My Airline Elite Status Conundrum

Filed Under: American, Delta

I can’t believe we’re just over a week away from the last quarter of the year. Where the heck did the summer go?

As we enter the final quarter of the year I tend to think it makes sense to start considering your overall elite status qualification plans. What status will you be earning, and how far off are you from earning it? Is a last minute mileage run worth it?

As I look at my current situation, I can’t help but feel quite a bit of indecision. I’m in uncharted territory — for the first time in about 15 years, it looks like I won’t earn top tier status with any airline this year.

A Snapshot Of My Airline Elite Status

To start, let me provide a quick rundown of my current airline elite status.

Alaska Mileage Plan

I absolutely love Alaska Mileage Plan, and I’m currently MVP Gold with them. However, I won’t be requalifying for that this year, as I’m currently at zero elite miles with them for the year.

Alaska doesn’t even fly to Miami (though they do fly to Fort Lauderdale), and while they have lots of great airline partners, I haven’t flown them much this year on revenue tickets.

Last year I learned lots of Alaska miles for an Emirates paid first class ticket

So I love Mileage Plan, but at this very point in my life elite status in the program isn’t much of a value-add.

American AAdvantage

If you read this blog with any frequency you’ll know that I’m disenchanted with American. I have Executive Platinum status with them, though as it stands I’m not even halfway to requalifying.

In an ideal world I’d just stop flying American altogether, though the reality is that being based in Miami, there are a lot of situations where they are the only decent option.

So while I try to avoid American when possible, the reality is that I still end up flying them a fair bit.

Delta SkyMiles

In an ideal world I’d exclusively fly Delta domestically (maybe with a bit of JetBlue sprinkled in), though again, living in Miami, that’s not all that practical. However, I have nearly as many elite miles with Delta as I do with American.

This is largely thanks to a recent trip in paid first class on Air France, which earned me lots of elite miles.

A recent Air France first class ticket earned me lots of SkyMiles

Coming Up With An Airline Elite Status Strategy

As I consider my options here, I have a few general thoughts to share:

  • As airlines have significantly devalued frequent flyer programs, elite status simply isn’t as valuable as it used to be
  • In general I still take a “go big or go home” approach to airline elite status; I tend to think there’s value to having top-tier elite status, while the value of mid-tier status is limited, given that upgrades are often tough to come by, and given that just having a co-branded credit card will often get you similar perks to what you’d get with entry-level elite status

It’s also worth mentioning my overall approach to booking travel:

  • For long haul international travel I almost entirely either redeem miles for the best airlines in premium cabins, or find good paid premium cabin tickets; however, rarely do I consider the airline I’m loyal to when booking these tickets
  • Even domestically I value being in first class; as airlines price first class more reasonably, I do think it’s worth a $30-50 per hour premium to be in first class

First class isn’t great, but does allow me to be more productive

Regarding the last point, this is something that has changed for me the past few years. As airlines increasingly monetize first class, upgrades are often tougher to come by. If I think I’ll score a complimentary upgrade then I’ll just book economy and upgrade, but if I don’t think the upgrade would clear then I’ll pay cash, assuming the premium is reasonable.

As inflight wifi has become faster, I’ve found that I can be as productive in the air as on the ground. I find that being in first class makes that easier thanks to the shoulder space you have — I can’t work quite as efficiently in a seat that’s 17-18″ wide with a neighbor.

So I do think first class is worth the premium in many situations, especially when it’s reasonably priced.

With that in mind, I think the question is what I’d miss if I lost top tier American status, and what I’d gain if I earned top tier status with Delta.

What Would I Miss With Executive Platinum Status?

The way I look at it, the value of Executive Platinum status comes down to three things for me.

Many consider systemwide upgrades to be the single biggest benefit of Executive Platinum status. I’ve used none of them this year. There’s such little confirmable upgrade space, and I just don’t want to chance it on a long haul flight, especially when there are reasonably priced award options on better airlines.

I rarely use my American systemwide upgrades

The place where I get the most value out of Executive Platinum status is with complimentary upgrades. Looking at my travel from this past year, it looks like I’ve gotten 12 complimentary upgrades on American, and in the rest of the cases I just paid for first class, because it was reasonably priced and I likely wouldn’t have gotten an upgrade.

The other thing I’d miss is oneworld Emerald status. The thing is, I think this is something I’d miss more in theory than in practice. I love being able to fly Cathay Pacific business class and use their incredible first class lounge, or flying Japan Airlines business class and using their first class lounge.

I do love using Cathay Pacific’s first class lounge!

That being said, how often have I used my oneworld Emerald status to access lounges this year? Twice.

What Would I Gain With Delta Diamond Status?

This is an even trickier one. Yes, I’m a long way from earning Diamond status with Delta, which requires 125,000 MQMs. Yet somehow I’m oddly intrigued by trying to get it. I’ve never been Diamond with Delta before, and I think it could be interesting to share my experience with it.

The thing with Delta is that you can largely earn Diamond status through credit card spending, so while it wouldn’t get me all the way there, applying for a couple of Delta credit cards and putting substantial spending on them could help me in earning lots of MQMs. I wish I had thought about this earlier in the year, given that I’m pretty close to completing the Diamond MQD requirement, which is usually the biggest hurdle.

What’s the real benefit, though?

  • It’s not like Diamond status gets you any lounge access you wouldn’t get if flying business class (unlike with oneworld, where Emerald gets you first class lounge access)
  • Delta is the best of the “big three” US carriers at actually selling first class, so upgrades are pretty tough to come by, so I’d probably still largely be paying for first class if it’s reasonably priced
  • While Diamond members potentially get international upgrade certificates, much like with American, they often don’t clear in advance, and I don’t think that’s worth the risk

Delta often prices first class reasonably to begin with

So the way I view it, the biggest benefit of Diamond is better “soft” treatment. Maybe occasionally a Porsche transfer at a hub, and even better service from Delta employees?

But the thing is, I find that Delta employees are already consistently so friendly, that I’m not sure I really need that?

Bottom Line

If I continue as I am now, I’ll probably end the year with American Platinum and Delta Gold status.

It has been about 15 years since I haven’t had top (published) tier status with one airline or another, so this would represent quite a change for me, and would essentially be making me more or less an airline “free agent.”

What’s funny is that I’ve already been trying to avoid American when possible, but not having Executive Platinum status with them would make me even more likely to try and avoid them. In some cases Executive Platinum status makes flying with American tolerable, though without that I can’t imagine many circumstances under which I’d fly them.

Mid-tier status (actually mid-low-tier status, given that each program has four tiers, and this is the second tier) with an airline won’t make me go out of my way to be loyal to them.

Will this finally be the year where I’m fully off the airline elite status hamster wheel?

