I consider myself a savvy traveler and have turned much of the lemons created by United Airlines' 03 March system integration debacle with Continental Airlines into lemonade. I've run into a fair number of problems and a great deal of frustration, but my record is good--I cannot recall the last time I've been stuck behind the curtain on a flight against my will.
Still, things are not working as they should on United and there are many policies and practices I find downright aggravating:
- Prioritizing transactional loyalty over long-term loyalty, particularly regarding domestic upgrades
- Ex-Continental pilots and flight attendants continuing to say flights are operated by "Continental" crews (a longer rant on this is coming in a future post)
- Inefficient and unmotivated reservation agents, typically Ex-Cons, who are argumentative and inept
In came American Airlines, who offered gimmick-free status matches to UA elites in order to steal away business. I took advantage of the match and after waiting 12 days, was finally matched to Executive Platinum Status.
With Executive Platinum status comes a number of nice perks including:
- Unlimited Complimentary Upgrades
- 100% Award Mileage Bonus
- Complimentary access to exclusive Preferred Plus Seats and Preferred Seats
- Preferred seating on Alaska Airlines
- Guaranteed Economy Class Availability
- Waived Ticketing Service Charge
- FlagshipSM Check-In at London Heathrow
- Waived AAdvantage Award Change and Reinstatement Charges
That was all fine, but AA sweetened the deal even more for some of those who were matched to top-tier status by throwing in eight systemwide upgrades (expiring in Feb 2013).
Unlike United SWUs, AA's do not have any fare class restrictions, meaning I can buy a $700 fare to London and upgrade, whereas on United the cheapest fare might be $700 as well, but the cheapest upgradeable fare would be closer to $1200. That ultimately does not matter if I do not clear, but from what I have heard, Executive Platinum members have a pretty good upgrade track record on AA flights.
If you remember my comparison of first class dinners on US carriers, you will recall that American was not included. I have never flown in a premium cabin on American Airlines and have not flown American Airlines (other than American Eagle) since 2004. Therefore, I am quite looking forward to giving them a try.
My 1K re-qualification on United is already in the bag, so I am going to go out of my way to fly American when I resume my travel between Philadelphia and Los Angeles this fall. I will not re-qualify for ExPlat status, but if I like it, I may well pursue American next year.
United, you have been warned: I am not even overly disgruntled, but I am very open to switching allegiances if American can offer better service for a similar price. I'm not the most "valuable" United customer, but I have spend thousands of dollars on airfare this year and there are many in my boat. One vote changes nothing, but many votes bring about change, and many long-time frequent and valuable United flyers are giving the airline a vote of no confidence.
I look forward to the new adventure and also look forward to sharing my experience with you.