I had a marathon day with US Airways yesterday, but when the dust settled I successfully booked a very attractive 10-segment business class itinerary, bucking the conventional wisdom and stern admonitions from many agents that awards cannot exceed eight segments.
As Gary has shared before, it is possible to book more than eight segments on a US Airways award. My brother is due for a visit and revenue fares were sky high, so he decided to take advantage of US Airways’ 100% bonus award mile promotion and purchase 100,000 miles for $1453.00 (including taxes) in order to book a business class award.
US Airways requires Dividend Miles accounts to have been open for a minimum of 12 days before purchasing miles. Thankfully, I had opened an account for him last month thinking he would end up booking a business award to come see me in Germany. I have spoiled him when it comes to air travel and he has become one of the “I’ll fly business or first or I’ll stay home” flyers.
Anyway, US Airways allows awards to be placed on hold for 72 hours even with no miles in your account, allowing you to make sure your award is bookable before purchasing the miles. There were a number of cities my brother wanted to hit on the trip (maximizing the up to 23hr, 59min layover rule), including Dusseldorf, Munich (during Oktoberfest), Copenhagen, and Charlotte. Frankfurt would be his primary destination and he wanted a stopover in Bergen, Norway for a few days to visit family. A tall task indeed…
With less than two weeks before his trip, I figured I would not have a lot of trouble finding award space, and indeed, I got almost exactly what I wanted–an itinerary that included travel on United, Lufthansa, SAS, Singapore, and US Airways. Now came the challenge: booking it.
I am trying to teach my brother “how to fish” so I instructed him to give US Airways a call and attempt to book the reservation. After four attempts, he sent me a dejected e-mail saying that he was giving up and that they kept telling him eight segments max and too many stops.
The thing is, nowhere in the US Airways Dividend Miles rules is there an eight segment maximum specified. It may be the unofficial rule or just the conventional wisdom of many US Airways agents, but I was determined not to excise any of the layover cities on the trip.
Maybe I just got a good agent (though I’d like to think I have the golden touch), but I was able to place on hold exactly what I wanted, though the process took about 30 minutes because the agent had to send over the reservation to rate desk to calculate the correct mileage and taxes required.
My brother purchased the miles and I called back later to ticket the reservation. The agent took one look at the reservation and said, “Sir, you have too many stops on this. You’re only allowed one.” I explained that three of the “stops” were just longer layovers, but were under 24 hours. The two real stops, my stopover and destination, were permitted by the US Airways award rules.
She was silent for a few moments as she scrutinized the itinerary, then stated rather unconvincingly that I was correct. I asked her to ticket the reservation and she said the taxes were not stored correctly and she would need to call the rate desk.
Back on hold, I only had to wait five minutes before the agent returned bearing bad news: “Sir, I knew this reservation was fishy. You are only allowed eight segments. We are going to have to eliminate some flights.”
I quickly shot back that I the itinerary had been validated by the rate desk earlier in the day and that my purchase of the 100,000 US Airways miles had been predicated on booking the specific itinerary on hold. She was sympathetic and put me on hold again to check with her supervisor.
Not three minutes later, though, she came back with bad news. “My supervisor is an expert at these things and you simply cannot have more than eight segments. In fact, our system will reject any itinerary more than eight segments. They are simply not bookable.” I smelled BS, though still with a hint of compassion, so I asked her to leave the itinerary untouched and I would check with my relatives which city I would cut. She agreed.
I called back, reached an agent who insisted on going through the itinerary flight by flight, but thankfully was not aware of the eight segment rule (if there is such a rule). She had to place me on hold again to call the rate desk since the taxes and miles were not calculated during the last call after my itinerary was deemed invalid. But seven minutes later, she came back saying everything looked good, the taxes would be $227, quick processing fee of $75, standard processing fee of $50, then asked for my credit card.
Moments later, the ticket was issued and I received ticket numbers shortly thereafter.
So when a US Airways agents tells you that you cannot book more than eight segments, just hang up and try again. I am not convinced that is the rule, but even if it is, US Airways is still like the Wild West when it comes to award bookings (and thankfully so)–anything goes if you get the right agent.
For about $1750 my brother will be enjoying extended time in six cities. Not bad! Remember that you only have until 15 September to take advantage of US Airways 100% bonus miles promotion.