US Airways Doesn’t Understand US Airways’ Programs?

Last year, I was determined to make sure I hit at least 85,000 miles.  The reason for this is because US Airways has a Special Dividends program that gives you different benefits in between status levels.  The 85,000 one includes being able to enter the upgrade queue, even on award tickets.

US Airways Special Dividends

I booked an award ticket out to Denver this past weekend and was happy to see almost all of my upgrades clear.  My Charlotte to DCA final segment didn’t clear, but that made sense.  It was an early flight in at the start of the week–a heavily trafficked leg with lots of Chairmen.

My flight to Charlotte was a red-eye and when I landed, I used the mobile site to pull up the upgrade list.

For instructions on how to do that, click here.

When I saw the upgrade list, my name wasn’t on it.  Out of the 37 people on it.

I had no chance of upgrading and I didn’t really care about that, but I was extremely curious as to why I didn’t get put on the upgrade list.   Is there a rule I don’t know about?  Was the system broken?  etc.

My thoughts originally:

  • Checking in 24 hours before a red-eye was technically two days before this flight, so something got lost in translation
  • Something with the system that overrides the no-upgrades-on-award-tickets doesn’t automatically override the day of
  • Gnomes

So I went up to the gate agent to investigate.

She pulled up my reservation and said, “You are trying to get an upgrade on an award ticket.  You can’t do that.”

I said, “Oh, I have that special dividend from flying 85.000 miles that lets me do that.”

She said to me, “Yeah, our program changed on February 1st. You should have gotten an email. If you read that, you’ll understand.”

I politely said that item didn’t change and that I had gotten upgraded on my previous flights this weekend.  At that point, she got a bit colder.

She told me I wasn’t even showing as a Chairman to her in the system and I shouldn’t have gotten any upgrades.  At that point, she seemed really suspicious and made a phone call.

The conversation on her end went like this:

“Hi, yeah, I have someone here claiming that if you fly a certain amount of miles, you get upgrades for free on award tickets.”

“Ha, yeah, I know, I know, but she also says she’s a Chairman but she isn’t in my system.”

“<reads number>”

“Oh, okay, but she doesn’t get upgrades on award tickets, right?”

After she hung up she said, “Yeah, that was the Chairman line and they said you don’t get upgrades.”

I started saying it wasn’t a Chairman benefit per say (at this point, I wanted her to understand it was a benefit for anyone she speaks to in the future) and that the reason I got my upgrades was because of the 85,000 miles.

85000 miles

She said that there was no way I was upgraded on this ticket according to the rules, and that if I ask gate agents to upgrade me on planes that are not full in first, some of them will as a courtesy to Chairman who ask even though they don’t have a right to do it on award tickets.

I started saying it happens in the normal upgrade process online automatically, but she cut me off.

She said, “I’m looking at your ticket right now and I can see on it that the upgrade cycle, your ticket was rejected because it was an award ticket.  I can see that gate agents manually processed your upgrades, probably because you asked to be on the upgrade list.”

She looked at me pointedly at that point.   I have no idea where that information came from or what it looks like in her system.  But it wasn’t true.

I’ve walked into (and fallen into) a giant planter.  I fell backwards after curtsying at a friend on the jet bridge.  I even made a horrible auto-correct mistake to a business contact yesterday.  (very bad).  But I don’t get embarrassed easily.

This was embarrassing because at that point, people around me were looking at me and rolling their eyes. I wanted to say, “I didn’t con my way into my upgrades, I promise!”

But more than embarrassing,  it was worrying.  Taking the gate agent at her word, the Chairman line didn’t even know about this benefit.  And she didn’t.

When I was leaving, she did say, “I will run this by my manager and get his opinion.”  And I hope that was true.  Airline rules are hard enough for the average flyer to understand without the gate agents also getting them wrong.

Edit:  People have asked for more context about this benefit, especially when it expires, so here’s how it appears in my account.

First Class Upgrades on US Airways


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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  1. Kevin @ Rent Your Credit

    Odd… have you tweeted to US Airways? They usually respond fairly quickly and you’d think they of all people would know, especially if you have a link to the above image that shows the program.

    • Jeanne Marie Hoffman

      I did tweet US Airways. They told me to call Customer Service for clarification. I even tweeted the program details to them (directly on the site) and asked them to confirm but they replied again to call Customer Service.

      • Kevin @ Rent Your Credit

        What a subpar response. Do any of your fellow Boarding Area bloggers have a PR contact? I’m sure you’ve tried that, just thinking if I were US Airways I wouldn’t want negative publicity over my own program that my own employees don’t understand. Epic in so many ways.

  2. It will get better with the mega-merger 🙂

  3. Interesting. I’ve had weird stuff happen to me over the past year with this program. It has been even more strange since I often book US Air but on AA flights lately out of STL. Sometimes they show my lowly silver status and give me some minor access to certain seats and other times they don’t. I think they just don’t know their own rules. They have made the program so complicated that no one knows what is included.

  4. I got upgraded on the shuttle while using avios last week!
    just made 85k for the year, but I am not sure why I would not get it as a chairman benefit.

  5. It may also be mixed up for you due to dates of the weekend.
    Before May 31st, you can use last years miles and status, after May 31, the system uses current year miles and levels for buying up to Chairman (at least this was last years cut off and I think the system may still be hard wired to that date) so I think the special dividends is perhaps linked to it.

    • Jeanne Marie Hoffman

      This isn’t linked to that (and one of my upgrades was on June 1st), but I’ll put more information on this benefit in the post. Thanks!

  6. A bit confused what benefits exist here when earning Chairman’s on a challenge. Seems like I should be able to gift silver to a friend, and things like that, but not get all the coupons? Might be worth a post, now that Chairman’s fever is in high pitch with it being a backdoor to AA ExPlatinum

    • Jeanne Marie Hoffman

      Thanks! I’ll write on that. You only get these benefits if you literally fly the miles. So if you do a challenge or “buy up” (which doesn’t exist anymore) to get Chairman, you won’t get any of the benefits.

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