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Which Programs For Frequent Paid Premium Cabin Flyers?
After a multiyear hiatus, I’m returning to the ranks of the frequent business travel. My new gig will have me flying globally, but with a ton of domestic US flying as well. Thanks to a random ask during contract negotiations, all of my flying will be in paid biz (or domestic first). Since I was able to empty all of my FF accounts with well positioned vacations over the last 7 years, I have no status and no significant balance with any FF program.
I’m based in DEN, so UA is the obvious choice, but my instincts say that I might see more benefit if I put my earnings into a program like Asiana’s, since Star Alliance Gold with any other carrier gets me UA lounge access, where I’d have to pay for lounge access if I accrued to UA. I’m also thinking about LH, given that I’ll have a decent amount of travel through FRA and MUC (on both UA and LH metal).
Then I’ll want to have options in oneWorld and SkyTeam, given that it’ll be impossible to completely avoid travel on them. I expect I’ll be on BA and DL most frequently, but, again, I’m looking for the easiest paths to Elite Plus (ST) and Emerald (OW). My back of the napkin says BA should be my OW choice and UX’s should be my ST choice (especially if I gain status in another program fast and can status match).
Given that I’ll be earning premium cabin multipliers, I would like to maximize those as well, so that part of my decision making process. Also, I won’t be buying flights out of pocket, so credit card bonuses won’t enter into my decision.
Anyway, looking for any ideas on this totally first world problem.
Hi Mallthus, congrats on the new gig.
I’d recommend looking at the routes you will fly on a regular basis, and try to line those up with the fare classes you’ll be in, and then reference wheretocredit.com
If you’re traveling that much, it sounds like you won’t have much of an issue attaining top tier status regardless of which program you choose.
You’re on the right track with looking at non-US programs since that would get you lounge access when flying domestically on United, American, etc.
If your goal is also the most possible redeemable miles, since you said you take a lot of vacations, you also might want to consider crediting some flights to Alaska. Some of their premium cabin bonuses are incredibly lucrative, and the miles are pretty useful for redemptions. Again, wheretocredit.com can really help outline those options.
Personally, I would lean towards using the program of the airline that you fly the most. With that much travel, you’re going to be on a plane a lot (as you know). Airlines always cater to their own elites better than others (even if it’s just the small gestures).
One thing to keep in mind about some of the foreign frequent flyer programs: their miles expire x-months after they’re earned, regardless of whether or not there’s activity in the account. I would keep an eye out for things like that so you don’t accumulate a lot of miles in a program and then find they’ve disappeared.
As a business traveler, I value sleep and comfort on long haul international flights at the top of my list, followed by elite status benefits, frequent flyer programs, domestic flights and lounges. I’ve been with AA for four years, mostly because they have a completely upgraded J hard product with lie flat seats, mostly reverse herringbone, 1-2-1 direct aisle access configurations across all their long haul aircraft. UA and LH both currently have a substandard J product IME. Polaris, although great, is on a painfully slow rollout. In a few years, both UA and LH will have excellent J products but in the meantime you may want to consider another approach if you value sleep and comfort on your long haul flights.
[QUOTE=”Gia, post: 63608, member: 1566″]As a business traveler, I value sleep and comfort on long haul international flights at the top of my list, followed by elite status benefits, frequent flyer programs, domestic flights and lounges. I’ve been with AA for four years, mostly because they have a completely upgraded J hard product with lie flat seats […] [/QUOTE]
And that pretty much says it all. For those of us in AA-captive cities who love to moan about it’s poor service (or [I]inconsistent[/I] service as Lucky would say 😉 ), AA has the best hard J product across both oceans. Again, service is inconsistent at times, and I am still perplexed by the semi-regular changes to soft product – [I]i.e.[/I] no mattress pads while flying on a new 789 to PEK, but mattress pads are included on 77Ws to HKG. And I don’t think *any* transatlantic flight from PHL gets PJs or a mattress pad (but given the length of those flights it is hard to complain).
But given that you will be in DEN, it is hard to see how AA would be the best choice. That said, Gia’s point is well-taken – careful about which UA planes you wind up on. And many of us have heard horror stories about 1Ks being #50 or 60 on an upgrade list. (That said, the upgrade list at the airport yesterday for an AA flight from GSO to CLT was 25 deep for a CRJ900!)
[QUOTE=”OCTinPHL, post: 63609, member: 4556″]That said, Gia’s point is well-taken – careful about which UA planes you wind up on. And many of us have heard horror stories about 1Ks being #50 or 60 on an upgrade list. (That said, the upgrade list at the airport yesterday for an AA flight from GSO to CLT was 25 deep for a CRJ900!)[/QUOTE]
I’m relatively savvy as to which product is on which aircraft, so it won’t be hard to dodge the truly awful stuff. And since I’m booking into front cabins, I couldn’t care less about the upgrade list.
Essentially nobody has a really superior biz product flying out of DEN and, besides, our only long haul destinations are LHR (BA & seasonal-UA), FRA (LH & UA), MUC (LH), NRT (UA), and ZRH (seasonal-WK). Strangely, WK is the only carrier with a truly solid biz product and, assuming I book them as a Swiss codeshare, I can accrue *A miles on their flights, so I expect my summer to include a lot of flights through Zurich.