Three Reasons To Diversify Airline Loyalty (And Three Reasons Not To)

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With the fourth quarter well underway, many of us road warriors are probably looking at how to finalize our elite strategies for 2019. For a lot of you out there, I’m sure the decision is a no-brainer – pick the airline out of your home airport with the best availability, fly them as much as possible, and reap the benefits wherever you can get them.

But one consideration that I don’t see discussed nearly as often is whether it makes sense to split your loyalty. After all, airline monogamy can be pretty awesome – but it can come with some serious limitations as far as route availability and overall flexibility.

So unless you live in a hub-captive city (hi, Atlanta and Dallas!) chances are you may have come across the same conundrum – do I go all-in with a single airline or do I diversify?

While I can’t say I’m walking out of 2018 with a concrete answer, I do have plenty of random musings on the topic. Admittedly, this is my very first year with top-tier status on any airline, after spending close to a decade splitting the difference on mid-tier status between any combination of two of the three “big three” airlines.

AA transcontinental business class, which I’ve been upgraded to as a lowly AAdvantage Gold

My husband, meanwhile, has somehow managed to secure some level of status with each of the three major airlines for 2018, and couldn’t be happier. It’s certainly made for some interesting dinner table conversations – on the rare occasion that we’re actually both home for dinner – and has given me plenty of further food for thought.

So while I don’t have a definitive answer – and would love to hear your input on the topic – I do think there are some pretty definitive reasons why one should – or shouldn’t – split loyalty over multiple airlines.

Why it makes sense to diversify

While I’ve loved life at the top of the Delta food chain, there are plenty of things about mid-level status with multiple airlines that I miss. Here are a few that spring to mind.

Airline choice

This is probably the easiest one to understand, and the most obvious case for diversifying status. I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that as a Diamond Medallion, I have gone further out of my way than ever to fly Delta this year. This has been the case even when the itinerary has been slightly more expensive.  

Now, this isn’t necessarily always as bad as it seems, on the surface. A $50 swing one way or the other isn’t really going to make a huge difference, and should squeak by most corporate travel policies unscathed.

And if I find myself laying over in a location with a Sky Club or other lounge accessible by credit card, I can often make up the differential by saving money on dinner.

Escape Lounge at Hartford’s BDL – better than airport restaurants, perhaps?

That being said, there are times when I’ve fallen into the trap of flying with my preferred airline when it just doesn’t make sense. Like when I’ve waited an extra hour at the airport for the last flight on a Friday. Or taken a connection rather than a direct flight.

Or two weekends ago, when I took a flight to San Francisco twelve hours earlier than my husband just so that I could get my three free checked bags (judge all you want!) and have a shot at an upgrade.

He, on the other hand, will plug his itinerary into Google Flights, search for the best itinerary that matches his schedule and budget, and enjoy some level of elite status recognition regardless of where he lands.

It’s not always as glamorous, but it’s certainly less stressful.

Changes in “regular” travel patterns 

This is sort of the distant cousin of having more flight choices, but one of the challenges that I’ve found is that elite status can become exponentially harder to maintain when all of a sudden you are flying a different, “new” route with any kind of regularity.

For example, Delta has historically been great for my flights from the Northeast to the Bay Area, where airline preference doesn’t necessarily matter as much. But I’ve also starting doing a lot more travel back and forth to the D.C. area airports due to several new client projects this year, and Delta doesn’t offer any direct flights from my home airport.

And I (usually) draw the line at itineraries that involve acute angles:

I imagine that this could become problematic for any road warrior who has a sudden change in client site, particularly when a hub city (Denver, Dallas, Atlanta) is involved. It sure is jarring to go from top-tier status to basically having to start over when your choice airline doesn’t line up with your new destination.

Dedicated elite lines

If you do need to fly off-brand, there are plenty of ways to ease the pain, from airline co-branded credit cards (which we will get to in a minute) to purchasing seats with extra leg room, to credit cards that offer lounge access. However, things often go sideways, and one of the biggest perks reserved exclusively for elite status holders – that hopefully you don’t ever have to use – is dedicated access to a separate phone line.

