U.S. Airways Warns Flier Miles May Expire

The airline said Monday it's planning to erase the frequent-flier accounts of customers who have had zero activity in at least three years, as part of its merger with America West.


Attention US Airways fliers who have not used their frequent flier accounts the past few years: you may be in danger of losing them unless you act in the next two weeks.

The airline said Monday it's planning to erase the frequent-flier accounts of customers who have had zero activity in at least three years, as part of its merger with America West. Charlotte's dominant carrier wouldn't say how many people could be affected, only that most are people with small mileage balances.

The airline has been sending warning letters to Dividend Miles account holders in danger of having their miles expire. It warns them to post some kind of activity by Feb. 15 or risk losing all their miles.

Joel Thompson, a Charlotte executive, got such a letter from US Airways. At risk: 200,000 miles, or enough for four coach seats to Paris. "The old saying `Out of sight, out of mind' goes for this!" Thompson said in an e-mail.

Fliers have a few options to preserve their miles, outside of booking a flight on US Airways and traveling before Feb. 15. First, check if the account already holds enough miles to get an award ticket. The cheapest available is a round-trip ticket between the continental United States and Canada for 25,000 miles, though capacity is limited.

One way to add miles to an account, which has the benefit of being free, is to sign up to receive US Airways' e-statements, which sends Dividend Miles account information over e-mail instead of snail mail. Customers can only sign up once, but it nets 1,000 bonus miles. Visit www.usairways.com/ dividendmiles/programinfo/email_programs.htm for more information.

Customers can also buy miles directly from US Airways to create activity. The airline sells them at 3.5 cents per mile, with a minimum purchase of 1,000 miles. The airline also charges a $25 processing fee. That means a minimum of $60.

Some fliers, though, have become increasingly frustrated with the seemingly diminishing value of their miles. More customers are enrolling in programs, and more are carrying credit cards affiliated with airlines that earn miles. That means more miles are chasing fewer seats available for free award tickets.

Customers who don't feel like they'll build enough miles to grab a free ticket can use their miles as currency to buy magazine or newspaper subscriptions.

Such subscriptions cost between 300 and 2,000 miles. Available titles include BusinessWeek, Lucky, Seventeen and Nursing Made Incredibly Easy. Visit www.magsformiles. com/usair178 and enroll before Feb. 15.

The airline says the move is part of an effort to tidy up mailing lists following last fall's merger with America West Airlines. Other airlines routinely purge inactive accounts, but this marks the first time in years that US Airways has taken such a step, spokesman Phil Gee said.

He said people who signed up for frequent-flier accounts in the past have been told their miles expire after three years, but that previous US Airways' management did not enforce that rule.

Stan Choe: (704) 358-5169

Lower Fares to 8 Cities

US Airways cut the cheapest fares to eight cities out of Charlotte by up to 54 percent Monday, the second time it's cut fares from one of the country's most expensive gateways in the past month.The airline, whose hub status in Charlotte has meant traditionally high fares, has said it's working to implement a lower, simpler fare structure around the country. It is still studying fares out of Charlotte and could lower fares to more cities in the future, spokesman Phil Gee said. That will depend on whether demand for the seats increases with the lower fares, he said. Fares are not available every day, and a limited number of seats at those fares are available. The new round-trip fares, not including taxes and fees, announced Monday are listed by destination at right.

Columbus, Ohio, $198

Dayton, Ohio, $198

Ha rtford, Conn. $198

Huntington, W.Va., $278

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