1549 Passengers Get Elite Frequent Flier Status, For A Limited Time

One of the cool things about being one of the few people in the world to survive a crash water landing is that you get preferred frequent flier mile status. The passengers from flight 1549 that crashed in the Hudson river will get US Airways “Chairman’s Preferred status,” which entitles them and a companion to first-class seat upgrades, choice seating, and priority check-in. In a letter to the passenger, CEO Doug Parker describes it as his airline’s “most coveted frequent flier level.” But you better get over your PTSD-induced drowning nightmares quick, 1549ers, the status expires in March 2010. The CEO’s letter in full, inside…

January 21, 2009

I hope that this letter finds you at home and taking some time to rest and recover from the events of last Thursday.

On behalf of the 34,000 employees at US Airways, I want to acknowledge your courage, the professionalism of our crew, and the outstanding rescue efforts of all of the various organizations and agencies that came together last week to assist with Flight 1549.

We would very much like to see you on a future US Airways flight soon. To that end, we are extending Chairman’s Preferred status, our most coveted frequent flier level, to you through March 2010.

I know our Customer Care Team has been providing support and also communicating next steps as we work to recover and potentially return any items from the flight. In the meantime, please let us know if you have additional needs.

Again, we are grateful the events surrounding Flight 1549 ended as they did, and we will continue to applaud our crew and the actions of the first responders for many years to come.

We look forward to serving you again soon.


Doug Parker
Chairman and CEO, US Airways

Chairman’s Preferred Status gives the passenger and companion first-class seats when they’re available flying domestically, an upgrade to Europe or Hawaii, choice of seats and priority check-in.

Passenger Antonio Sales from the flight told the New York Post, “That’s more of an ‘OK, you’re not dead, I’ll give you something to hold on to.’ It’s not enough at all.”

(Thanks to Crim Law Geek!) (Photo: derek7272)


Edit Your Comment

  1. redragon104 says:

    unrelated, but what happened to the ..more> link at the end of the blurbs?

  2. lodleader says:

    sorry, but what does that give them?

    • Yankees368 says:

      @lodleader: Chairman’s Preferred Status gives the passenger and companion first-class seats when they’re available flying domestically, an upgrade to Europe or Hawaii, choice of seats and priority check-in.

    • lars2112 says:

      @lodleader: Chairman status on USair basically means you will fly first class on all domestic flights, more bonus miles….. I have been a chairman for 2 years with them, I have never once bought a first class ticket because I always get upgraded. It is only nice if you fly them a lot, if not it means jack.

  3. Fresh-Fest-1986 says:

    Way to not die guys!!!! We should put this on a list and link it to the main page on how to get that “unknown airline upgrade”

  4. courtneywoah says:

    what exactly do these people want from an airline company that experienced a freak accident through no fault of their own? I think being alive should cover it.

    • Miguel Valdespino says:

      @courtneywoah: And they all got $5,000 for their luggage, and they are local media celebrities of the moment.

      However, there have been troubling reports of previous engine issues with this plane. If the NTSB concluded that there was any negligence in themaintenance, then I’m sure they’ll have a class action suit.

      Still, it’s not nearly as good as the Golden Pass that the Oceanic Six got…

      • ZekeSulastin says:

        @Miguel Valdespino: … maintenance or not THE DAMN ENGINE INGESTED LARGE FLYING BIRDS.

        • shepd says:


          I’ll be waiting for the NTSB to decide. There is a certain maximum size of bird any engine is required to “digest” before catastrophic failure. Normally, at worst, the engine would flame out and just need to be restarted. Even if ALL engines flame, the plane can safely glide for long enough for several restart attempts.

          If the NTSB simply find that, yes, the unlikely possibility of multiple oversized birds going into the engine caused catastrophic damage to both engines, then all’s well. However, being as it is unlikely, I’m not holding my breath.

