With American changes, who should you fly / status match / pick for 2016?

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round from delta to aa to as

As we start looking into booking flight for 2016, many readers are asking me is it time to status match and begin to fly another airline? One of the big issues is clearly that American Air, who was a great choice since they not only gave full elite points but also full redeemable points, recently whacked their frequent flyer program to the point of being worse than Delta in many regards. Not only that but American award availability is starting to look scarily similar to Delta’s anemic level 1 awards as of late. Not good. That leaves you with United which is still basically a train wreck as far as performance and only an option for those basically hub-captive or route constrained.

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What about Alaska Airlines then, is that a viable option? The problem with Alaska is its size. It is a fabulous reward program with tremendous partners. I still find Alaska points to be some of the most valuable travel points for any airline. The problem lies with how everyone else, i.e. their partners, treats Alaska. Let me explain. If you decide to status match let’s say with Alaska and then you put in your frequent flyer number and fly on Delta or American to be able to get credit your chances for elite perks especially upgrades are basically done. If you are currently a Delta flyer the only way you are going to receive upgrades, favored treatment, and all the other spectacular perks as an elite medallion you must put in your SkyMiles number. We have seen how NASTY Delta treats an elite Delta Platinum Medallion flyer when they even after getting an upgrade put in their Alaska number.

So there is the dilemma. If we want points as our main goal then yes status match with Alaska and put in your Alaska number. But get used to flying coach for all of 2016!

However if all the perks of elite status matter, you must continue to maintain your Delta status and put in your Delta frequent flyer number. Just forget about earning SkyMiles. Very likely you are earning a pittance of SkyMiles anyway for the tickets you buy. Just fly Delta for the perks and for what Delta provides.

So is that it? Do we just stick with Delta for 2016 and moving forward since all the big 3 domestic award programs now stink to high heaven? Not so fast. There is a Delta disaster on the horizon.

I think Delta has disastrously underestimated the effect that the 16MAY16 C+ seat “upgrade” issue is going to have on loyal business flyers. They have not cared about SkyMiles because when push comes to shove they will just pay for a vacation with the family. But the issue is that they expected to at least be able to buy a coach ticket and get some perks of the months and months of elite status. Now they have to pay for that too. I think this will really impact their attitude about Delta in the later half of 2016. So for 2017, there is a real opportunity for American and United if they don’t just follow Delta with all the same dumb choices for their elites.

For me personally, for now, I still have a ton of SkyMiles to burn in 2016. I have about 50k of flying Delta to reach my Million Miler status. But I still plan to test the waters a bit with other carriers.

Delta should keep in mind what I did with SPG. I had locked in my Platinum status for 2016. I have dropped SPG like a hot potato for Hyatt for 2016 and have already booked a number of nights. I may stay a night or two at SPG hotels but that is it. I have made the move. I think by this time next year many others will make the same move away from Delta – and all over the family unfriendly move of C+ seats. THAT is just shocking to me but that is what I see! – René

 

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10 comments

  1. I tend to agree with you about DL underestimating the C+ change. I totally get that they don’t want elites booking 8 seats when they book when so many people are buying these seats (yes; tons of non elites buy these seats. My mother always buys to ‘upgrade’ her seat on AA or DL to get early boarding and more leg room)..

    Why couldn’t they just have left the system as is and only allow a +1 for platinums and diamonds? Must be an issue with the system they’ve built to separate the fare class but I think it will actually anger a lot of PL/DM elites who have accepted the fact that the upgrade rate has drastically reduced but they basically get F-lite in C+

  2. @Lucas S – Just ask a Delta FA if they intend to provide F-lite service in C+ (not gonna happen) as I think most flyers will expect with the fare change / upgrade to C+. Delta can not sell this a unique experience and then NOT provide it. I think that the C+ change will push FAs closer to union but we shall see. Interesting times!

  3. I think one thing that might be helpful in this transitional time for so many FF’s is to highlight the unique value propositions of each major domestic plan, and their unique disadvantages. Here’s an attempt:

    AAdvantage
    Yes: No minimum spend threshold for elite status. 2x elite miles for paid premium cabin, even discounted first (vs 1.5 for DL/UA). Ability to generate 10K in elite miles through credit card spend. Frequent int’l premium cabin sales from AA and BA.
    No: Poor international premium cabin award availability and many partner awards include fuel surcharges. Hub locations not efficient for travelers in northern half of US.

    Feel free to add to or otherwise update this list!

    DL SkyMiles:
    Yes: Can manufacture 30K elite miles per year w/credit card spend, easiest elite boost in industry. Operationally proficient across network.
    No: Highest mileage threshold for top tier elite (125K). Most expensive int’l upgrades for non-Diamond elites. C+ upgrade system not FF friendly. Shocking DL premium cabin award redemption rates after mid-2016 devaluation.

    UA Mileage Plus
    Yes: Best premium cabin award availability across Star Alliance network.
    No: No ability to manufacture elite miles through cc spend. No credit card spend waiver for top tier status. Most hubs delay prone and inefficient.

    AS Mileage Plan
    Yes: Excellent award partner network with good premium cabin availability. Easy elite status thresholds. No spending requirement.
    No: Limited network and diminished domestic partnerships make AS viable option only for travelers based in the west.

  4. Royce – AA will be providing 2x EQM for discounted F/J fares, but 3x EQM for full F/J fares.

  5. If you fly AA and use systemwide upgrades to move into business, I believe you can then input Alaska Air frequent flier number for mileage credit at airport to receive Alaska miles.

    Anyone know for sure.

  6. I don’t experience the delays at hubs that so many complain about with UA…other than occasionally at EWR. As a West Coast flyer south of LAX and close to SNA, I still fly UA more than any other airline, and I’m Lifetime Gold…but I still fly on AA, WN, AS, and even AS and DL when they offer the nonstop that UA does not. Still, I find UA to have the best premium availability on almost every route I want that they fly nonstop from SNA or LAX, and their service and amenities are quickly improving and now approach the best offered by DL and AA. No one generates lots of miles from flying these days; it’s all about credit card spend. So I fly the airline that gives me the best routing, whichever that might be.

  7. I flew Delta for 4 1/2 hours in comfort-plus on a 747 international flight. I received zero special perks, as promoted. My only drinks came at the one meal service. No refills. Nothing. No snacks. Nothing. The FAs did, however, let the comfort-plus passengers use the business-class lavatories. “Oh, we don’t care,” the flight attendant told me when I asked if I could go beyond the magical curtain.

  8. Rene, I agree wholeheartedly with you re Delta underestimating the negative impact of the May C+ changes. That beauty definitely got my attention and I still cannot believe the draconian changes they made. Delta is truly full of themselves….and full of something else. I am a Platinum and EVERY time I have a contact with a DL employee (Sky Club, phone reps, gate agents) I make sure to nicely tell them about my displeasure re the C+ changes and the impact it will have on my travel plans. Maybe if enough Medallions complain……

  9. Lucas, I can’t believe I missed your excellent comment. Spot on, as I agree that the ability to book 8 C+ seats was crazy ( I had no idea that was even possible) but to remove the +1 for Dia and Plat is just as crazy.

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