This is a nice-to-have when everything is going well, but becomes a must-have when the weather patterns start to look like this:

I can think of more than one occasion where my lowly Gold status on American Airlines has saved my you-know-what when I was required to fly the airline. More to the point, there have been several weeks this year when I would have gladly traded my Diamond Medallion status for Silver on United and Gold on American, if it meant getting to a phone agent faster.

This is perhaps less of a perk, and more of an insurance policy, but hopefully it’s one that you don’t have to rely on too much.

Why it makes sense to go all-in

Contrary to the above, there are still plenty of reasons to stick with a single airline. If you’re like most road warriors that I know, you are probably already committed to your program of choice, and are familiar with the elite perks at your disposal. But if you’re still uncertain about your elite strategy for 2019, here are a few reasons why it might make sense not to diversify.

Exponentially better perks 

Life is just better at the top, and I would argue that elite perks get exponentially better and more valuable at each level. Each of the “big three” U.S. airlines offers some version of international upgrade certificate for their top-tier elites – and let’s be honest, that’s probably one of the perks that we all chase the most.

In addition to that, upgrade priority goes up, you earn miles faster, and you’re probably the first on the plane.

But beyond these obvious perks, everything just seems to get better. Delta offers its Diamond Medallions a slew of Choice Benefits, including gift cards, upgraded lounge memberships, and the ability to gift Gold status to another SkyMiles member.

United and Delta elites with Platinum status (75,000 miles a year) and above get Hertz President’s Circle status.

American Airlines Executive Platinum members earn automatic oneworld Emerald status, allowing them to access first class lounges all over the world on international itineraries, even when flying on an economy ticket.

Anyway, I could go on and on about CLEAR memberships. And reciprocal hotel status. And Flagship Lounges.

Suffice to say that these top-tier elite perks make waived check bag fees and Zone 37 1 boarding look like child’s play.

Redundancy with co-branded credit cards

If you’re looking to split your time between multiple airlines and going for lower-level status across the board, there may be an easier way. Between the gradual devaluations in lower-level elite perks and the onslaught of airline co-branded credit cards, you almost don’t even need to fly at all to enjoy the benefits of silver-ish level status.

For example, for $95 per year, the United MileagePlus Explorer Card comes with priority boarding, a free checked bag (when paying directly with the card) and even includes two United Club passes and a $100 Global Entry Credit.

The Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express offers the same first free checked bag and priority boarding, and allows cardholders to take advantage of the Pay with Miles option.

Sometimes, a higher-end airline co-branded credit card even offers a greater value than low-level status. One of the best examples of this is with the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®, where you get all of the above perks and Admirals Club memberships for you and a small entourage, for the price of $450 a year.

Sure beats status running if you’re looking to qualify for AA’s low-level AAdvantage Gold.

So if you’re contemplating crediting miles to a secondary airline and going for the lowest-level status, it may make more sense to stick to your primary airline, and to cough up the annual fee for a co-branded credit card on a secondary airline.

Banking one airline currency

Okay, I know that this is OMAAT, and there are plenty of ways outside of actual flying to earn miles. But if you’re looking to fly the family out for a quick weekend getaway on miles that you’ve already earned through business travel, it sure is easier to do this on a singular currency than it is to figure out who in the family is flying United and who is flying Delta (been there, done that).

It’s also worth noting that top-tier elites earn more miles per dollar spent (on United, Delta, and American alike), so if you’re doing all of that flying anyway, you might as well accrue those miles as efficiently as possible.

One more point to consider when evaluating elite strategy

Okay, this has nothing to do with actual monetary value, but I wanted to share a conversation that I recently had with my 11-year-old stepdaughter. My husband and I often use our miles to take his kids on vacation, and she has become particularly in tune with the points-and-miles world over the past year. Here is how she sees it:

Her: Steph, Daddy is Platinum with Delta. Are you Platinum?

Me: I’m Diamond, actually.

