Travel News

A US Airways/Southwest Airlines Conundrum

Written by Charlie

There is a big day coming for both US Airways and Southwest Airlines. That “special” day is March 31st. Big changes are coming on that day for both airlines and they present me with an interesting problem.

March 31, 2014

On March 31st, major changes will happen for both US Airways and Southwest Airlines. Here is the breakdown.

Southwest Airlines

SouthwestMarch 31 is the last day to book Southwest award flights at the current value per points. After that, the value of the points will drop from 1.67 cents per point (actually a bit more with the taxes that are covered) to 1.4 cents per point. That takes the value of 50,000 points (the current bonus on the Southwest cards) from $833 to $715.

The good part about Southwest is that you can cancel award flights up to 10 minutes before the flight and get all of your points back in your account. That means that you can go ahead and book all the award flights you can through the end of their schedule and still cancel them after the devaluation. So, the time to book is now through March 31.

US Airways

March 31 marks the day that US Airways leaves the Star Alliance and joins the Oneworld Alliance. It is supposed to happen one right after the other. Once US Airways is a part of the Oneworld Alliance, you should be able to use British Airways Avios to book flights on US Airways. Whether that will happen instantly cannot be said yet. It should, but it may not be properly loaded into the system right away.

So, those super-valuable British Airways Avios redemptions for short-haul flights (award tickets under 650 miles one-way only require 9,000 Avios round-trip) will be able to be used for all short-haul US Airway flights (without having to pay the annoying award processing fee that US Airways charges).

My Conundrum

So, here is my situation. Our family is making plans to head down to Washington DC for a day and night while we are back in the US. The kids have been learning about a lot of our history/monuments/etc and would love to check those sites out for themselves. Both US Airways and Southwest Airlines offer non-stop, short-haul flights to the Washington DC area (Southwest to Baltimore and US Airways to Reagan National). Our primary choice would be to fly US Airways since the times work better and Reagan is the closest airport to downtown DC. However, Southwest would be fine as well (sure beats driving down!).

What is my problem? Well, we have a Southwest Companion Pass and enough points to count for one ticket (plus the companion pass). In addition, we also will be getting the 2,000 Southwest points for each of our kids. That means we will need an additional 19,000 points for all of our tickets. We have enough Ultimate Reward points (which transfer at 1:1) to make up that difference, so we are ok for that.

On the British Airways/US Airways end, we have enough Avios in an account to cover two of the tickets. Again, we have enough Ultimate Reward points to make up the difference. The problem is that we do not want to transfer points into both accounts since we will not have a use for the other account for a while (if that makes sense).

This means that I will have an extremely slim window in which to transfer and book my tickets. Fortunately, I should have a 24 hour window to do it since US Airways is joining Oneworld while rates are still the same for Southwest. Not sure what I will do if US Airways is not bookable right away with Avios, hopefully it works out right.

Anyone else dealing with something similar heading into these program changes?

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • Book the flights on US Airways into DCA. There is a metro stop on the airport property that will take you right into DC in less than 15 minutes (DCA is actually in Arlington, VA). Getting from BWI into DC will require a car rental or an expensive airport transfer (traffic will be a nightmare as well).

    Have fun in DC!

  • I’m a DC based flyer and I would value flying out of DCA over BWI at about $50-$75 (ie a ticket out of BWI would have to be at least $50-$75 cheaper than a ticket out of DCA). The range comes from when in the day you want to fly. Flying in is an even better value proposition going to DCA since you can potentially eliminate renting a car, paying for parking, etc which easily cost more than paying for an extra short haul plane ticket.

    • Great points. It is definitely my preference to fly into DCA, but the cost of those tickets is too high to use cash so it has to be points. Just hope it is available and bookable!