What’s your plan for elite status for this year, and what would you do in my shoes?

Comments
  1. I’ve been United 1K for about 15 years but this year is likely to be the last. I can easily get to 100,000 but I’m still almost $10,000 away from what I need to spend. I can rarely use my systemwide upgrades (or they clear at the last minute) so I’m thinking it’s just not worth it. I have 2MM, permanent Platinum.

  2. The difference in segments shows you still are primarily an American flyer, and it seems doubtful you will change that in the future. Status is mainly useful for paid, economy flights domestically. Until you actually switch most of your domestic flying away from American, you should focus on status on American. Or you should simply become a buy first class flyer.

  3. The bottom line is that top tier elite status really isn’t worth much anymore beyond early boarding and award fee waivers UNLESS you can consistently score free upgrades. This is almost impossible now at hubs.
    Bottom line – with exception of AS – unless you are UA GS or AA Concierge Key it is not worth stretching for the next tier. Gold is the sweet spot on most carriers.
    I do find it interesting that bloggers consistently rave about DL despite its horrible skypesos program – I guess they really value the experience more than the free tix.

  4. I have AA lifetime platinum. Even if I fly enough miles for Exec I buy low fares so would have the required $ spend. I’ll have Alaska Gold by end of the month & probably won’t try to get 75K unless I do a short mileage run unless I buy my trip to Asia instead of using miles so it could come down to a question of 75K vs business or first class travel to Shanghai. I pray that Alaska doesn’t go to the $ requirement like the others do!

  5. I’m not sure if AA is the same, but I know from experience that Delta doesn’t take the certificate from you if the upgrade doesn’t clear. I’ve had regional upgrades not clear as a platinum using the certificate and the certificate remained in my account, and I used it on a future flight. I have been talking to the elite line lately as I approach diamond and plan my trip to Japan in February, they have consistently told me that you don’t waste the certificate if nothing clears. And as an added bonus, if you explain it to the agent clearly, you can tell them which leg you want to take “priority” before the certificate is marked used. For example, LGA-DTW-NRT, I can put a hold on the LGA flight until the long haul clears, then it allows the shorter flight to clear if available, included in the original certificate. And you only need 1 certificate for the journey end-to-end. I think the set up is fantastic actually, and certainly the best value out of the choice benefits!

  6. It would be interesting to know if all those One World flights which you so far credited to AA would be enough to earn you emerald status in another OW programme.
    Same question for Sky Team. Maybe worth an article?

  7. Nothing wrong with AA Platinum with your travel pattern. If on an award ticket you’ll likely be into the J lounges anyways. No huge loss in the grand scheme of things.

  8. Ben, I’ve been out of the status game for awhile now, and TBH am not up to speed on EQD. Would you really have to spend $7721 to get EXP on AA? IMHO, that says it all. You can just buy F tickets next year with that.

    You’re less than halfway to EXP by both EQD and EQM, with three months to go in the year. Assuming your patterns are similar next year, you’re essentially trying to buy EXP status perks to make your Gold-level flying more tolerable.

    I’m rather selective about my domestic travel, and these days buy F when it’s affordable.

  9. What’s most valuable to me with United 1K is the ability to cancel award tickets for free. It lets me keep incrementally improving award tickets as better options become available.

    Ben, how much do you value that?

  10. @ Arnold — I do value that benefit quite a bit and it’s definitely a big perk of status. However:
    — I don’t book many award tickets through Delta, so I’m not sure I’d get much value out of it there
    — There are some great American award redemptions, though I find that in my situation they’re usually “perfected” from the beginning; that’s because I usually redeem for EY/QR J, and I rarely change those tickets

    But for others that could be hugely valuable.

  11. I agree that the only single benefit I like in being Exec Plat is having One World Emerald and the use of F lounges. But really, so what. An hour or so to use a lounge and the business class ones are perfectly fine. I rarely spend more than an hour before an intl. flight…and I like tight connections.

    I did manage to use two systemwides for a R/T to Zurich this March but I have two more that I can’t find anything to use them on this fall that’s worthwhile. Even domestic to California. They are becoming useless unless you are really lucky.

    I agree, finding paid F is much better than hoping for an upgrade. I mostly buy one way last minute flights so it’s often minimally more. But what I’ve noticed is that when it’s minimally more it means you would clear for an upgrade anyway. When it’s super expensive to buy F you rarely clear. It’s a bit of a trap. As far as paid F I find American and Delta to be pretty competitive. United to me is the worst for having reasonable paid F.

    I really think free agent is the way to go. Being Exec Plat doesn’t even get you better saver award access anymore. I have tested this and it seems the same for everyone…horrible. Just get mid level tiers to access better reserved seating when you have to fly coach. There is nothing special about being Exec Plat anymore at all.

  12. @ Dan — Correct, I’d have to spend $7,721, though I could also potentially earn EQDs at an accelerated rate if I booked a partner airline.

  13. @ pablo — I have actually considered starting to credit my AA flights to BA. I often pay for first class anyway, and then I’d get Flagship Lounge access and Flagship Check-In even on domestic itineraries.

  14. @ David Bernard — You’re correct the certificate isn’t taken if it doesn’t clear, but I don’t want to risk flying economy on a long haul flight when I can instead confirm business or first class on a reasonably priced award ticket.

  15. @Lucky. I have been also toying with the idea of sticking with one carrier but crediting the miles to either Air France (to be able to book F), Lufthansa (Swiss F), or BA. I have been wondering about this for some time and it would make an interesting post to see which of them would be the most beneficial in terms of status

  16. Things have really changed with credit card and airline currencies becoming less valuable, the rules for getting top status more restrictive and the banks restricting signup bonuses.

    If I were you, I’d leave Miami and try to find another home base with a more advantageous hub situation given your flying patterns. This year is too late to save but you can plot a strategy for next year.

    I have AA EXP again for the fourth year in a row (more now by accident than design) and I’m probably going to achieve DL mid level status this year for the first time in over a decade. I’m not completely happy with either airline operationally but things are okay. I took two international flights in J on Alitalia this year through Delta and they were very good. Also loved a Paris flight in Delta One Suites.

  17. I am ExPlat this year but will likely drop to Gold–if even that–by 2020. By the end of the year, I will have used maybe 2 SWU’s if I am fortunate and will have entered a lounge twice requiring Oneworld Emerald status that I otherwise could not have entered. Although an AA hub captive, I will instead focus on being a free agent next year, taking AA only when it is the sole direct option or only one with a feasible time (unfortunately, that is most of the time domestically). The thing I’ll miss the most of the ExPlat benefits will be the domestic upgrades even when using miles. By this weekend, I will have gotten 12 such upgrades this year (thus saving approximately 100k miles), about half of which were AA tickets booked with BA Avios.