Her: Oh. [Shrugs] Daddy’s also Platinum with American. Are you Platinum with American?

Me: No.

Her: Why?

Sigh. Clearly, we still have a lot of teaching to do.

So, what’s the answer?

Like so many other things in the points-and-miles world, it depends. I’ve spent close to a decade going through the revolving door of airline loyalty, and I still question my strategy almost every week. So while I can’t provide the answer, I’ve rounded up a few scenarios where it might make sense to remain completely airline-monogamous:

  • If you fly the same route consistently
  • If you are hub-captive
  • If you pay cash for international economy tickets and prioritize upgrade certificates
  • If you fly fewer than 75,000 miles a year (you can get arguably more value out of gold status with one airline than silver status with two airlines)

And here are a few scenarios where it might make sense to diversify:

  • If you fly over 125,000 miles a year (in which case, you can achieve top-tier status with one airline and still get secondary status on another airline)
  • If your “regular” travel patterns change all the time
  • If you travel international economy across a variety of carriers and value airline alliance recognition over upgrade certificates
  • If you prioritize price/route over elite recognition
  • If you have children in your life that you want to impress

Okay, that last one might not matter as much to most of you. 😉

Final thoughts

I’m sure there are plenty of other reasons out there to remain loyal to a single airline – or to split your status. Heck, you might even be in the camp of “free agency,” eschewing all airline status considerations.

And while I’m pretty much clinging to Delta through the end of the Medallion year, I’m still not completely sold on a strategy for 2019.

So I’m curious to hear your thoughts, and what you think the best strategy is for maximizing elite status across loyalty programs.

In the meantime, I’ll be here – contemplating whether I spend one hour or six hours flying to D.C. 😉

Do you maintain status with one airline, or do you split the difference? What do you think the best strategy is? 

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Comments

  1. Great post.

    I fly about 60,000 or so paid miles a year, with the number likely increasing. I used to like diversifying, but now I am focusing primarily on one airline (Delta) while looking to get a credit card for my secondary airline (American). For certain routes, American offers the best schedule (LGA to DCA) or service (transcons), but the network itself isn’t large enough for me anymore. And in terms of status, you really need to be at the 50,000 mile level or above, so I am going to strive for that (or even 75,000 miles) with Delta next year (EQM boost from the Amex card should help).

  2. I just play one program: AA where I enjoy EXP status. Although I live in a Delta mega hub I always fly American even if it involves a connection. Delta’s change to dynamic award pricing was a deal killer for me. Many of my award trips are planned with little advance timing and Delta’s close-in award pricing is ludicrous. Besides, living in a city where American isn’t the dominant carrier means I get upgraded far more often than I did as a Delta Diamond.

  3. Steph – Very timely post. Being based of out BDL, I can choose any carrier I’d like. I struggle with the same question. Granted, I don’t travel more than 60K miles a year, and mostly on points, I still manage to maintain AA gold with work travel. I always have to take a connection, so shifting loyalty to get direct flights isn’t really a consideration. It comes down to which airports are decent to transit through, best route availability from the Northeast and the value of the miles for awards.

    I have been thinking about shifting to Delta recently, but I’m not sure it makes sense. I get upgraded (surprisingly) almost 1/3 of the time to first in AA. And I can use the miles to fly domestically to HHH, which DL does not fly to. From hearing other opinions, it doesn’t sound like I would get as many first class upgrades if I made the switch to UA/DL.

    I hold Amex Plat so getting into Skyclubs while flying DL is also something to consider. But BDL also has the Escape lounge which is fantastic. I value that and will continue holding the Amex Plat.

    Outside of US I value flights to Europe, so Star Alliance is king. Something else to consider. But, I think UA has the weakest connection options from BDL considering the EWR route is now gone.

    Is it worth switching away from AA given my situation?

