger.

Problem solved, albeit through a much more complicated method.

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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2 comments

  1. If it’s one elite traveling with two non-elites, than there’s no way to upgrade right?

    I assume we all get MCE and that is not a bad deal considering.

    • Jeanne Marie Hoffman

      Yes, there’s no way to upgrade. US Airways doesn’t have MCE. They have seats that are “better seats,” but they don’t have the legroom, unfortunately, of AA MCE.

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