          There have been previous US air transit companies that have had fatal accidents because they decided to go cheap on maintenance. Alaska Airlines and ValuJet come to mind. The culture, when it comes to maintenance, is that if you speak badly about maintenance you cannot find work with another airline *ever again*. That’s why we have the NTSB.

          • ohenry says:

            @shepd: I think the funniest thing is that even if the engines were in good enough of shape to survive swallowing a few birds, and they turned the plane around for maintenance, half of these people would be complaining their heads off about the bad service of the airline, even if they had told them “Hey, if we didn’t turn around we’d be crashing”. Not to be cynical, but working in the industry I know it would have been the case.

            There really just isn’t winning when it comes to airlines.

  5. boxiom says:

    How about for life?

    Fuck heads.

    • Yossarian says:

      @boxiom: Why? USA Airways employees already saved their frickin’ lives after an event that, so far, looks not to be USA Airways’ fault.

      Every bad thing that happens in life doesn’t have to be a winning lottery ticket.

    • Sam Wille says:

      @boxiom: Maybe because they don’t expect people to honestly want to fly right away after such a terrible incident? Perhaps because it is unknown whether or not someone might abuse the privilege and cost them more than they would normally budget for this sort of gift?

      There are probably a number of factors. In this case they were going to be screwed no matter what. For some people, as your comment would indicate, there is simply no pleasing people any more.

      • consumerd says:

        @Sam Wille:

        There are probably a number of factors. In this case they were going to be screwed no matter what. For some people, as your comment would indicate, there is simply no pleasing people any more.

        Yep, I think the fact they each got:

        ->$5k for the luggage

        ->Their lives without lifelong injuries

        ->free upgrades

        ->A good pilot that knew what to do when he was losing the aircraft.

        Considering the alternatives they are pretty well off if you ask me. People have to realize when you get in a pressurized tubular gas can, leave earth defying gravity to get to another destination that may take a car days to get to, one realizes the risks. True, most flights go off without a hitch, but to expect 100% perfection, 100% of the time is a fallacy

    • Plates says:

      @boxiom: Hopefully this will be for life – life of USAirways that is.

  6. Segador says:

    I actually think this is a nice gesture. I’m already assuming the ticket cost was refunded for the river-bound flight, and I know they’re each getting $5k for their lost luggage. I’m sure many of them are talking to lawyers, but I don’t see this incident as being US Airway’s fault at all. Your plane hits a flock of birds and crashes. You’re all alive, and relatively unhurt. What more do you want?

    • Sam Wille says:

      @Segador: I have to agree with you. They get $5,000 for the lost luggage, which for me would have been extremely generous based on how I packed for my last flight. They also get this ‘Elite’ status through March of 2010, which granted gently forces them to use the airline again but more than likely flags them through the system as someone that needs to be given preferred treatment considering the circumstances they faced.

      I cannot speak for everyone, but for me knowing that I made it off the plane safely, and that I could then reunite with my wife and two children would be all the compensation I would require. Honestly. At that point I would be done with flying.

      Whoop de doo my ass.

      • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

        @Sam Wille: Why would you be done with flying? That – if anything – is testament to the safety features in today’s modern airliners.

        Granted, I’d probably need some valium on the first takeoff, but I don’t think I’d swear off flying completely.

        • pz says:

          @Oranges w/ Cheese: Ever been in a plane crash? How do you know you wouldn’t swear off flying completely?

          I too have complete confidence in the safety features of airlines and pilots, but if I was in a crash and survived, that’d probably be the end of flying for me, too.

          • Yossarian says:

            @mdmadph: And be the end of riding in a car for you, if you survived a car crash?

            Granted, people make irrational choices every day, so a few more won’t make much difference.

            • Sam Wille says:

              @Yossarian: Is it really irrational for someone that just survived a crash to be a bit apprehensive about climbing board another airplane, car, or motorcycle? Granted, people get back on a cycle after 6 months of healing and people that survive head-on collisions at some point find themselves in a car – I’m sure if they had a choice and didn’t need to put themselves behind the wheel they would be content to use other means.

