US Airways Rewards Customers By Threatening To Charge Them $25 For Inactivity

A reader has forwarded us an obnoxious notice from US Airways that explains how they “reward” their frequent flyer program members: by charging them $25 if they’re not active enough. So what are the best ways to remain active without spending $25 or making an unnecessary ticket purchase?

We’ve read some advice that says you could make a gift of some of your miles to a charity, but US Airways charges $25 to buy, gift, or share any miles. So instead, we suggest you earn your negative reward (jeez) by purchasing the cheapest product you can from their Dividend Miles Shopping Mall. They write in their email that a purchase as low as 99 cents will suffice, but they don’t point out what magical product in the SkyMall online store is only 99 cents. We’d suggest looking at low-cost products like magazine subscriptions or iTunes songs, or checking out a store you plan to shop from anyway (we saw Staples listed there).

Your other option, if you don’t care about sharing your dining purchase patterns with US Airways, is to register for their stupid Dining Rewards program with an existing credit card. We’re gonna have to stop making suggestions on how to do business with US Airways now because it’s making us feel bad about ourselves.

Yes, it sucks. It’s a ruthless way to prune less active customers and try to force others to open credit card accounts or choose US Airways for impractical reasons when traveling. And they should have had the courtesy and customer respect to grandfather existing miles. But if you really want to keep the ones you’ve earned, you’re gonna have to pony up something.

About that “reward” wording: pretty much all airlines have reduced their expiration schedules from the once-standard three year window to 12 or 18 months, but these ultimatum emails written in doublespeak are a low point in customer communication. But remember, US Airways is the company with the ads on the tray tables and the perpetually lost lost-and-found page. We fully expect their next innovation to be time-share seats, where you take turns standing with a fellow passenger because you’ve paid full price for the perk of sharing a single seat.

(Thanks to David!)

“Cheap and easy saves for at-risk miles” [SmarterTravel]
“Expiring Airline Miles Could Cost Consumers $28 Billion”
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. hapless says:

    I’m glad to see frequent flyer programs bite the dust. I’d rather have lower fares.

  2. JustAGuy2 says:

    This isn’t news, nor is it suprising. Southwest was actually the pioneer in having frequent flier points expire, and theirs expire even if you have activity on the account.

    Also, here’s an important note: if you aren’t flying US Airways, you’re not a customer, so the headline should be “US Airways Rewards NON-Customers.”

  3. balthisar says:

    Hell, I’d rather have (slightly) higher fares and reintroduce — get this — service into the industry. I don’t mean having to fly first class; that’s much too much higher. But what about meals and snacks again? When your company pays for the ticket, it’s nice knowing that there’s food without having to miss your short connection time by stopping at one of the airport mall stores. Hell, even when travelling on my own dime, I’m not going to sweat over a mere $50 price difference if the treatment is that much better. Alas, too many people focus on every goddamn penny, and it’s screwing things up for the rest of us. ::sigh::

    Dining Rewards isn’t stupid. I use it for AA miles. It’s currently 10 miles for every dollar spent! Plus another mile per dollar spent for using the AA-branded credit card. It’s money I’d’ve spent anyway, and it’s for restaurants — nothing nefarious like those lousy supermarket tracking cards. It even works with my company-issued credit card when travelling for business.

  4. asujosh1 says:

    I say ‘Who cares?’ to frequent flyer programs. Long gone are the days when you could actually use them for something. Almost all carriers seem to be restricting more and more the times that you will be able to use them, and some are even downgrading their value.

    All you are doing is providing the airlines with a more effective way to track your purchases and market to you. Unless you use them very often, all rewards programs are a joke.

  5. jeffjohnvol says:

    I was thinking about switching from Delta to AA once my miles are used up, but I doubt I’ll do so now. I fly a lot for 6 months, then not at all for another 6 to 12 months and so on. I’m glad to be aware of the new policy. That would have been a costly switch!

  6. jeffjohnvol says:

    I was thinking about switching from Delta to US Air once my miles are used up, but I doubt I’ll do so now. I fly a lot for 6 months, then not at all for another 6 to 12 months and so on. I’m glad to be aware of the new policy. That would have been a costly switch!

  7. jeffjohnvol says:

    Sorry for the misprint of AA above. I meant to say US Air.

  8. vex says:

    I’ve given up on just about all rewards programs, including credit card ones. I figure with the time I waste figuring out all the details of the terms, reading long contracts, and shuffling around my spending/miles/travel, converting points, or whatever other hoops they make you jump through, I’m not really getting much reward back. I just say no to them all – they are a waste of my time.

  9. Hawkins says:

    Reward programs are not directed at INfrequent fliers. Airlines make money from business people who travel a lot, and often pay full fare. The reward programs (as are the special non-sneering reservation agents) are for THEM.

    The rest of us, as far as the airlines are concerned, are filler. We generally have no strong preference for one airline or another, and usually buy what’s cheapest on our infrequent journeys.

    So don’t expect them to give a shit about you and your paltry 50,000 miles.

  10. macinjosh says:

    I wish I had gotten this…I recently chatted online with USAir to find out my account info and it turns out my account was killed because of 3 years of inactivity. I dunno know how many points I had (prob’ly not much), but they’re gone.

  11. Anonymous says:

    When are they going to pay their customers for late arrivals and delays? Flying US Airways made me feel as though I were in the middle of an infomercial or a focus group. The ads on the tray tables, multiple commercials on the television, and the flight attendants showcasing Visa applications became slightly disturbing (especially when one is trying to relax, sleep, read). Not that flying is an inherently great experience, but there’s no need to make it worse.

  12. vladthepaler says:

    How is it possible to be both an inactive flyer and a frequent flyer? Perhaps if one is cargo?

  13. JiminyChristmas says:

    I opened my NWA Worldperks account in 1992. I didn’t accumulate enough miles to use for a ticket until 2007. The miles never expired. Maybe something has changed?

  14. Trackback says:

    Over at the Consumerist, they posted a reader complaint that US Airways was sending out letters to Dividend Miles members with inactive accounts, “encouraging” them to pay up $25 to keep their accounts alive. Expiration dates are unfortunately nothing new for US Airways.