  4. You have a legitimate choice in airlines out of Dallas or Atlanta. There’s this boutique airline you might not have heard of called Southwest…

  5. Good topic. I think there are a lot more hub-captive major airports, like EWR, IAD, DCA, CLT, MSP, SLC to name a few.

    In my case, I’m equidistant from IAD and DCA, but my flying is also split 50-50 domestic vs int’l. So I’m pretty much on UA if it’s international and out of IAD. For domestic, AA tends to have more direct flight options for where I got, and then it’s out of DCA. Haven’t earned enough to on AA to make elite though, despite flying paid F. The domestic DCA hops are just too short.

  6. Having moved from DL to UA to USAir and finally AA over the past decade or so, shifting allegiance was always a result of my specific travel destinations, airline routes, hard product, cost, and (less often recently) FF programs and status. The loyalty programs have become less attractive due to the scarcity of premium cabin international award flights, increasing restrictions and the dimishing benefits of status.

    In the next week I’ll be booking flights for 2019 and for the first time in several years, I will book away from AA (where I hold EXP status) to Delta for international flights. Even though DL has a poor FF award program, I will be saving money on bookings and I won’t be held captive to AA credit cards and I can get a higher ROI on other cards with higher bonus categories. I’ll use any mileage accumulated from actual flying for occasional domestic travel or positioning flights.

    No specific event triggered my decision but rather just the slow attrition of benefits over time. Looking forward to free agency! Free at last!

  7. I’m based out of PIT where (almost) all main-line service is to their respective hubs and, but WN also has a decent presence. I choose my main-line carrier based on availability for my work travels, which for the last few years has been UA. This year I took WN as my secondary and couldn’t be happier. IMO WN makes a great secondary airline for those who sometimes fly odd-ball routings since they run a de-centralized system. For example, I’m currently on a PIT-TPA-HOU-BWI-PIT trip, all non-stop segments.

  8. AA EXP myself. Most of the time AA has the best pricing for my routes. If they do not, I look at what the other carrier’s ticket cost + checked bag fees + extra leg room seat costs will be and then I stick with AA because those ancillary costs end up costing more.

    We will see how loyalty with AA works out with their project Oasis and the 737 Max get rolled out further. Maybe then it will be time to switch allegiance and become a free agent. Less space on planes is NOT a good thing.

    I have transferable points that can be used for other airlines when needed.

  9. NYC flier that had top tier status on pmCO for 18 years. Rethought my strategy after the UA merger, their subsequent operational decline, and the evolution of Elite status / mileage earning.

    I am now much happier with a diversified “good enough” strategy:
    – Mid tier status on DL and AA
    – Discounted CLEAR membership via DL Medallion
    – DL lounge access via AMEX Platinum
    – Priority Pass via AMEX Platinum
    – My employer pays for one club/year (in this case AAdmirals Club)

    What’s changed:
    – No longer disappointed when F upgrades don’t happen (never expect them)
    – “Good enough” in-flight experience with priority boarding and consistent C+ / MCE upgrades.
    – “Good enough” treatment from lounge folks / priority phone line in case of irregular ops
    – Expanded choice in “good enough” flights (AA+DL vs. UA only)
    – Better airport experience (access to more lounges, CLEAR is awesome)

  10. As I’m Atlanta based, I flew DL for years on business and leisure trips. Then I retired and wanted to use my Skymiles for international business class award travel. Not so fast! In nearly every instance their redemption amounts at the saver rate (even before the disappearance of the award chart) went from merely high to ridiculous. So, when possible, I burned through several hundred thousand miles, leaving me with fewer than 300K, way less than my UA/Chase 400k+ or AA 900k+. Trying to use ff miles for two on my preferred dates, with some flexibility for a Spring 2019 European cruise, I found plenty of availability on UA at 60K each way or their partners at 70K. AA was 57.5 so I redeemed for them. (Inconvenient? Not too much though. It means ATL-DFW to connect). Delta was 280,000 each way. That’s why on a trip ATL-BOS last month I flew AA ATL-CLT-BOS, return BOS-DCA-ATL. It’s just my time and it’s well worth it to avoid DL. Just sayin’.

