While it’s a little soon to look at US Airways Trial Preferred as a play on AAdvantage elite status, US Airways trial preferred has its advantages (no pun intended). The Dividend Miles program is a viable alternative for many in the eastern and parts of the western US. Frankly, if I still lived in DC, I’d still be a US Airways elite. This Best of MJ post takes you through my decision to go for Dividend Miles preferred status, and the results. While the experience and the posts are over one year old, the basics still apply…..minus the Grand Slam references. (shed tear here)

Going for PreferredOriginally posted September 16, 2011

On September 14th, I called US Airways and signed up for their Trial Preferred program. While their Grand Slam promotion certainly led me to wait until 9/14 to make the call, the truth is that my decision wasn’t all about getting a “hit” in the Grand Slam. If you’ve been reading, you know that I’ve been debating some kind of move from United to US Airways for a while. On the face of it, I know that seems a little bit questionable, but the truth is that I find myself on more US flights than UA flights, I’m primarily a domestic US traveler, and further, I’m primarily an east coast traveler. Top that off with the fact that I’m a 15 minute cab ride to/from DCA on a busy day, and I think you can see where I’m heading with this. For me, US Airways, warts and all, makes sense.

For sure, I could continue to fly US and credit my miles to United, and there may be some circumstances where I do just that. But I can no longer ignore the compelling option that US Airways has become for someone who lives so close to DCA and flies up and down the east coast a lot. I appreciate early boarding afforded a Star Alliance Gold traveling on US, but I could be sitting in First Class. OK, stop laughing. I know US domestic first isn’t all that fabulous, but if it’s complimentary, why not take it?!?! Obviously, it’s about more than first class upgrades to US Airways’ not quite more than average domestic first product. Simply put, I think that the airline I spend the most time on is the one where I should hold status. And starting September 14th, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

There are 3 options for trial preferred, Silver for $200 dollars, Gold for $400 dollars, and Platinum for $600 dollars. Given that I’m Premier Executive (Star Gold) at United, I considered the Gold trial option, but ultimately opted for Silver. In addition to being $200 dollars cheaper, it gives me the benefits I care about most, comp upgrades, early boarding (although I already have that through the US MasterCard), and waived fees for up to 2 checked bags. Then there’s the added benefit of if I actually fly the amount of miles and/or segments that qualify for Gold Preferred, US will elevate me to that status. In short, the Silver Preferred trial seemed to offer the most bang for my buck, so that’s what I went with.

Getting registered for the trial was pretty seamless. I called the number on the Trial Preferred page. The first rep I was connected to stated that she would transfer me to an agent who could assist me, and that agent was reasonably knowledgeable about the program and had me registered in a few minutes. She also took the time to go through the terms and conditions with me, and also gave me the Silver Preferred 800 reservations number for my use during the trial. By the end of the phone call, my Dividend Miles status was reflected on usairways.com. While I was immediately able to “see” preferred and exit row seats on usairways.com, it took about 36 hours for me to actually be able to successfully select those seats online. In one case, I called the Silver Preferred number, and the agent was able to place me in the exit row seats I was looking for. For another reservation, I decided to wait and see if the seat maps would eventually work for me, and as mentioned, after about 36 hours, I was able to grab those seats on my own. I can only assume that it takes about that much time for your new preferred status to propagate through US Airways’ various IT systems.

So there you have it. I’m “Trial Preferred” Silver at US Airways, and I earned a hit in the Grand Slam promotion. I’ll keep you posted on how things go from here.

And the Results Originally posted January 3, 2012

I’ve been meaning to mention this, but it just kept slipping my mind. You might remember that I signed up for the Dividend Miles Trial Preferred program on the first day of the Grand Slam promotion back in September. My trial period ended on December 13th and a couple days later I received an email from US Airways, “Your Trial Preferred Status.”

“Congratulations, you’ve qualified for Silver Preferred! You’ll keep this status through February 28, 2013. Take a look at your Preferred benefits. And did you know you can buy up to Preferred to maintain or elevate your status? The cost depends on how many miles and segments you’ve flown in 2011.”

Of course, I’d already received my Silver Preferred membership card a couple weeks before which had a February 2013 expiration date. I mention all this because it confirms the answer to a question I’ve seen on some of the forums about how long your US trial preferred status is good for. Since I started in the second half of the year, my status was good for the remainder of 2011 and all of 2012. US Airways website was slightly confusing on the topic in that it only listed one date…. February of 2012 if you signed up for the program. I confirmed with a US Airways representative that the status would be good for all of 2012 before signing up for the program, and the membership card and email from US Airways confirm what I hoped I knew.

Living where I live, US Airways is a very useful airline, and I like having status on them even though I wish it was Gold status and not just Silver. We’ll see how this year goes. Now I just wish Dividend Miles offered one-way awards.