          • Tmoney02 says:

            @mdmadph: and you would be letting your fear trump being rationale for as long as you stuck to that attitude.

            If you get in a car crash are you going to swear off automobiles?

        • Sam Wille says:

          @Oranges w/ Cheese: It would take a lot of convincing – convincing otherwise not worth it for my situation – to have me get in a plane again.

      • jamar0303 says:

        @Sam Wille: Lucky you to have that option. Me? Trans-Pacific trips are a necessity for me. In such an incident I’d have to take some sleeping pills because I’d be even more scared on a boat out in the open sea for weeks to get to China and back.

    • Jack Doyle says:

      @Segador: I fly US Airways all the time. They constantly have delays and cancellations that are blamed on acts of God when clearly they are not.

      The boy who cried wolf comes to mind.

      Yes, no doubt this crash was an act of God, and certainly out of US Airways’ control, but, unfortunately, they treat every problem that way.

  7. floraposte says:

    I think several of the quoted passengers come off rather poorly in this article. For one thing, how is this a “frigid” letter? What did they want, “OMG I <3 U GIZ”? And they’re really going to sue the airline for not providing them with enough preferred status? I get that if you’re freaked out by airplanes for awhile you may not be back on one in short order and may miss the window, and I can understand expressing regret about that. But as the basis for a lawsuit?

  8. Rachacha says:

    I think the most valuable benefit for these passengers is that according to the USA website, Chairman Preferred Status members are “…able to reserve select exit-row seats and Choice Seats anytime after you book your flight at no additional cost.”

    If I was on this flight, I would want to be in the exit row right next to the door EVERY SINGLLE FLIGHT.

    This is certainly a nice gesture to go along with the lump sum payout for property reimbursement they announced a week or so ago which left the door open for additional reimbursement if necessary.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      @Rachacha: I wouldn’t want to be *in* the exit row, as I’d probably turn into a bumbling pile of goo in an actual emergency. But I’d want to be near it.

  9. William Gu says:

    Why is this a “whoop di doo”? This is really nice of US Airways. That guy talking to the NYP is pathetic. That guy is just really bitter. They got $5,000 in reimbursement as well as the cost of the ticket returned. What happened could have been American or United or any other company. It’s not US Airways fault and they’ve handled this potentially disastrous PR situation very well.

    I’m probably going to be called an ass but this article really rubbed me the wrong way. Especially what that passenger said. What does he want? US Airways would be fine without him.

    • jamar0303 says:

      @William Gu: American would be fine without him. Maybe United too. But US Airways? They need all the business they can get- they’re close to the edge. I’d be happy to see US go under (go see Flyertalk if you want to know why) though.

      • William Gu says:

        @jamar0303: I mean, I’m only a college student and whatever travel I do is on United or American. I don’t contribute that much to airlines.

        However, I still strongly disagree with how this post was written and the attitude of the guy talking to that reporter. At least some others agree with me though.

        And from a business standpoint, isn’t what US Airways doing smart? They landed the plane safely, got everyone out safely, over-reimbursed passengers, and offered passengers a nice bonus if they come back to fly with them.

        • jamar0303 says:

          @William Gu: Sort of- some of the privileges of Elite status are also transferable to other airlines flying their routes through Star Alliance. In this case, they have *Gold, which gets them mileage bonuses on partner airlines, lounges, preferential treatment, etc. It’s ba business sense to do that if you’re trying to get them to fly you again- after that traumatic experience they’re going to be flying a partner airline for sure (example- Lufthansa is much better for Europe, United is marginally better for domestic, and Continental is joining *A soon- they’re better than United for sure).

  10. bagumpity says:

    This is like giving burn victims free cans of Sterno and Bic lighters.

    • Sam Wille says:

      @bagumpity: How?

