Which Airline Do OMAAT Readers Prefer To Fly?

Filed Under: American, Delta

Last week I announced a giveaway where you could win a $100 Global Entry application fee payment code.

All you had to do was leave a comment stating which domestic mainline carrier you prefer. And over 330 of you did, which is really awesome. I tried to constrain the answers by asking if you are part of the oneworld bubble with Ben and Tiffany on American, like to drink Nick’s Delta Kool-Aid, or are stuck with yours truly on United.

In other words, I kind of intended this to be a choice of legacy carriers — but since I didn’t explicitly state that, we got a lot of “write-in” votes as well, which is also cool.

Anyway, the voting is in. We now know that the airline that One Mile at a Time readers prefer to fly is…


And it was just about as close as the women’s World Cup soccer game between the US and Japan. In fact, it was over within about 15 minutes of the poll opening.

Congratulations Sandra!

We almost had a repeat of the 2000 election on our hands this weekend when the Rafflecopter selected Sandra’s comment as the winner.

Sandra says:

Southwest because it is so easy to book with points, refundable if my plans change, and if I find a lower rate it is also very easy to rebook at the lower (point) rate.

You see, the terms of the giveaway kind of sort of implied that you needed to choose from among American, Delta, or United. Was a vote for Southwest akin to a hanging chad?


I consulted with Tiffany, who always plays by the rules, and she concluded that a comment is a comment, no matter what. So Congratulations Sandra!

But now back to the data.

American In A Landslide

American captured 38% of the vote, almost doubling up the second placer finisher, United, which garnered 21%. But then it just gets ugly — Delta actually came in fourth (12%), losing out to Southwest (16%) which wasn’t even supposed to be in the race! JetBlue, Alaska, and Virgin each picked up about 4%.

OMaaT readers prefer American
OMAAT readers prefer American

I’m not a statistician, nor am I an expert at designing good poll questions apparently, but I do enjoy geeking out over data. So here’s how I interpret the results of this slightly flawed survey.

I think it’s safe to say that among the legacy carriers, the preference of OMAAT readers is American, then United, then Delta. Beyond that, and especially in the case of Southwest, it gets murky.

Where Does Southwest Belong?

Southwest beat Delta, even though they weren’t an official candidate. (Sorry Nick, that’s gotta hurt.)

I assume that at least a few folks might have interpreted the guidelines as “vote for one of American, United, or Delta” and therefore, even if they might have wanted to vote for Southwest, they picked a legacy carrier to comply with the rules. (Others either didn’t interpret the guidelines that way, or just didn’t care.)


If Southwest had been listed on the ballot, would they have actually bested United as well? It certainly seems possible, given that only 10 United votes would need to flip over to Southwest for them to come in second. (I kind of doubt that they could have caught American though.)

Why Is American So Over-represented?

It’s not surprising to me that American came in first since they are the largest airline. But they aren’t the largest by a 2 to 1 margin. So what causes them to be so overrepresented on OMAAT?

I imagine it’s a combination of Ben flying them as well as the fact that they still offer a compelling frequent flyer program for people who like to game maximize the system. And apparently that’s a winning combination.

Or maybe a simple explanation is that more United and Delta flyers that read OMAAT already have Global Entry and therefore didn’t feel the need to respond? Yeah, that’s probably it.


What conclusions do you draw from the data?

  1. “Or maybe a simple explanation is that more United and Delta flyers that read OMAAT already have Global Entry and therefore didn’t feel the need to respond? Yeah, that’s probably it.” Well that’s not a totally ridiculous explanation for United (though I’ll grant the frequent flyer program is a bigger factor). United pays the Global Entry benefit for Platinum, 1K, and Global Services members (though this benefit is going away very shortly, if it hasn’t already) so its top-tier members have no use for this prize for now.

  2. Do over? I didn’t need the global entry. Just do an open call or offer cash prize…

  3. “United pays the Global Entry benefit for Platinum, 1K, and Global Services members (though this benefit is going away very shortly, if it hasn’t already) so its top-tier members have no use for this prize for now.”

    By the same token, I would argue that obviously AA flyers were under-represented because the two best cards for AAdmirals Club access and earning EQMs (10k/yr or spend TYPs to buy AA tickets) are the Citi AA Executive and Citi Prestige cards, both of which offer Global Entry reimbursements. I’m an AA ExP and I have BOTH cards (and the Amex Platinum) and so I didn’t bother to vote/enter.

  4. I would love to see a poll that looks at not a preferred airline but whether time and connection options play a role. For me, I have gotten to the point where I will book a nonstop flight on any airline not named United or Spirit before I even consider being “loyal” to an airline. The time I lose connecting just to fly an airline that will likely devalue its program and not value my business simply isn’t worth it.

    And for AAll those American fans out there, let’s see how you feel in two years when Doug Parker decides that a revenue-based program is a good idea after all…

  5. I skipped the original article since I already have GE. However if I knew what the vote was about I would have read it and voted American.

  6. Can I steal the prize from Sandra by adding that I prefer Southwest for all her reasons, plus Companion Pass? (My hot new Citi Prestige card will get Global Entry for me, but the prize will snag it for my GF.) (My UAPhil “handle” is not a total fraud – I’m a MMF with United, and get far more value out of Mileage Plus for international awards than I get out of AAdvantage.)