  18. It’s worth remembering that Delta’s global upgrades come through choice benefits, so for choice benefits earned based on flying in 2019, you can select your global upgrades any time between now and Jan 31 2021 — and they are valid for a year from when you select them. So they are not always easy to use, but you have a much wider time window in which to potentially use them, and thus a lower chance of them going to waste.

    (And while there’s not a lot of confirmable availability on Delta metal, there is actually a lot of confirmable space on KLM since they clear into a discounted revenue business class fare bucket, although it can sometimes be a challenge finding a phone agent who knows what they’re doing processing KLM global upgrades.)

    In theory there’s also benefits to Diamond phone service, although the biggest one would be rebooking priority after a cancellation, and Delta doesn’t cancel all that often.

  19. I will qualify again for Delta Diamond Medallion status next month.

    As far as complimentary upgrades, it will always be route/day dependent. However, I definitely have noticed a decreased frequency in complimentary upgrades in the past few years. In my last 9 domestic eligible flights, I have gotten 4 first upgrades. The ones I was not upgraded were not exactly Delta One transcon flights–I was #7 on the list for 0 available seats on SEA-PHX this week. A couple years ago I had a greater than 80% success on first upgrades, but the decline is probably a combination of increasing first class monetization and being based at a growing Delta Hub (SEA).

    The global and (to a lesser extent) regional upgrade certificates are a major selling point, though I have had both not clear on competitive routes this year (LAX-SYD, SEA-JFK), so they are far from guaranteed. When I first became Diamond a few years ago, I was really trying to be strategic to maximize the certificates; I now realize I need to try to use them at the first decent opportunity, or else I may lose them.

    Having read your blog for a couple years, I am not sure you will be particularly impressed with the incremental benefits of Diamond Medallion status.

  20. Just do a status match to another One World airline if possible and see if you can keep One World Emerald that way. Keep your ~$7000 you would have to spend with American and use it towards next year flights.
    Unless you can do the math and can find a way to get the EQDs via partners but then again you have to fly 60k butt seat miles with AA in 3 months?

  21. The money you spend chasing status is often better spent buying what you want outright. It’s liberating to be a free agent and just buy the best deal with cash. There are some things you might miss out with top tier status but the list grows shorter every year.

  22. I am currently United Gold and Delta Silver (which is pretty worthless). I had every intention of renewing United Gold because I have been very happy with the amount of upgrades I have received, probably about 60% of flights, until I got targeted for an AA Platinum Pro status challenge. Being that it will take less qualifying dollars and miles to keep AA Platinum Pro than I have left to renew United gold, I am taking that option. I may end up using the Platinum Pro to status match into Delta Platinum or United Platinum next year.

  23. Free agency is a wonderful thing – I’m speaking from experience. When booking business/first, you mostly have the same benefits as elite status.

  24. I don’t fly often but it makes sense to buy a first class ticket outright if it’s reasonably priced. My one way from Houston to Newark over Thanksgiving would be $256 in economy and $400 in First so I paid the difference.

  25. I have never had top status and now I don’t even aspire to the lowest. I just pay for tickets domestically in biz (where it makes sense) and use miles internationally for biz/f when I can.
    The Credit card has become the main source of my miles especially with bonus categories.
    In July I was at LAX waiting to board an EWR UA flight. 50+ people on the “upgrade” list- absurd.
    I remember when my dad was AA platinum- it was special 30 yrs ago. There appears to be little value to status today.

  26. Surprised that you aren’t considering PM with Delta since you’ve got the spend just need the miles.

    Will get you VS Clubhouse on DL/VS flights through LHR, 4 RUCs (or 20k miles), plus as noted above free cancellation of mileage tickets.

    And you get confirmed C+ at booking which helps if paid F doesn’t make sense for a domestic flight

  27. Had the same conundrum. Was Delta Diamond for a few years. Best perk was complimentary upgrades, which I’d get ~75% of the time. Regional upgrades somewhat easy to redeem, given my regularity of travel. Globals were just hard to redeem – always 90% waitlisted.

    That was one of the most frustrating parts of the status. You feel great at having got these global upgrades then can’t freakin’ use them unless you’re willing to risk a waitlist. This one thing hugely devalued Delta Diamond for me.

    Then I stopped flying as frequently as well… and currently almost same as you on Delta. So, I’m left wondering if I bother going even to Gold (only perk I’d value would be Sky priority on coach/economy flights). Have lounges covered elsewhere already and have OneWorld Emerald lifetime, so covered on AA.

    So, my current strategy is get close to 50k MQM, unless some big travel comes up and I can blow past it. I can’t risk losing Silver on Delta as I’d lose seat allocation, lower but still priority boarding (never an issue getting my carry on in the cabin and so on).

    Not yet knowing what the last quarter will bring travel wise, I’m therefore going to get as close to 50k as possible for rollover MQM (which will mean easy silver can be achieved next year), and then put any other incremental travel (depending on destination on AirFrance/KLM, Southwest and OneWorld).

  28. If you pay/redeem for business class all the time there’s really no point to chasing status. The point of status is to simulate business class perks when you fly a lower class of service. Really you just give up first class lounge access if you’re constantly flying biz but the only OW hub in which I think business class lounges are unacceptable but first are good is QF in SYD – but how many times are you transiting SYD per year.

    Though having base status on AA for seat selection is critical (I’m looking at all those seats blocked for AA elites when the schedule opens). No middle seats for me.

  29. @Lucky, I’m in a similar boat. I’ve been EXP for 8 years and will finally let it go this year. Will probably end the year as Platinum. The negative changes are too much, earning is now a joke. I’ve made a push to Alaska and will end the year as MVP gold. Have you considered leveraging EXP for status match. I don’t want to waste this status before it expires. Maybe another OW airline? Any thoughts?

  30. @Lucky, the only domestic upgrade I really care about is the lie-flat transcons. That’s why AS status has never been worth it for me. Of the three, AA still has the best policy with unlimited comp. upgrades for top-tier elites on JFK-LAX, and I can’t fathom going over to DL or UA for this one reason alone. I’ve been EXP for a year now and as a latecomer to AA EXP status, I’m pretty happy.

  31. Having gone back and forth between DM and PM a handful of times over the last ~6 years I think there are really only two meaningful benefits that are worth it:

    1. Customer service treatment across the board. Agents will break the rules for you across the board, whether that’s overselling flights in bad weather, clearing you from standby before clearing upgrades so you get an upgraded seat, or booking you at the Westin DTW if your flight is canceled for weather. I’ve found it’s not just phone agents but airport agents too–they’re empowered to help DMs in whatever capacity more than anyone else. One time I had a GUC waitlisted on a paid ticket to NRT and was 15/0 at check-in–a phone agent moved me to a flight with confirmable upgrade space for no fee or fare difference so I could use the cert that was already partially used on NRT-SIN.