      $5,000 for your lost luggage. Why? By the time we are done with it, which could honestly take months of extensive investigation, it won’t be any good to anyone anyways. So, while your belongings may be worth $1,500 at best we are going to give you a little extra for your trouble.

      Oh, and by the way we are going to give you ‘Elite’ status for a little over a year so that should you choose to fly with us, we will do everything within our power to ensure you have the most pleasurable experience possible.

      If your losses go beyond the $5,000, take it up with the airline.

      Don’t want the ‘Elite’ status? Don’t fly.

      End of story.

      • Miguel Valdespino says:

        @Sam Wille: Technically, they only need to cover $3,500 per their contract of carriage. So they’ve already given them $1,500 more than they needed to. If you regularly fly with more than $5,000 per bag, then you need to buy flight insurance.

        • Sam Wille says:

          @Miguel Valdespino: And I doubt very many people fly with more than $5,000 in belongings on them at all times. Overall my point is that they are complaining when they should be grateful they are alive.

          Use the extra money and invest*.

        • stuny says:

          I am curious. Have the set a new precedent for lost luggage reimbursement? Do we all get $5K whenever our bags are lost?

          Are these people’s luggage worth more than mine because they didn’t die? I didn’t die on my last flight, do I get $5K?@Miguel Valdespino:

      • jamar0303 says:

        @Sam Wille: For me the biggie of Elite status is the *G (Star Alliance Gold) status. Preferential treatment on any Star Alliance airline. And bonus miles given on the really good ones too. Hello Lufthansa!

  11. freelunch says:

    I can’t believe the passenger comments the papers are printing…

    Maybe the survivors would like to each receive a hug and a “way to hang in there” from the CEO? Or do they want more financial compensation, like their own private jet preloaded with a flock of geese?

    sorry – I’m bitter at this trend of “i deserve better” attitudes.

  12. MeOhMy says:

    I’m still waiting for USAir or some other “enterprising” soul to offer them Free Waders!

  13. Eryn DeLille Cobb says:

    Yeah…I think this is actually really nice. If the accident had been some fault of the airline’s, that might be a little different, but birds in the engines? That hardly warrants any kind of compensation. As a matter of fact, the passengers should just be grateful to the airline that they hired such a wonderful, quick-thinking pilot who knew exactly what to do to keep everyone alive and virtually unharmed.

  14. Jonathan Khoo says:

    i agree with @freelunch and others. what more do they want–or feel they deserve? the accident was by no means the fault of the airline and i can’t think of anything the airline did wrong!

    granted it was a harrowing experience that no one should live through, but in the end, you’re alive and (physically?) unharmed — alive and unharmed thanks to employees of the airline you want to fleece.

  15. Witold Witkowski says:

    I’m getting seriously tired of the entitlement society we are becoming. Just because you had a hardship does not automatically mean you won the lottery at someone else’s expense. USAir giving free upgrades for a year is great, maybe extend it for 5 years or something like that, as it won’t cost them too much anyway, but seriously WHY ARE PEOPLE EXPECTING ANYTHING MORE?!

    If it were me, I would want USAir to pay for my ticket to CLT, (to get me to where I intended to go), and pay for a reunion with the crew so I can thank them personally. That’s it. Costs them nearly nothing, but in PR terms, its priceless.

  16. flyingphotog says:

    US Airways’ CEO is Doug Parker, not Parks.

  17. ophmarketing says:

    The Oceanic 6 got Golden Tickets…

  18. sirwired says:

    What does that Antonio Sales want? It was a freaking ACCIDENT! $hit happens! It wasn’t the Airline’s fault! You lived!

    Hell, all the airline really owes them is some money for their drowned luggage and a refund for not getting them to CLT.

    USAir normally sucks, but they have truly gone above and beyond here.

  19. WBrink says:

    Newsflash – Idiots fly and “the internet” gives everyone’s opinion equal merit.

  20. Blueskylaw says:

    Is that 1549 passengers or passengers from flight 1549?

