US Preferred Seats

US Airways launched a new program on March 17, 2010, entitled “Preferred Seats.”  In a March 16, 2010, e-mail to its Dividend Mile Preferred customers, US Airways stated “To give you access in advance to the best seats in Coach, we're reserving select seats in front, plus the exit rows, exclusively for Preferred members. When you book, you won't have to compete with other passengers for a limited number of Choice Seats.”

What US Airways failed to clearly communicate to their Preferred members in the body of the announcement is that “Choice Seats,” which were previously available to Preferred members at any time in advance, for no charge, are no longer available in advance, and they are no longer complimentary for Preferred members.  This information was buried in the “Frequently Asked Questions” section, which required clicking into an additional link.

If you are a Dividend Miles Preferred member, FFOCUS would like to know how  this affects you.   We think some of you might not be affected, but for most Preferreds, this will be a negative change.  US Airways is still allowing Preferred members to reserve exit row seats in advance, at no charge.  But not every Preferred member is willing and/or able to sit in the exit row, so US Airways sets aside seats in the front portion of the aircraft for their best customers, who often book their flights very close to their travel date, when most leisure travelers have already bought their tickets and reserved the desirable seats. 

The ability to reserve decent coach seats at the last minute is one of the few “perks” left for elite travelers since the reduction of capacity has led to a lower rate of upgrade success, with elites competing for fewer first class seats.  US Airways is still allocating some seats towards the front of the cabin as “Preferred Seats,” which are reserved for Preferred members to book for free, any time in advance.  But the number of “Preferred Seats” is reduced by about 50%, so US Airways can ensure a certain number of “Choice Seats,” which will only be available for purchase to all customers, regardless of their elite status.

No other airline has implemented a policy in which their own elites must pay for any seat in the economy cabin.  FFOCUS is opposed to this policy, and has contacted Management at US Airways to request that they reverse it.  We have made it clear that the Preferred members who will be most adversely affected by this policy are the ones who pay the highest fares.   If you read through the posts on Flyertalk in the attached thread http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/us-airways-dividend-miles/1063768-preferred-vs-choice-seats-preferred-members-no-longer-have-access-choice-seats.html, you will see examples of how Dividend Miles Preferred members are getting burned when they book last minute travel on US Airways.  And now US Airways has re-designed their online seat maps so that all “Choice Seats” appear “occupied” until check-in time, when they become available for purchase. 

As of this time, US Airways has not responded to FFOCUS.  We therefore need your assistance in making your voice heard.  If you are a Dividend Miles Preferred member, please e-mail customer.relations@usairways.com and express your displeasure.  Even if you believe that this policy does not affect you because you “always” book your travel well in advance, we all have had unforeseen situations come up in which we have had to travel on very short notice, and pay several times the lowest coach fare.  A number of our members have indicated that this is the change which will drive them away once and for all.

If you have already been burned by this policy, or it has so angered you that you are now buying tickets on other carriers, please send US Airways copies of every ticket purchase which they lost because of their shortsightedness.  It is important that US Airways sees hard evidence of how much lost revenue this decision is costing them, and how many dollars they are losing by reaching for pennies.

Please help FFOCUS continue our mission to advocate for airline customers all over, and in this particular case US Preferred customers. The discussion for this issue on FFOCUS’ board is: http://www.ffocus.org/members/forum/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=5192

Thank you for your cooperation.