    2. GUCs. Yes, they’re hard to use on DL metal on popular routes, especially on newer aircraft. But I’ve almost always been able to find a way to use them for good value (mid-week to/from Asia, smaller European markets, etc.) I’ve also found a remarkable amount of confirmable space on KL (not 787 routes) and VS. They feel much easier to use than AA SWUs.

    Yes the phone line gets through faster, but the PM line already has pretty remarkable service and speed. And in dozens of tight connections at hub airports, I’ve only gotten the Porsche twice. Nice benefits, but the perks above are really where I find value.

  32. Lucky – I agree with the comments above regarding obtaining a non-AA oneworld status for next year, especially if you will be paying for domestic first class flights anyways. Plus you would get access to the flagship lounge when flying AA domestic, which would be nice being based out of Miami.

  33. I stopped playing the elite game and am now a FREE agent with full Priority Pass. I could not be happier. That said I did keep the one plan that I think is worthwhile as I do a lot of West Coast travel and that is Alaska 75K. I get lounge access worldwide, almost unlimited free upgrades on the West Coast and Skyteam miles to MEA, Star Alliance miles to ANA. Effectively, I have abandoned $$ based FF programs. Worked for me!

    Based in Washington state and Australia.

  34. Everyone’s mileage (har) may vary. I love being a UA Gold. Free Econ Plus for me and a companion is something I use as I don’t always buy F/J and I don’t count on upgrades (and usually fly transcon where I can’t get them anyway). I check bags sometimes, so priority baggage is helpful. Premier Access is useful when flying economy and the TSA PreCheck line is long, or when checking bags. I sometimes get upgraded. Waived same day change fees are a big deal.

    A big thing for me is the treatment on the Premier line — I’m hardly at the top of the mountain but agents consistently go out of their way to make things work for me, sometimes volunteering to waive fees, or doing so if I request it nicely, etc. I’m frequently compelled to write a compliment because I’ve been so happy with someone I’ve spoken with. Maybe I’m just fortunate.

    But, those are my use cases, others are different. Sure, if you always buy premium cabin tickets and don’t frequently change schedules and don’t check bags, then elite status may not do much for you.

    But to me it’s a no brainer to have at least some kind of status on an airline if you’re hub captive, just for contingencies when you need something extra. You don’t have to be top tier for that.

    Rather than worrying about requalifying every year, I prefer to just try to get Gold every two years as fast as I can, and then I always have the luxury of being a free agent once I’ve cleared it.

  35. Well, living in Greece I have “just” A3 Miles and Bonus Gold. Makes somehow sense to me, traveling a lot domestically.

    However, I used to be LH SEN for some years as well and even optimized my travels for LH Segments. Then I was bored by “always the same airlines” and well: I just stopped it!

    Now I pay whatever airline suits my travels best, in C (or F), when the price is ok. And I found so many nice Airlines (and airports), eg EY, SU, JL, EK, BA, QA, CI.. I missed a lot!
    So no worries, loyalty maybe just helps in irrops, but even there a C or F Tix is ok enough.

    So in the End… marketing, marketing, marketing…

  36. “Will this finally be the year where I’m fully off the airline elite status hamster wheel?” – it feels like you say this every year.

  37. @Lucky an interesting subject for an article would be an analysis of which airlines are the best to focus on loyalty status in major cities where there are multiple choices (obviously in cities that are fairly captive hubs the competition isn’t that great).

  38. @Lucky sez: “As airlines have significantly devalued frequent flyer programs, elite status simply isn’t as valuable as it used to be”

    Why does it always seem like I live in a universe in which such claims are simply not true? I do not believe that UA MileagePlus has changed very much, but I am willing to be convinced that it has.
    Among other perks:
    – Priority boarding: UA 1Ks now pre-board with GSs and other groups that traditionally pre-board.
    – Same day flight change fee: waived.
    – Award travel cancel/change/close in fees: waived.
    – Extra luggage allowance
    – My cabin upgrade clearance success rate is pretty much where it has always been for both int’l and domestic flights. I am flying around the world starting this coming Monday: EWR-SFO-ICN-MUC-ATH-YUL-EWR. My GPU for the TPAC and one of the longest segments on UA (SFO-ICN) cleared weeks ago. Though the ICN-MUC segment is on LH, I used one GPU to try to upgrade that segment and it is waitlisted; however, I like my chances. the TATL flight (ATH-YUL) is, unfortunately, on CA, so I’ll have to endure traveling in Y, unless I can snatch a cheap last-minute buy-up.
    – etc, etc, etc

    In addition, the revenue-based system was supposed to drastically reduce the number of redeemable miles that one could accumulate, except that now I have more miles in the form of transferable points (Chase UR) than I ever accumulated flights miles under the old legacy FF program.

    As it turns out, when this blog piece was posted, I was on the phone with UA 1K Desk trying to figure out why their automated status tracker, taking into account 5 flights that have already booked, showed me at 84K PQM and $13K PQD at the end of the year, while my own spreadsheet showed that after my last paid trip on December 12 (EWR-SIN) I would be at 102K PQM and $15,068 PQD, enough to requalify for Premier 1K. The agent and I went reservation by reservation to try to figure out why their status tracker’s estimates of my PQM and PQD and my own could be so different, and, in the end, found out that UA’s automated tracker was wrong: I have already booked enough flights to requalify for 1K. Caution: trust UA’s automated status tracker at your own peril!

    Of course, as a 1MM, the lowest status I will ever have with UA is Premier Gold, which guarantees me the following perks for a life, as lifetime *A Gold:

    — Priority reservations waitlisting
    — Priority airport standby
    — Priority airport check-in
    — Extra baggage allowance
    — Gold Track (Priority Security and Immigration)
    — Airport *G lounge access
    — Priority boarding

    Bottom line: hotel and/or airline status are/is a **must-have** if one is to make to most of the mile/point game.

  39. I love Bill’s idea! LA area, Bay Area, Seattle, New York City area, Miami/FLL — these would all be interesting subjects for a “which airline do i choose” article.

  40. I travel over 100k miles a year on business, mostly US, a mix of first and economy depending on price. The only UA1K benefits I regularly use are fee free award changes and economy plus at booking. But it’s not worth it any more, I live near SFO so I’m going to limp along at gold until I get to lifetime gold in another 2 or 3 years. That gets me economy plus at booking which is the only benefit I’ll use.

