I’ve been flying US Airways loyally for almost two years now, as I started traveling for work a lot more heavily and realized that if I were to consolidate my miles I would qualify for higher & higher levels of status. I started by getting the US Airways credit card, which doesn’t contribute towards your status (you have to actually fly the miles for them to coiunt towards Silver (25k miles) or Gold (50k miles) status), but the credit card did give me a sneak preview of status with perks like earlier boarding. I also found that US Airways tended to also be the cheapest & most practical airline for me as I live in Phoenix and PHX is a hub for them – occasionally US Airways will be marginally more expensive, but for the most part they tend to be the most cost effective too. I had a goal of reaching at least Silver status, and I easily surpassed that within one year, hitting Gold Status by December of 2011.
Frequency of Upgrades
This is my second year earning Gold Status (50,000 miles flown in a year) and I’m a very happy customer, both with US Airways in general as well as the Star Alliance Gold program specifically. I get upgraded to first class on about 75% of the flights I take – typically, the only instances I don’t get upgraded are if I book extremely last minute (less than three days until departure, in which case the upgrades have already been given out), or if I’m flying on a very competitive flight, such as one scheduled on a holiday or for Monday AM or Thursday PM to popular destinations like New York as that is when most management consultants fly and they rack up miles like it’s their job (because it pretty much is, most management consultants fly every week and work on-site with the client Mon-Thurs and then can work from home on Fridays).
The service in First Class is truly an improvement from coach. I don’t mean this in a snobby way, but I think that the flight attendants take better care of you with things like meals for cross country flights, more frequent beverage service, and a general higher level of attentiveness to your needs. This only makes sense as First Class has their own flight attendant to service about 10-15 people, while coach has 1-2 attendants to service 5x as many people.
Likewise, I’ve found that the folks who fly in first class are generally more well traveled, and as such more considerate of fellow travelers and aware of the “unspoken rules” of flying like speaking quietly as to not disturb other travelers, showering before flying, being patient and offering to help passengers storing their carry-ons above the seat, and other nicities that make for a more calm & relaxed flying experience. These same social graces do exist in coach (and sometimes don’t exist in first class), but I feel like the odds that you’re be seated next to a pleasant passenger are much higher in first.
Other nice perks of gold status on US Airways:
- Your co-travellers get upgraded, too: My fiance gets upgraded to first when we fly, despite her having zero status with US Airways, in fact she’s been upgraded without having a frequent flyer number at all, as long as I book the reservation for us both.
- Companion passes: you get two $50 companion passes, of which I’m sure to use every year and it saves a lot of money – enough to offset the occasional higher cost of flying US Airways to maintain status, and then some.
- Security lines & boarding – having my own security line, check-in line, and being the first to board is also a huge time & hassle saver. I generally get the airport a little less earlier than I would otherwise, am assured space overhead to store my luggage, and the process of getting through security is less bothersome & irritable when you haven’t had to wait in line as long to complete it.
- Snacks and drinks – they offer free snacks and drinks in first class (even those of alcholic variety) and full meals on flights over 3 hours. The meals are surprisingly decent given the limited kitchen equipment they have to prepare them, and they always have a vegetarian option which is great for me.
The only downside of Gold Status on US Airways is that it can inflate your ego. Don’t think you’re better than anyone or that you can be a total jerk just because you’re in first class. With that in mind, happy travels!