    • egoods says:

      @Blueskylaw: Yeah, that title is pretty hard to understand from the front page. I was thinking “Were there THAT many people crammed on to that airplane? I think I can tell you why it crashed!”

  21. revmatty says:

    I’m on board (sorry) with everyone saying USAir is going above and beyond in this case. I am more likely to use them in the future as a result, and the whiners just look petty and greedy.

  22. Corporate_guy says:

    Why are they giving them anything? Airlines cannot be held responsible for “acts of god”. They are responsible for proper maintenance of the aircraft and pilot training. Neither of those caused this crash. So the airline is not responsible. Technically they didn’t even have to replace the luggage. People assume risk when they get on a plane.

  23. sean98125 says:

    Upgrades for a year does sound a little cheap to me. If I had been on that flight it would be at least a year before I would even consider taking another plane trip.

  24. twritersf says:

    Y’know, U.S. Airways is definitely one of the more sucky airlines out there (definitely a low bar, to be sure), but ya gotta give ’em props for hiring someone who turned out to be one of the most skilled pilots ever, the perfect person to handle such a situation. True, he likely wasn’t hired by the current penny-pinching, customer-oblivious management. What really bothers me is that first they sent every passenger a $5K check, and then they add this, all entirely without prompting. You know if the lawyers got involved, such gestures would be prevented; the lawyers would say such moves would reflect admitted liability. It’s more, and quicker, than most companies would do. Props to management for reacting and actually doing something good so quickly. So it really bothers me tremendously that what I’m hearing from passengers now is that it’s “not enough.” Some are even planning to sue. For more. Much more. And all I can think of, even knowing that some likely lost forever irreplaceable personal possessions, is: Greedy bastards.

  25. Traveshamockery says:

    I’m sure they’d settle for a guaranteed emergency row seat.

    Heyyy Ohh!

  26. Corporate-Shill says:

    Nice offer. The time limit sucks.

    Should have been life time.

    (Or until USAirways is absorbed by Delta/American)

  27. Trai_Dep says:

    The survivors of the Lost flight got over a year’s vacation out of their crash. With polar bears, even.
    Yeesh. Next time, fly Oceanic.

    • BuddyGuyMontag says:

      @Trai_Dep: I mentioned it below, but the Oceanic 6 got “golden tickets”, allowing them to fly free forever.


  28. ds143 says:

    i can’t believe that people are actually upset about US airways giving this away. the crash was NO fault of their own, but their pilot and crew managed to save everyones lives. their tickets were refunded, AND they get $5000 each for their luggage. Now, the airline is simply doing a nice gesture by giving them yet another freebie! i’m all for consumer rights and sticking up for people over big companies, but in this case, what US Airways is doing is nothing less than extremely generous; they could have easily not given this bonus away in a second.

  29. Rubleaux says:

    I really don’t understand why the extension of the offer would upset anyone. I also can’t comprehend why anyone would be upset with the airline. US Airways has provided compensation and extended other perks for an incident that was not their fault. Passengers were fortunate enough to fly with a pilot (hero) that clearly took charge of the situation and ensured that they were all ok. Luckily, there was no loss of life and everyone is safe. Why sue? Why be upset? They should be thankful for life and safety instead instead of seeking money that they don’t deserve.

  30. picardia says:

    How cheap. Oceanic Airways gave Jack, Kate, Sun, Hurley and Sayid “gold ticket status” FOR LIFE.

  31. wallspray says:

    reading these comments… why on earth do people think being in a plane crash is the same as being in a car crash. THOUSANDS of cars crash everyday. Planes on the other hand…

    No one knows how confident you would be about flying after being in a crash.

  32. ZukeZuke says:

    I thought US Air did a good thing by handing out those $5,000 compensation checks for lost luggage so quickly after the accident. I’d find it quite a stretch to believe any one of those passengers had luggage even remotely close to valuable – unless it was an Alienware $3,999 laptop.