    Alaska Gold75 gets me award changes fee free and paid tickets fee free, that’s an amazing benefit. I attained it with a status match and am currently re-earning it. It will be my top-tier program going forward. Plus Alaska’s employees mostly seem to enjoy their work, a huge plus. I only wish they flew more nonstops out of the bay area (STL, DEN, MSP).

  41. @DCS

    “Why does it always seem like I live in a universe in which such claims are simply not true?”

    Because maybe for your travel patterns and your experience, they actually are simply untrue? It’s entirely possible.

    I’d imagine that for most people, upgrades and fee waivers are the two most measurable benefits to status. It also used to be that one couldn’t get “choice” coach seats without elite status. Now, I can book it for a fee. So in that sense, elite status is now worth less because I can just pay for what I want.

    And upgrades to F are down. Delta, for example, really is trying to squeeze more money out of the F cabin, and their own statistics say that upgrades are down and paid fares are up. That’s a double-whammy for status benefits: Lower upgrade rates speak for themselves. In addition, as F fares come down, and it becomes economical to sit up front, the value of the free upgrade decreases as well.

    But hey, if you’re happy, you’re happy.

  42. Welcome to free agent status. I certainly fly enough to have status, but in my view, I am winning the game: I pay little or nothing for flights.

    What are the best EQDs? The ones I didn’t earn because I didn’t pay for my ticket.

    What are the best EQMs? Same as above.

    If you’re paying cash for flights, rather than burning rapidly devaluing points, you’re losing and the airline is winning. I’m burning my points, and when I do have to buy a ticket, it’s basic economy on whoever has the best combination of price and schedule.

  43. Agree with everything Curtis said. I love Alaska and 75k in theory, but:
    – Alaska started shrinking their route network out of SFO instead of growing it
    – Losing the domestic AA/DL partnerships cost us a lot of options
    – Losing AF/KL hurt bady

  44. Ben…I’m in a similar boat. The ExecPlat status IS valuable for the partner First Class Lounge access AND ability to cancel/redeposit awards almost up until flight. Just take a few nice Finnair flights to Asia R/T (on A350s) in C or D class and get the 40% EQD calculation which will get you close. I agree Delta service is much better but as a former Diamond in ATL it was challenging to get upgrades. Maybe being in MIA you would clear more often. They have similar award redeposit rules for Top Tier. Go for both!

  45. As a former AA Executive Platinum for about eight years and former United 1K for over 20, I’ve not looked back after moving away from both in recent years. It’s just not worth the cost and hassle to maintain them. I instead combine buying first class domestic when the up-charge isn’t much (such as on Alaska West Coast flights), use a combo of miles and $75 co-pay when domestic upgrades are available at time of ticketing on American, similarly use AA miles for AA or Alaska flights when domestic F awards are available, or buy an occasional extra seat when flying economy domestically. I’ll admit, though, that all of this is easier since I only fly domestically four or five times per year.

    For international, I generally can bag two F (or occasionally J) award seats for my wife’s and my vacations or occasionally find great fare deals.

  46. I went through this same review last year. Being DFW-based, the only thing Exec Plat did was put me higher on the list of people who didn’t clear an upgrade at the gate. At the end of the year, I opened the DL Reserve card and did a status challenge to Platinum. It’s such a pleasure to fly Delta after years of AA, even with more connections in my schedule. I’d rather take a Delta connection and get there than be on the non-stop AA flight that cancels. No credit card pitches, upgrades that actually clear, clean aircraft with seatback video, and employees who are nice to you. I’ve missed those things since the dark force of USAir/America West moved into AA headquarters.

  47. As a 2,000,000 mile AA flyer, I have permanent Platinum status and Emerald Oneworld. But I rarely fly AA anymore, you all know the reasons, so it doesn’t do me any good. But, the status is forever, so if Dougie ever leaves, I might change that up a bit.

    Now I am all in on Alaska. I live in Pacific Northwest, so easy. Left last year for Delta, but the schedules are not anywhere near as good for my small market home. Cancelled my Amex Delta card after one year when I saw what a joke the Crown Rooms are, except Seattle. I’ll be gold for Delta this year, as like Lucky, some paid up front trips to Europe on KLM.

  48. I am completely off the status treadmill. I have UA 1K for life and I’m quite happy with it. I always seem to get the Intl premium cabin award flights I need and domestically, even as a 1K, the new reality is UA like every other US carrier monetizes domestic F/C. Therefore, I can usually buy domestic F/C at a reasonable price and not have to worry if I can get a battlefield upgrade.

    My problem is I live in the DFW area so it’s tough to ignore AA on which I am a MM lifetime nobody (Gold). The solution was to forget about Platinum, especially when Plat Pro came along, gave up the AA Executive glamour CC and buy domestic first. No more stress and always in First. For Cathay (which is a fav.), I have a horde of AA miles, many from credit cards and other high value offers (250,000 when I sold my house alone). CX’s F/C inventory can be had if you can be a bit flexible. That plus Marriott Lifetime Titanium is all I need. 20 years of stress off my plate. I’ll take whatever club is offered and otherwise, there is Priority Club and AA Centurion.

  49. @Dan: “Because maybe for your travel patterns and your experience, they actually are simply untrue? It’s entirely possible.”

    It is possible. I seldom fly out of major hubs and I generally try to avoid or often do not fly out of GS/1K-heavy hubs like SFO. Not flying out of a hub is especially great for domestic upgrades. More recently, I have not been traveling as much as I did in the past so I have been purchasing more premium cabin tickets to earn enough PQM/PQD to requalify for 1K (that’s especially true this year), but I still have pretty good success rate clearing my 6 GPUs both for my own flights and those I’ve been sponsoring for relatives.

  50. Great piece, Lucky.
    Since Alaska started non-stop, east-west routes out of EWR to destinations where I have family like SAN, LAX and SEA, I zeroed in on their service.
    This year’s fast-track to elite levels was perfectly timed. I enjoy the friendly attitudes of their staff on the phone, in the air and at the airport.
    By flying enough round trips to these locations, I’ll hit 75K Gold and reap all the benefits that come with being dedicated to just one carrier.
    I hope they don’t devalue the miles too much or change how one earns ff status (like the big 3 did).
    In your case, having decent status with two airlines make more sense for you and would be unattainable for me because I like having the higher status possible.

  51. AA EP for last few years. Probably won’t get there this year but a couple of Cathay J flights (EWR to DAD and DAD to DXB) will help. I fly most often between two non-AA hubs, one being a Delta hub. I most often take very early or very late flights and get updated on most flights. I have thought about switching but ever other carrier cannot touch AA on price. My typical flight is half or one third the cost of Delta or United and is the same or less that Southwest. I love Alaska but they geneally fall in the Delta price level and only one flight in and out of DTW. Alas, mostly stuck with AA.