  11. Great post, I did too struggle with diversification. That said, for the past 3-4 years my main travel has been between LA and Japan, so it’s fairly easy to get to top tier status and two airlines. I typically go for American Air EXP first, as qantas first lounge at LAX is wonderful pre-departure for tokyo (on Japan airlines). Until recently, i would chase United’s 1K thereafter but i decided I’m done with United…recently switched to Delta and have hit Platinum for the first time. Could almost make Diamond but I’m going to leave it a few hundred short for the rollerover-MQM to start me close to gold in January.

  12. I don’t chase loyalty anymore. I value my time and my comfort, both of you which you can solve with sufficient dollars. You want J, buy J. Most major airports have paid lounges that are usually better value (or sit at a restaurant) and you’ll get better service than a lounge anyway. Most lounges’ best benefit are QUIET, since airports are noisy. I find it ironic people make choices that are less convenient, more expensive or more uncomfortable to earn status so that once they have it they can have more convenience or be more comfortable. I take the most direct, most convenient flights I can afford and I pay for the comforts I need.

  13. I am Seattle based, so I have a bit of a choice when it comes to who to keep status with. I generally earn some sort of status each with Alaska and Delta, each for different reasons. This year it was MVP Gold and Delta Platinum. I usually stick to AS for domestic and DL for international, but not always the case. I do fly out of YVR a lot as well, so having Skyteam access there has been helpful to keeping Delta status. It all seems to flip-flop which status ends up being higher.

    I’ve followed the “diversify” approach for the past few years and it has been working and have been able to build a solid strategy to earn Alaska miles at higher rates and being able to enjoy some benefits when flying Delta too.

  14. @Steph wrote: “Life is just better at the top, and I would argue that elite perks get exponentially better and more valuable at each level.”

    Agreed, and that is why I stick with just one program, UA, to be able to hit top elite status year after year. It has never made sense to me for anyone who is not a true, 250+ BIS-miles-a-year, “sky warrior” to “diversify” and, as a result, fail to make top elite in any program. Every year, it is a bit of a struggle for me to travel 100K bis miles at the tune of $12K to make UA 1K; my last trip of the year is usually a PAID long-haul intl flight [e.g., EWR-SIN] mileage run in a premium cabin to earn the PQMs and PQDs that would get me to and over the finish line. Therefore, it’s tough for me even think about going for a second elite status in a different program…

    I do not diversify. I stick with one main program. However, I leave my options open in order to be able to take advantage of sweet deals that other programs may offer, especially if I have “free” elite status in those programs through CCs.

  15. I currently have 240k eqm with American. I could split between 2 carriers and have top tier status in both. However, American prioritizes upgrades according to your monthly spend over previous 12 months. If I split carriers my upgrade chances drop on American because I am spending less with them. I get an upgrade 99% of the time and usually 4 days before departure eliminating gate anxiety for an upgrade. I just can’t figure out why I haven’t been invited into Concierge Key.

  16. I wish i had more choice beside ‘going down hill’ AS and ‘limited options with more connections’ DL.

  17. I do about 110,000-140,000 paid miles a year and where I live we don’t have much choice. So, I stay with United to keep my 1k status.

  18. I can’t imagine how much extra money people must pay to always stick with one airline because pricing fluctuates so much. I consistently see huge differences in pricing between different carriers. For example, I fly to Hawaii and back twice a year, and one way first class tickets vary up to $1000 difference between different airlines.

  19. Diversify. I don’t see the point in taking the longer flight w/ a connection or paying more just to chase status…I like to have my options open. Whichever one is more comfortable, affordable, & direct. Priority Pass takes care of lounge access & if I want First, I just pay for it. Otherwise economy it is. I’d rather have my options than be stuck with one.

