US Airways Dividend Miles is dead. May she rest in peace.
I will not say it has been an unproductive week, but I have spent a great deal of time around the deathbed of Dividend Miles this week, trying to book one more “trip of trips” as I reflect upon what has been a dependable and faithful friend for many years. More on my own trip in a moment.
Over the years I have booked some gems using Dividend Miles including trips around the world on both Star Alliance and oneworld (among others). Over the same period, Award Expert has helped hundreds of clients redeem tens of millions of US Airways miles, giving me a rather intimate relationship with a loyalty program that was generous and rewarding while mind-numbingly inept and comical at the same time.
I recall several incidents dealing with agents who had no concept of geography, agents that I had to slowly coach on how to book award space, and agents who loved to make up their own rules, some in my favor, others not. Who cannot love agents who thought Johannesburg was in “The China” and Frankfurt, Germany was in Kentucky? Who cannot see the humor in an agent flatly insisting that her computer was broken because “I may not be smart but I know there is no such thing as time travel” when trying to figure out why a flight that left Tokyo on a Thursday arrived in Honolulu the evening before. (It was remarkable how many agents had no concept of the International Date Line).
The good news is that these agents will still be around – on Monday they will return to the phone calls, this time under the American Airlines banner. The sad thing for us, though, it is that the computer now will do all the work. No more manual pricing, no more “creative” award routings, and no more nervously sweating out a call to the “rates desk” to see if our trip to Australia via Europe and Asia will squeak through. It will – but it will now be three separate awards instead of one.
There is a story in the Bible about King David losing his son in II Samuel 12:16-23.
16 …David fasted and went into his house and stayed there, lying on the ground all night. 17 The elders of David’s family came to him and tried to pull him up from the ground, but he refused to get up or to eat food with them.
18 On the seventh day the baby died. David’s servants were afraid to tell him that the baby was dead. They said, “Look, we tried to talk to David while the baby was alive, but he refused to listen to us. If we tell him the baby is dead, he may do something awful.”
19 When David saw his servants whispering, he knew that the baby was dead. So he asked them, “Is the baby dead?”
They answered, “Yes, he is dead.”
20 Then David got up from the floor, washed himself, put lotions on, and changed his clothes. Then he went into the Lord’s house to worship. After that, he went home and asked for something to eat. His servants gave him some food, and he ate.
21 David’s servants said to him, “Why are you doing this? When the baby was still alive, you fasted and you cried. Now that the baby is dead, you get up and eat food.”
22 David said, “While the baby was still alive, I fasted, and I cried. I thought, ‘Who knows? Maybe the Lord will feel sorry for me and let the baby live.’ 23 But now that the baby is dead, why should I fast? I can’t bring him back to life. Someday I will go to him, but he cannot come back to me.”
And not to be crass and compare the loss of Dividend Miles to the loss of a child, especially as we learn more about the Germanwings crash, but I found that story running through my mind as I frantically tried for one last Dividend Miles award.
* * *
The Objective: US Airways Dividend Miles 45K Award in First Class From Doha to Dubai
The objective sounds simple enough – a first class award between Doha and Dubai for 45K miles, the price of an intra-Middle East award. Here’s the rub: I was not interested in flying on Qatar’s direct flight.
I have not flown in Qatar or Malaysian Airlines First Class yet, so the plan was to try to experience both using my 50K remaining US Airways miles. I hatched a plan to construct a “Middle East – Middle East” for 45K miles with a routing as follows:
- Doha to Paris on Qatar Airways A380 First Class
- Paris to Kuala Lumpur on Malaysia Airlines A380 First Class
- Kuala Lumpur to Dubai on Malaysia Airlines A330 Business Class
- Dubai to Kuala Lumpur on Malaysia Airlines A330 Business Class
- Kuala Lumpur to London on Malaysia Airlines A380 First Class
- London to Doha on Qatar Airways A340 First Class
Over the last four days, I called Dividend Miles more than 100 times to try to book this. Oh, don’t think it was the only thing I did – I got several client tickets booked last-minute as well and have actually had a fairly productive week. But over the last few days at least one phone line has always been on hold with US Airways — this was a round-the-clock effort.
At several points I was successful in assembling the routing, getting a confirmation number, and even getting the agent to manually price the award at 45K miles. Problem was always that taxes did not compute automatically – and my itinerary never got past the infamous “rates desk”. Congratulations US Airways, you got me on this one.
Yesterday I abandoned trying to get the r/t booked and just thought perhaps I could get one-way booked for 45K or that the itinerary may squeak by with a direct return, but adding the return made it worse, for it magnified how out of the way the outbound routing was.
Late Tuesday, an agent named Shaniqua in Winston-Salem, shot down my routing, telling me she had received a memo about booking DOH-CDG-KUL-DXB and that some guy has been “calling in all day” trying to book this but that “WE ARE ONTO HEEYM” and “HE WILL BE DEEEEEEENIED”….
I saw the writing on the wall.
I took a different track last night, trying to book HKG-KUL-LHR-HND in MH/JL First Class as a 40K intra-North Asia award. That did not work either.
As the final agent denied me my routing, I apologized for wasting her time, thanked her for her help, and wished her my best as the merger progressed. There was still an hour left to book tickets and zero hold time, but I did not call back. And then the clock struck midnight central. It was over.
And the story of David losing his son filled my mind, not so much because of what he lost, but because of he how he reacted after his son died. He had been fasting and laying on the ground all the week – so had I, essentially. Heidi is in Germany and thus I have been a “bachelor” again this week. With only a couple trips to the gym, I have spent most of the week in bed, on the phone with US Airways. I have not eaten much and while I have been able to multi-task, think how long 100+ calls take, especially with the long hold times this week.
So the sense of relief that spread over me last night, even as I knew I failed in my mission and I knew Dividend Miles was now dead, was great. After that last call, I took a shower and went out to dinner. I suddenly noticed how hungry I was.
Award programs come and go – we have seen the loss of many great programs over the years – but US Airways Dividend Miles will be particularly missed, especially by someone like me who eats, sleeps, and breathes airline miles and credit card points and is quite passionate about milking the most out of every mile in international first class.
Here’s to hoping that our dear friends at US Airways will still at least be a bit humorous under the new AA regime.
Tomorrow: An Ode to US Airways Dividend Miles