  52. Lucky,

    You have to have lifetime status on at least 1 airline. I’m currently EP on american and lifetime platinum. Also lifetime Gold on delta. Not going to hit EP (or even Platinum Pro) this year and now retired so falling back on my lifetime status. Not going to miss EP since upgrades are getting harder and I pretty much get everything else at Platinum (OK boarding group 3 instead of 2 but I can live w it). Did use my system wife’s this year for PHL-DBV and 2 CLT-LAS flights but can use points/$ for upgrade if I want.

    Frankly think top levels have been devalued and perfectly fine w my mid level status on DL and AA (lifetime Gold on DL) while I search out other flight options

  53. To re-qualify for AA Executive Platinum would require multiple status runs which would probably involve spending quite a lot of money, which is probably not worth it. Overall, it seems that the only real value AA Platinum status gives you is the domestic upgrades it gives you, although AA first class isn’t really that much better than economy domestically and it seems that you often are okay with purchasing first, in which Delta (and arguably also United) simply are better options. You never try to upgrade long-haul flights using status as you book them all using miles or through cheap fares and book short-haul flights with cash. So I think the best option for you is just to stick with mid-tier status with both American and Delta and either book economy and hope you upgrade on either airline with mid-tier status, or to just book first, which you have been doing more and more.

    Additionally, many of the benefits that come with status now come with credit cards that you have, such as lounge access, free checked bags, etc. Alternatively, you could status match to United 1K, which is probably the best out of all 3 airlines in terms of top tier elite status, although that will probably never happen. Overall, it seems to me that you aren’t getting much out of top-tier elite status with American, and the only thing holding you back from letting go of it is prestige.

  54. No United?? They have probably the best mileage program right now of any US airline.

    Also you reaaaaallly should drive the extra 20 min to FLL and fly JetBlue more often 😉

  55. I’ve gotten off the hamster wheel long ago and decided after having UA and AA status and having IHG and Hilton top level that the only real status worth chasing is Hyatt Globalist! They have real premium benefits and there is not even a close second!

  56. My strategy, starting about 18 months ago, was to credit my AA flights to BA. If you fly in premium cabins and know how to work the tier point system to get the most points, it really is pretty easy to get One World Emerald through them. At that point, I dropped my Citi Executive AA card which I had just for the Admirals Club membership. I now get better lounge access for free. On top of that, AA seems to treat me as EXP for the purposes of IRROPs assistance, etc. About the only thing I don’t get is upgrades. But, these days, I don’t consider that a big loss considering how little upgrade space there is.

    So, as an AA hub captive, I would encourage you to check out BAs program.

    FWIW, I was hesitant to do this at first. One thing I did to convince myself was to make a spreadsheet showing my AA flights over the last 12 months and compare the redeemable miles and EQMs I got from AA with the Avios and tier points I would have received from BA. This convinced me that the change would work well.

    Since then, I’ve been very happy with some of BAs other policies (such as original route credit, so you don’t miss out on tier points when your route is changed due to cancellations; their paternity leave policy; and, the peace of mind of their “soft landing” policy in case I miss out on the required 4 BA flights one year).

    In short, I’m a big BA fan now.

  57. Dear Lucky,

    you are completly missing the point, I believe.

    I mean, look at it. You´re a travel blogger and the excitement is that you fly all sorts of airlines. The idea of loyalty in air travel is the anti-thesis to that. Being loyal to e.g. Delta will require you to sit in the same MD80s day in and day out, see the same 767-300 on any international flight. All the time. That´s not what travel blogging is about so I find the question is even beside the point. Why on earth would you be loyal to an airline? For what?

    Folks are reading your blog because you fly what they are not flying. That´s what this is all about.

  58. I’ve been AA Exec Platinum for 15 years, and won’t have a problem this year again, but I understand the consternation/anxiety.

    I stare at my account way more than healthy as I track my elite progress (probs many of us do!)

    Because my travels do usually qualify annually on AA for top status, I’ve never really looked at the other airlines.

    One thing not mentioned regarding AA top EXP status (and not a clue about the other airlines) is that I can extend premium seat selection/baggage fee waivers/select other benefits to any friend or colleague traveling on the same flight as I…sometimes dependent if booked in the same record as me…but Economy Plus seat selection for anyone on the same flight as me is unlimited, and I have several times used the benefit for groups of work colleagues.

    And I do LOVE the First Class lounge access on any partner Oneworld airline regardless of class of service flown.

  59. I lost my AA Platinum status by about 128 points because I calculated regular and bonus miles incorrectly. Bump me for 128 points and I bump you. Why. Because I also write tickets for a 5 1/2 million miler with AA and now I won’t write any of her tickets on AA.

    We took approximately $250,000 (maybe more) from Delta travel because of Delta screwing us out of a first class premium paid flight LAX to FLL on Thanks Giving day and the checkin agent chatted us over by a minute and we lost our seats and had to wait 9 hours for the next flight.

  60. PS –

    Also register for the AA small business program, Advantage ExtrAA, and you collect even more points, albeit at a turtle’s pace…but very useful for those extra vacation trips.

  61. @TheTruthIs…

    I understand your comment..

    As mentioned, points are indeed slowly collected…but you can use the account number for any work or friend’s travel on AA.

    The points do slowly add up…taking friends on 2 separate Asia holidays in 2020 using Advantage ExtrAA points, without having to touch my personal miles…

  62. @TheTruthIs

    From LAX in economy (not enough Advantage ExtrAA points in the account for higher cabin). It’s not PE or Business, but it’s still 2 vacations with friends taken care of…

    Note:

    1) the program points can be redeemed on AA operated flights, and now also BA and IB, though at higher redemption levels,

    2) I’m cheap and use the advance awards, which you can also find using the regular website looking for Mileage Saver availability,

    The program is definitely more restrictive re rules and change/cxl fees, but in recent days had all program rules waived (without me requesting) when I made a city and date change…not sure if that was because of my EXP status…

    I don’t stare at that account often, cuz the points are slow to accumulate, but it’s a nice surprise benefit when I see enough points for various trips…

  63. @ Julian “only real value AA Platinum status gives you is the domestic upgrades it”.

    AA Plat doesn’t give you domestic upgrades – you pay for them @ $40 per 500 miles plus you earn some every 10,000 miles. You need Plat Pro or EXP to get free upgrades.

    But as an EXP (low spend) I almost never get an upgrade these days. I am generally down at 8 or so on the upgrade list. I have trouble with SWU upgrades and have had to let them expire.