    And now I think this Elite FF status is decent too, though it should probably be for 3 or 5 years as a better goodwill gesture.

    Wish I hadn’t read that NY Post article, it makes some of those passengers seem like a bunch of non-appreciative greedy bastards. After all, they didn’t die or even get seriously injured.

  33. embean says:

    If this was me, I would be insulted. They aren’t trying to be nice- they’re trying to save these people as customers. US Airways should be grateful that these people survived (for their own sake) and leave it at that. If they want to make a kind gesture– maybe something non-flying related, like hotel vouchers or I don’t know, a fruit basket.

  34. TideGuy says:

    Just proves that no matter what is offered, someone is going to complain that it’s not enough

  35. BuddyGuyMontag says:


  36. seraphilistic says:

    Um… From reading the article : [www.nypost.com]
    it is pretty clear that Antonio Sales (a member of our track team here at USC) was NOT a member of flight 1549, he just happened to be at La Guardia and flying US Airways yesterday, when the reporters started asking what random, CURRENT passengers thought of the offer.

    I agree that the passengers are being greedy, whiney little so-and-so’s, but he’s not one of them! Whoever wrote the article wrote it in a pretty confusing manner.

    • seraphilistic says:

      Which makes this quote – “‘Passenger Antonio Sales from the flight told the New York Post, “That’s more of an ‘OK, you’re not dead, I’ll give you something to hold on to.’ It’s not enough at all.'” – almost irrelevant, since he has no firsthand knowledge of anything to do with the situation.

  37. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Free frequent-flyer upgrade with every crash!

    If I had been in a plane crash and were able to walk away from it, I would have been ecstatic at just being alive. It wasn’t US Airways’ fault, it was gravity’s (or the geese, as it were).

    And even though it’s a nice gesture, it doesn’t seem proportional. “Hey, thanks for not dying or suing us, here’s a free year’s upgrade to our Chairman’s club!” Either give something really valuable if you’re that grateful, or don’t give anything at all.

    (I survived the crash of flight 1549 and all I got was this lousy T-Shirt!)

  38. stuny says:

    Okay, quick summary:

    1. USAir is actually getting boatloads (planeloads?) of free publicity for having the best, smartest, bravest pilots and crew.

    2. So far, it appears the airline did nothing wrong and should be commended for their crew who saved everyone’s lives.

    3. The passengers should be eternally (literally) grateful for the pilot and crew, but should feel free to milk the attention, relish in the limelight, and enjoy twisting the airlines a little bit over their unscheduled stop. Then they should be thankful they are still alive and move on graciously and lead better lives.

    4. The airlines should bestow ultra-super platinum status for life on the crews of the Circle Line and the NY Waterways. Because safely landing in frigid water is a superhuman accomplishment, but only the first step in keeping everyone alive. The boat crews deserve the credit for saving everyone from freezing to death.

  39. GertrudeBabboon says:

    The passengers are upset and insulted that it is not elite status for life. They are claiming they deserve it as crash survivors.

    Let me explain something: THEY ARE NOT CRASH SURVIVORS. THEIR PLANE DID NOT CRASH. It was expertly handled by a competent flight crew who saved their lives by doing their jobs properly. These people aren’t owed anything (though it sucks they lost their luggage and it must have been frightening beyond my imagination to experience this). They owe the airline crew thanks for keeping them safe! Some of them are just taking their 15 minutes of fame and running to the media to get exploit this experience.

    Let’s review:
    * Several birds get caught in the engine. Not the fault of anyone but nature.
    * Competent flight crew averts a crash and lands on the Hudson.
    * All passengers are rescued.
    * All passengers get $5000 for their baggage because it is either delayed with investigators or is unrecoverable. $5000!
    * As a gesture of kindness, the airline which did nothing wrong but did everything right is giving those folks Elite status for a year–upgrades, lounge privileges, etc.

    Why not count your blessings, people?