  7. “Anyway, the voting is in. We now know that the airline that One Mile at a Time readers prefer to fly is…”

    This is a problem of measuring what the question does not relate to. As stated, the reason given for the outcome of American coming first was based not on the “flying” part, but reflecting the strength of the AAdvantage frequent flyer scheme for cheap points earn and burn (and that Ben flies it, it is proposed).

    Take the frequent flyer schemes out of the equation, and the results can get much more interesting, given FF schemes are almost (or are) stand-alone entities these days (most FF scheme business these days is not in flight activity transactions, but in the buying and selling of points to third parties like financial institutions).

    It’d be interesting to see how much people are willing to trade off in actual flight experiences/quality for cheap redemption opportunities (and it’s interesting that a majority of AAdvantage redemptions are not on AA metal, but on CX, EY, JL, etc).

  8. Being a budget traveller of limited means, I choose the cheapest flight(s) that get me to fascinating places off the beaten track, where I can be away from chain hotel, and travel by bus or truck.
    Interjet or Volaris in Mexico, for example, Cubana in/to Cuba, Air Asia. And so forth.
    Why blow money on a couple of hours of ‘luxury’ when you can save, and get to learn so much, by moving out of your comfort zone?

    (And age is not a factor,either — I’ve just turned 65, and still travel much the same way as I did 35+ years ago. The major downside is seeing all the havoc, homogenization, and injustices that globalization has wrought. Maybe that’s the one ‘advantage’ of mass tourism that flying and sleeping ‘elite’ permits tourists and many businesspeople to turn a blind eye to)

  9. Kieran — I phrased the question as “what is your preferred domestic mainline carrier.” I didn’t say anything about frequent flyer program.

    But nonetheless, I agree with your point.

    How would you have asked the question to tease out the subtlety? As has been proposed already, perhaps there will be a “do over” at some point….

  10. “What conclusions do you draw from the data?”

    The only empirical conclusion can be that when you offer a US-centric prize in relation to a US-centric list of airlines on a website with a large number of posts extolling the virtues of redemptions on a particular program, you’ll get exactly the results you’d expect from the echo chamber.

  11. @Travis It is a common issue in survey design, in that care needs to be taken in drawing inferences if the answers don’t match the question, or the question is weakly linked to the conclusions drawn.

    As you acknowledge in this post, many of those who stated American gave AAdvantage as the reason or a reason for electing for American Airlines. As I highlighted, this was not something that was considered by the question posed, nor factored out for the conclusion drawn, so it skews things (much like you identified in that, despite seeking input on domestic US legacy carriers, you instead got more than you bargained for).

    If looking holistically at domestic US airline offerings, not just which domestic US carrier readers prefer to fly (which is a subset of the holistic offering, as I read it – flying, in my mind, being the hard and soft product on the ground and in the air, rather than linked incentive programs) then the finding is as it is. But, if looking for preferences directly relevant to the actual flying experience (excluding that which is only tangentially linked to the ground/air experience like points earn and burn) then you’ve ended up with some duff gen.

    It all comes down to how you frame the question. If you are just interested in the whose got the best onboard product and service & best ground service experience then you have to ask exactly that (break it down if required), and don’t be afraid to state what you are excluding (in the recent example of legacy airline choice, you could explicitly state you are only seeking responses of American, United & Delta and exclude responses that fall outside those three).

    The tighter the language used to frame the question, the more representative the data obtained, the more relevant the conclusions that can be drawn. You could even run a series of posts looking at individual elements (I.e. best seat, etc) and seeking votes on each, to draw together for an illuminating analysis (you could even pose some either/or questions like “would you be prepared to take an indirect series of flights for better product over a direct flight with a lesser standard of product, all other things being equal?” to probe what influences consumer choice).

    Hope that provides some food for thought.

  12. Seeing that OMAAT revolves around airline miles, most readers probably go for the airline with the most “lucrative” program, AAdvantage. I agree that Ben does brainwash us a bit, and I do think that the name should be changed from One Mile At A Time to “One Mile AAt A Time,” given that Ben flies primarily American.

    I was surprised not to see Alaska higher up, given how much Alaska cheerleading occurs here…

    Also, I feel like I am on a roll with the “AA,” so I came up with Ben’s dream airline: AAlaska.

  13. And you also have a lot of readers that don’t fly inside USA so often, like me. It’s always changing between asia, europe, africa, and usa. I don’t have any opinion about delta/american/united other then the flights from Brazil to the US, which are the ones that really represents something to us. And it depends so much on the aircraft.

  14. Since UA top tier elites get free Global Entry, and DL top tier elites have the option to get free global entry, and/or are more likely to be Amex loyalists and thus have free Global Entry through the Platinum Card, it’s entirely likely this wasn’t a representative sample.

    I fly Delta and I ignored the post completely when it first came up. 🙂

  15. I would say AA has the best FF program for the time being. However, I think Delta has the best service among the airlines. Their in-flight amenities are far better than United and better than American. Most OMAAT readers, however, will fly based on where they can get the most miles/points and so Delta is usually not an option for them. I’d wager that most OMAAT readers are not chasing status but rather points. If you had to choose an airline and only fly them for a year, I’d go with Delta despite the limited miles earnings because of their in-flight amenities.

    If I did not fly often and did not need status, I’d probably choose AA over DL if the prices were about the same.

  16. I WOULD fly AA if they had more flights from SFO! United takes up more than 50% of the flights out of SFO, and American is like less than 6% or something. 🙁

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