    AA Plat has two main advantages in my view – MCE at time of ticketing and Sapphire for Business lounge and AA Flagship access for Y international travel. AA F lounges are going away – so Flagship is available to AA Plat now. I have over the F lounges – like CX F in HKG and QF F in SYD and LAX. Last time I was in HKG (I

    had always gone to the CX F lounges) I went with friends to the CX Business lounge and really liked it. Multiple rooms with different food offerings in each room. I am tired of the QF F lounges with hard to get seating and limited minute and poor service in SYD.

    WIth the change to $15K spend and the reduction of Barclay CC to only $3K EQD – I don’t think a low spend EXP is worth it. AA F food has gotten real bad – I just as soon have the Y Sandwich – and now Barclay pays for that (up to $25 a day).

    I am doing Plat Pro this year as I continue to wind down from AA, and going back to UA (old CO)

  64. At a minimum, you should use your Exec Plat status to challenge to a competitor. Maybe to Delta Platinum. Not top tier status, but not bad either.

  65. Status only matter of you fly alot in economy, if you buy premium tickets it’s all in your head. I’ve been EP for 6 years and it was the hardest decision this year to do the status, but American is just unfortunately poorly run, and the benefits are not worth it if you’re someone that can afford a premium product.

  66. Lucky, why dont you do for BA Gold, and embark in a few of their tier points run to achieve it?

    You will retain OWE.

  67. Lucky, you have raised all the right questions in your post. As a disclaimer, I have requalified for AA EXP back in July but I got fed up with AA this summer because of delays/cancellations and also service.
    I would like to reiterate two points:
    1) I think access to OneWorld F lounges is largely overrated. Cathay Wings is nice but this year I would have to stay in line to get to Haven. I was not impressed with the new F lounge in Narita either.
    2) Service/soft product in AA J is mediocre at best. It is still a good value if you book in Y and your SWU would clear but most often it would not. So if you don’t want to play the SWU game then this is not a benefit either.
    I thought about switching to BA a few years ago and today this would make more sense than ever.
    Good luck with whatever you decide. Or you can go as a free agent¬ for a year, evaluate, and plan what to do next.

  68. *A Gold and ST Plat here just by regular private travel. OW I will end up as silver or possibly gold. Anyway OW is apart from Qatar an ‘alliance of the weak’ so status means little. Qatar flights I usually credit to PG.
    None of my programs is US based, I prefer European/Asian programs (and airlines).
    On top I have a PP so in those cases where I need to fly a funny airline I still get myself in a lounge.

  69. I requalified for UA Platinum in May and now am 110k EQM’s & $9k EQD’s. Not planning to push for 1K as I mostly buy ultra-longhaul economy and premium economy flights and upgrade certificates on those routes are very difficult to use. I’ve found my status extremely useful during IRROPS – so I am planning to continue on the status hamster wheel for the foreseeable future. And lounge access/Star Gold status are somewhat helpful (I got upgraded a couple of times on Turkish longhaul). I don’t fly too many domestic flights, so domestic upgrades don’t impact me too much.

  70. Or, may be, this article is meant for airline execs to “accidentally come across” and offer a special shortcut 😉

  71. Here’s what I had with part of the $5k extra I had by not chasing ExPlat renewal:

    Lie flat J on Hawaiian for a little less than AA wanted on a 2 class 321(for two people) hnl- lax.

    Jet Blue mint at better times FLL to LAX for less than half AA wanted MIA-LAX at 6am or a 737 (possibly oasised) at the time I wanted.

    That’s $2100 of the $5k I saved by not chasing status. The rest I’ll use on award change fees with AA, a gourmet meal instead of F lounge, etc.

  72. @PM1 sez: “…I mostly buy ultra-longhaul economy and premium economy flights and upgrade certificates on those routes are very difficult to use.”

    That seems backwards to me. Premium cabin tickets on ultra-long-haul flights tend to be on the expensive side and may thus often go unsold, thereby increasing the chances of clearing GPUs on such routes. My usual approach is to purchase GPUable Y tickets for long-haul flights months in advance, immediately request a GPU to put myself high on the upgrade waitlist, and then forget about it. The result has been a pretty good GPU clearance rate…

    The continuing drawback of GPUs is the requirement to have at least a W-fare ticket, which makes them a bit more expensive and “wasteful” on long-haul flights when an upgrade does not clear…

  73. Lucky go with Delta for sure. I’m Diamond and I pretty much always get upgrades. Delta also treats thier diamonds much much better than the others. You won’t be disappointed.

  74. I’ve had AS 75k the last several years and have loved being able to cancel reward bookings when needed, free of charge. I rarely fly AS (haven’t for about 3 years, actually) but have made 75k the last 4 years; won’t be making any status with them for 2020 as most of my flights this year have been with KE/DL on DL stock from SEAsia to the American southeast for family medical issues. Having achieved DL Platinum Medallion relatively easily as a result, I will say that as a flyer based outside the USA, not having to deal with MQDs is awesome (even though I have spent enough for Diamond already!). I thought about switching over to AAdvantage or MileagePlus, but with no spend waiver offered, I’m sticking with DL, even though my (new) home airport is dominated but a *A member…

  75. I likely value the benefits of frequent flyer status a bit more than you. As a student I’m not really in the position to regularly buy premium cabin tickets on international flights (yet!), so I likely value the frequent flyer benefits more than you. I now normally book business/first class with miles when flying long haul and those 4 global upgrades certificates I get as diamond with delta save me a couple hundred thousand miles each year. My two cents though on the value of complimentary upgrades and upgrade certificates, I fly a fair number of transcons (Usually back and forth between Florida and California one or two times per month) and have never not been upgraded on the ATL – SFO leg. I’ve also never had an GUC upgrade not clear in the past few years as diamond. More than half have cleared at the time of booking for me, several cleared a few days before, and only once have I had one clear at the gate. So both types of upgrades have been incredibly valuable for me. I also usually choose the miles as my other choice benefit. This nets another 70K miles which is enough to book a one way award in AM business class between Mexico and the US (which is almost always available), so diamond nets me 5 legs in business each year. That being said, you are correct, many of the benefits really aren’t worth the effort to go out of your way to try and qualify for. I’m not sure I would recommend anyone else to go out of there way to try and qualify for diamond (especially considering you are less than half way there), unless you want to try it out just for the sake of your blog. Lots of opportunities at the moment though, I just booked MCO-DTW-PEK next month for 130K miles in delta suites with the delta vacations pay with miles promotion you wrote about a few weeks ago to requalify for diamond this year.

  76. I maintain top level status mainly for (a) lounge access when travelling in Economy/Premium Eco cabin and (b) for the unpublished benefit of being less likely to be bumped in case of overbooking. Here in Europe overbooking is the norm and if you are on a tight schedule, avoiding this hassle is certainly a plus.

  77. Enjoy elite and business class while you are young. Later, you will be old, have arthritis, have to go to the bathroom often, have no elite status.