  20. @CSue sez: “I can’t imagine how much extra money people must pay to always stick with one airline because pricing fluctuates so much. ”

    I resemble that remark and the short of it is that it’s a trade-off. One sticks with a single airline in order to earn top elite status, which can then be used to book economy tickets that one tries to upgrade to, in my case, international business tickets using one of the top elite upgrade instruments (like SWUs or GPUs). Clearing just one SWU or GPU to upgrade one economy ticket to an intl biz ticket is usually enough to break even or get ahead, to essentially surmount the “opportunity cost” of sticking with just one airline. Clearing 3-4 GPUs puts me in the “bonanza” territory. 🙂

    Generally, I clear all my 6 UA GPUs on long-haul intl flights, except this year, as I have been purchasing premium cabin tickets outright because (a) I found good deals and/or (b) I had not planned on traveling as much as I usually do during the year, so that booking premium cabin tickets was an early conscious decision to ensure that I would earn the large number of PQMs and PQDs that I’ll need to requalify for 1K with fewer flights, or at least be within striking distance.

    It is YMMV sort of thing, usually between each individual and her or his planning spreadsheet.

  21. Hi Steph,
    Good post.
    I am ( some bragging coming) Star Alliance Senator, Sky Team Platinum, One World Emerald, Etihad Platinum. This for for probably 10 years now ( except gor Etihad which I will lose anyway, no regrets).
    Well, my opinion ? Star Alliance is a joke, lounges are deplorable.
    In that respect, One World is way better
    Brussels based.

  22. As a regular traveler between London and Manila, the choices are far wider than domestic US (seemingly the majority or prior comments). QR has the best product and hub lounge/airport, and will remain optimal at least until their hosting of the 2020 World Cup (soccer). But EK and EY compete there (although DXB suffers overcrowding and AUH remains a joke with delayed opening of their new terminal). CX and SQ feature as good products and hubs with alliance alignment. Whereas I used to have SQ PPS status with work (above any mere metallic status – I was CEO and abused signoff authority on my expenses), these days I spend each year getting to QR Silver renewal, then seeing what I can slavage of my former CX status (regular weekender to HK). CX is uniquely the only status program where you pay cash to get the lowest rung membership, but that gets you priority checkin and boarding. There is something about not queueing at checkin at MNL that has made that the single most important consideration of all for me. If one of your hone airports is regularly under capacity or suffers weather delays, you may agree !

  23. I appreciated the final synopsis as to when to be and not to be loyal. I definitely fit exactly into the first category! I had been having the debate with myself as I fly Indy-Dallas and Indy-CLT and Indy – SFO or SMF. Delta, AA, Alaska (until they stopped non-stop to SFO)

  24. I show no loyalty to airlines because they are like your employer. They will love you while you are of use to them. But one sign of financial trouble or a new revenue stream opportunity and they will kick you to the curb in a heartbeat.

    Also, some airlines devalue their points with little to zippo advance notice. Its like having a stock portfolio and losing 50% overnight.

  25. I have two reasons for top status: the benefits I receive on boarding, seat selection, bags, paid GE, etc is one. (All about me). The other was accumulating as many points each year as possible for biz class tickets on European vacations for three.

    Now that miles earned is very low since my flights are low cost economy tickets, the rewards are far and few between.

    But I am Platinum for life with UA now and so is my daughter through my status. So now I fly UA when it really means seat is important (flights over 3 hours). If not, the schedule wins.

  26. I fly internationally once or twice a month. Splitting airlines can be okay if you can muster the patience for meeting the elite status of the second one. But what you don’t mention is that I prefer to stick to one group and primarily because it is consistent I don’t need to waste time figuring out the schedule since I take the same flight same time just on a different date. It makes building the itinerary much simpler and not having to rethink it every time I travel. If I take DL instead of ANA or Singapore it changes the schedule. Then I have to change my transportation itinerary after I land. Simple, direct, and most affordable with easiest to upgrade is best. PLUS I have the points from the CC that funnel into the same place so if I want to I can do first class or I can upgrade to business. Which also is the best point redemption in my case. I think one needs to look at the overall forrest. If changing airlines can do the same thing then it is a no brainer but usually you have to adjust your lifestyle to accomodate including your CC and itinerary when you land. That wastes my time and it isn’t worth it.

