A Rebuttal to Matthew: Why I'm Staying with United

Matthew wrote a great post a couple days ago about how he'll be making the jump to American Airlines for the rest of the year.

His primary reason for switching includes the following:

  • Frustration with United's IT System Integration
  • More (8 on AA v. 2 on UA) Systemwide Upgrades with the Ability to be Used on Any Fare (United requires at least a W fare)
  • Better Likelihood of Clearing with Domestic Upgrades
  • Being Overall Slighty Disgrgruntled with the "new" United

His post cites other reasons for the switch, but I think that encompasses most of his reasons. They are indeed quite valid! In fact, I think a LOT of frequent fliers are jumping ship from United to American. The reasons are, indeed, quite good. Their domestic first class products are similar, but elites on American do seem to have less competition for clearing upgrades.

I've been tempted to take the status match bait from American Airlines and jump ship as well, but I've decided not to. Here's why.

  1. United's West Coast route network is unmatched by any U.S. carrier, especially as I live in San Francisco. I can get to Beijing, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Mexico City, New York, London, or Frankfurt all on non-stop flights on United airplanes. It's truly fantastic, and now that the merger is complete, there are just SO many options on United to go almost anywhere. If I were to go to American, I would require at least one domestic plane change, and even after plane changes, some of those cities are unreachable on American planes.
  2. United's new Million Miler Program is great for those with wives / husbands. I'm not too far from the million mile mark, and once I hit it, I'll be Premier Gold for life. Furthermore, I can choose a companion to ALSO have that status for life. It gets better. If I earn a status level higher than Premier Gold, my companion gets THAT status as well! I'm getting married in a few months, and once I hit a million miles, my future wife will be a Premier Gold, and if I earn 1K status, she will be a 1K as well. Think about the implications this could have for families. Let's say, theoretically, that I have two kids. Let's also say that I'm a 1K. In this case, my future wife could book a ticket for herself + kid one, and I could book a ticket for myself + kid two. All of a sudden, we're eligible for complimentary upgrades for the entire family. This is really sweet! While I've never done a mileage run before, they seem more palletable when I know that I'll be earning status for two people instead of one. This is the biggest thing keeping me with the program, but I understand that it doesn't necessarily apply to those who haven't logged as many miles on an airline.
  3. The future of American Airlines is rather uncertain. What will happen to American? Will they merge with US Airways? Will they stay independent? Something else? It's pretty unclear. A merger with US Airways might be a good thing, but it might also be bad, depending on how it's all structured. Whether you think United is good or bad, their merger, from a frequent flier perspective, is complete, and they just finished overhauling MileagePlus. Thus, the program probably won't see any drastic changes in the near future.

Matthew and I have a similar amount of lifetime miles on United, but he's toying with jumping ship, and I'm staying put! Just thought I'd throw another opinion into the mix :-).


Interesting post, Kevin!

I will get my MM status on United next year or the year after, but I feel it is only fair to American to give them a try. With the 8 SWUs, I have a much greater incentive too as well.

I may very well hate AA. For example, I standby all the time on United, and this is not free at AA, even for ExPlats. That's huge and I may quickly find it doesn't work for me.

But United and I have been going steady for 8 years and I need a little space right now. Time for a dance with AA.

Mike May 18, 2012 at 01:52 pm

@Matthew - just a point of clarification, all elite members can standby for free on American. But you are right, a same day confirmed flight change is $75 for all travelers on AA.

Tom May 19, 2012 at 08:55 am

The only folks who can possibly be happy with the changes to the million miler programs would be those with a spouse/s.o. who was not an elite flier already. Sure you're guaranteed Gold for life but that Gold is not near as valuable at UA Premier Exec was. Gold is fourth tier at UA with a paltry 50% RDM bonus. Kind of hard to get too excited about that. Like most things in this merger, the new million miler program mirrors the old Continental program. Continental was a late entrant to rewarding million milers. When people would question them about the lack of a Million Miler program at the "famous" CO Flyertalk DOs, it was clear they didn't want to have one. They finally relented and the resulting program, in my opinion, reflected their lack of enthusiasm for a million miler program. It was little surprise that they brought their program to United.

Paul May 19, 2012 at 01:18 pm

I hate to burst your bubble....especially with your #2 reason. I'm a 1MM and a 1K...so therefore my wife is also. Its difficult enough to get an upgrade on United as a 1K, so the chances of both of you getting it is pretty slim! An entire family? Forget it! I'm honestly surprised you've never done a mileage run! I do alot of them and the one thing I noticed that upgrades are not as easy to get as United would like you to think.

Kevin May 19, 2012 at 07:43 pm

@Tom, I agree mostly with your first point. In my case, my s/o is a Premier Silver. My million miler status will instantly bump her to gold, but I don't see myself not earning 1K anytime soon, so she'll pretty much be a 1K always, instead of a Premier Silver. I do agree that the weak 50% earning bonus is a bummer. @Paul, my bubble isn't burst. Getting upgrades isn't easy, especially on tougher routes, but my success this year has been really good. I probably get upgraded four out of five times, and many of those times, I've had a companion on my itinerary that also got upgraded. I haven't ever needed to do a mileage run, as business travel seems to put me above 100K every year, but I'm not opposed to a mileage run if I need a few extra miles to push me over the top!

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