  78. The frustrating thing with Delta is not clearing Globals in advance. I have been a DM for a few years. Previously it was easier for me to leverage my credit cards for top status. Now a 250K min spend requirement and Its a decision for me to put that much on the cards in total vs using other cards.

  79. I’ve been Delta Diamond and AA EXP for last two years and will requalify for each this year. While Delta is a “better airline”, I get a higher percentage of complimentary upgrades on AA, even with the hubs being factored in. If you will be buying mostly first class tickets anyway, there is very little that status will get you that your purchased tickets won’t.

  80. LAXJeff:

    You likely know how cute you are. We all think you’re really cute and pretty smart, too!

    What we’d appreciate is you never, ever writing or saying “anyways.” Darling, sugar-balls: that’s not a word. The word you want is always and forever “anyway.” …Ooh, proper spelling makes me tingly!

    Mwah!

  81. @ben lucky, if you had the Delta Reserve card, you probably would end the year with Platinum, and flying Delta out of Miami, the upgrade chances are pretty good, I used to be Plat on DL, now Diamond, but I remember when I was DL Plat flying MIA-LGA twice a month, I would get the First upgrade 85% of the time. Also on Virgin Atlantic, DL plat benefits are the same DL Diamond (Clubhouse, upper security wing, arrivals lounge, etc)

    As one Miami resident to another, i would recommend you get Delta Diamond and if you are worried about having to fly AA once in a while, get BA silver status, it’s very easy to obtain with a couple RT’s to Europe to Premium Econ or Busienss. Then when you do have to fly AA out of Miami, you can use the Flagship lounge and if you fly MIA-LAX, you get to select the premium economy seats on the 777-300 🙂

    Living part time in Miami, I have DL Diamond and LATAM sapphire status and I think it’s the best set up, but next year trading in latam sapphire for BA sapphire (easier sapphire to obtain)

  82. @Randy totally agree.

    For me, the single greatest benefit of AA Platinum is MCE at time of booking. Traveling with a family, this is a big deal being able to confirm these seats in advance. I rarely confirm domestic upgrades any more, but it does happen from time to time. Even a recent operational upgrade into J on a Transcon NYC>JFK for myself and two other px on my PNR. Does AA blow me away with their service? No. But I also haven’t had any truly bad experiences on AA in recent memory. I’ll be sticking with them as long as Platinum gets me confirmed MCE seats when I book my tickets. If that changes, well, then I’d seriously be considering United or Jet Blue, as there could be some benefits to United, which would allow me to fly more from SNA or B6 which might give me more options at LGB.

  83. Lucky, Delta’s “same day confirmed” changes perk is awesome – you can re-route or change within 24 hour of departure free of charge!

    As far as global upgrades go – others have mentioned a few “tricks” to get a confirmed upgrade at a time of booking. There are always a few options and if you are flexible, I do not think you will find it difficult!

    Roman

  84. Grateful for your perspective. My hamster wheel – I’ve racked up 100,000 actual skymiles (no credit card) per year for the past few years flying coach, working for a US firm, living in Europe. Changed to a Europe employer this year, so next year is likely my last elite Delta year. It matters internationally. Lounges and first boarding are worth it. Also the comfort plus upgrade and luggage fee waiver are serious savings.

    I’ve been considering whether to switch to accumulating on KLM/Air France next year, but worry about the weaker perks, losing out on long-haul Delta perks. Thoughts?

  85. Dear Lucky,

    I am convinced that “loosing” the elite status is not as bad as it sounds at the first moment or thought. Didn’t you write some moons ago that you have family and a cute respectively adorable labrador-mix at home?

    So your quality of life should be much greater than before, shouldn’t it?

    And now the normal mechanisms are unlocked: With the exemption of some lifetime evaluations (lifetime gold at some airlines) airlines measure the loyalty only within specific period of times. Membership years or so!

    If the loyalty of the customer decreases the special services are reduced accordingly.

    Setting free the resources and scarce space of the lounges for those who are loyal within the “new” membership year.

    So it is a constant and ongoing up- and moving down within the eligible customer base.

    Therefore one strategy would remain until the “itch” to travel (that you described) and the need for flying comes back: Retain the silver status of *one* airline you prefer.

    IMHO experience the leap between the blue repectively non-status customer and “silver” (or the oneworld denomination) is much larger than from “silver” to “”gold”.

    Best regards

    Gerd

  86. Hey Lucky,

    I think going for broke on Diamond is 1000% worth it. I was Platinum this year and got upgraded to first around 60% of the time, which is great considering I wasnt even Diamond. I will hit Diamond this year mid October and am excited to see what that gives me! I just couldnt imagine flying any other airline in the US right now, given how much better Delta seems to get every year!

  87. It does seem I might be missing out on DL service by sticking with AA (I guess that is Lucky’s challenge as well), but I keep qualifying for AA EXP, so…it is, what it is.

    The 2 times I have flown DL, they were stellar, completely over-the-top on domestic flights. Makes me wonder…

    Admittedly the first time I flew DL was because of an extraordinary gesture by an AA agent, when my flights were disrupted by a storm at Chicago. Though they were trying to reprotect me on other AA flights, understandably, the agent overhead me trying to reschedule meetings. I had purchased Economy and got the upgrades…but the AA agent rebooked me on a full fare DL First transcon without me making any request, to get me to NYC for my meetings. DL First service was incredible on that flight, but I must give credit to AA for stepping in and taking care of an EXP customer.

    Sorta similar on my other DL flight, perhaps even more wow’d by DL, with their agent tracking me down in the terminal somehow with new flights/boarding passes after another weather disruption…and I have zero status on DL. I was amazed.

    I struggle with the decision, but AA seems to be doing much better with EXP recognition and service, both on the phones and on the airplanes. Qantas, in particular, and BA to lesser extent, are also providing great recognition of Oneworld Emerald’s as well, at the airports and inflight.

    Best wishes to everyone with the chess game of maintaining status on whatever airline you fly!

  88. Rob, I used to be a 10 year Exec Plat, now on my second year as DL Diamond, and I would rather stab myself in the leg than go back to AA Exec Plat. I hate myself for not calling quits on AA earlier

  89. I was an AA EXP for eleven years. I live in Fort Lauderdale and use the Miami hub. I used to do anything to requalify, including lots of mileage runs. After all those years it just felt like an addiction, a bad one. So I became a free agent two years ago and could not be happier. I pay for F/J on every flight so don’t care about or need upgrades. I do have lifetime Plat on AA and still fly then them when it makes sense. I redeem miles occasionally for free premium cabin travel. But I also buy F/J flights on Delta, United, Alaska and Jet Blue Mint. I pick flights based on the best schedule and onboard service. It works for me.

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