  27. What does “a hub-captive city” mean? Could someone please explain? I am not a road warrior, am just a leisurely flyer trying to make Premier Silver on UA when I can maximize my time off form work… I live in Southern California now but we are planing to move to Dallas in five years when we retire. What would be the best airline / program for someone lives in DFW area (other than Southwest…) . Thanks 🙂

  28. I retained my Air France FlyingBlue Platinum status in May this year, by flying with partner airlines (including Delta), hoping that I run the grind a few more years and can achieve Platinum for life. That’s the main motivation for me keeping status with FlyingBlue.

    I moved from one StarAlliance hub (Brussels) to another (Warsaw) in August, and LOT has monopoly on some of the routes, which means more expensive flights. That means I have to diversify my portfolio and not be subject to monopoly. For example, BA has some decent premium economy fare out of Warsaw, so I booked with them for my flights to Chicago instead. No one wants to fly direct with LOT to Chicago for twice the fare… In this sense I can totally relate to your flying six hours to D.C. rather than one hour, although the scenarios are quite different.

    I am slightly short of Gold status with BA and will do one more mileage run before Christmas to maintain the status. I don’t have any European or American credit card at the moment, so acquiring mileage through credit cards is not an option for me. SkyTeam still maintains an annoying “you have to be flying on an international sector” in order to use the lounge, so when I am travelling to the U.S. I end up on OneWorld most of the time, plus I can use BA avios to redeem American flights most of the time, and do not have to worry about elite status recognition.

    Looks like I will not make it to top tier status with Star Alliance this year, oh well, two elite memberships are enough for me at this point in time… Happy strategising!

  29. For those of us who fly internationally economy and biz tickets have become rather cheap. The additional cost of upgradable tickets and now with the additional spend for high level status does not seem to make financial sense.

  30. @LF – Did you actually search for flights to ensure that your claim is correct and generalizable, or did you just make it up? If you actually do searches, you will see that things are not as clear-cut as you suggest. Some routes might have cheap tickets, others might not.

    Importantly, however, it is a narrow view to think that top elite status is good only for getting cabin upgrades. As a UA 1K, It means having access to award seats that are not available to others; being able sit up to 8 companions in Economy Plus (how much would that be worth both in comfort and money on a long-haul intl flight? Priceless); earning more redeemable miles per spend; having same-day flight change fee discounted or waived; PRE-BOARDING even when seated in economy for access to overhead bins;…etc…etc…

    To get the most benefit in the game, one must be all in. Things can get expensive for reluctant or part-time players of the game, who think that it is all or only about cabin upgrade costs…

  31. I’m based in PHL. Even though I live in an AA hub city, I actively avoid flying AA. Why? Because, as Lucky has began pointing out lately, they’re just so damn miserable. They make it feel like a chore to have you on-board. In comparison, Delta is a consistently better experience whether I’m seated up front or even if I don’t clear an upgrade. Their cabin interiors are wicked stylish, and the service is consistently good. I also despise AA’s “500-mile upgrades” nonsense. If I’m elite, I want on every upgrade list. Period.

    90% of my travel is domestic for business. I take maybe three personal, week-long trips a year and a few weekends here and there. Even though I live in an AA hub city, I actively avoid flying AA. Right now I have a project in Dallas that requires weekly commutes, and even though that’s hub-to-hub AA territory, I prefer connecting in DTW or ATL to stay on Delta.

    Yes, I realize SkyPesos are useless. But as I see it, I would rather have a pleasant experience on 90% of my flying than deal with the constant ineptitude I’ve experienced with AA time and time again. As for my personal travel, I rack up ample SkyPesos that more than suffice at getting me around on the weekends for my short leisure trips, whereas I use credit card sign-up bonuses to fund my 3 major trips a year. AA has tons of card products that basically give away AAdvantage miles, so I tend to bank those up for redemptions on their great partners. In this regard, Delta is sadly quite useless.

  32. You may also want to consider if you want lifetime elite status with one program… because if you do then you’d definitely want to be faithful to said program. At least for a significant period of time…

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