2014 Travel: AA or UA?

Discussion in 'American Airlines | AAdvantage' started by Garp74, Nov 27, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. Garp74

    Garp74 Gold Member

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    Hello,

    MP, I need your help please! I'm torn between AA and OneWorld v. UA and StarAlliance for my 2014 travel, which is considerable. It looks like about 200,000 miles for me this year (rough guess) and about $75,000 in spend. So it will be EXP or 1K (possible GS) no matter which I choose.

    Some pertinent data:
    1. I am based at IAD.
    2. I will travel 12-15 times to SEA.
    3. I will travel from IAD to:
      • Bangkok
      • London
      • Amsterdam
      • Warsaw
      • Mexico City
      • New Caledonia
    4. Those are the early 2014 trips, and more trip to Asia and Europe will occur in autumn.
    5. Domestic trips are booked in coach. International trips are booked with discounted business class fares.
    6. I am Premier Platinum (91k miles) but only have 150,000 lifetime miles on UA.
    7. I have no AA status, but I have 550,000 lifetime miles on AA.
    Some thoughts:

    - I would move to AA right now if it weren't for the SEA trips. United flies direct 3 times a day on that route, which is important. AA would route me through DFW or LAX or ORD. AA has roughly the same flying times (just an extra hour or two of travel), but the concern, of course, is connections.

    - UA has aging equipment - rarely a flight goes by for me anymore without broken seats, windows, HVAC, etc. AA is replacing its fleet nicely.

    - My redeye from SEA is on the very old A320s, and the first class seat on the A320 and I do not get along (it hurts my back due to how I sleep). If I took AA, I'd have to go through LAX, but I'd be on 738s that are only 10 years old.

    - UA is in significant financial distress, and AA is coming out of bankruptcy in fine fashion.

    - UA's presence at IAD is huge, of course, but will diminish over time. (You'd minimize your presence at IAD, too, if you had to deal with MWAA!) AA's presence at IAD is pitiful. Both AA and UA, however, have lots of partners flying internationally from IAD.

    So what do you think? What would you do?

    Thanks, and with regards,
    Garp74
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2013
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  2. traveltoomuch

    traveltoomuch Silver Member

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    Thanks for the data; that helps with the analysis.

    My first thought is that I'd do a mile run or even pay $1000 for Premier Accelerator and get 1K. The six GPUs and higher domestic u-g priority are worth it. (I'm remembering a thread you started over in the Hyatt forum and your reluctance to spend your own money on travel. Let me reiterate: I think scrounging for 9k miles to make 1K is well worthwhile, even on your own dime. I'm not sure if it's more or less of a good deal than paying for one extra room night to get Hyatt Diamond, but both are easy choices for me.)

    I'm of mixed minds here. I'm a long-time UA guy, but I have trouble recommending them to someone just starting out. Even so, my gut instinct is to say "fly who goes there" and stick with the dominant carrier (UA). I would not give much thought to the equipment (sympathies on the A320 seat) nor carrier finances - both carriers will likely survive just fine, UA has some modern birds in its fleet, and equipment on a given route gets changed all the time. Connections are a mixed bag - they give you extra miles, which is nice for requalifying for 1K or EXP.

    A few of the things I would consider: lifetime status, redemption preferences, and splitting your flying. How important is lifetime status for you? While you're closer to AA's, that just gets you first-tier status on AA (=25k flying). UA gives you second tier (50k), which includes lounge access. Do you have enough experience redeeming awards to know which carrier/alliance you prefer for awards? I redeem more UA miles than AA, and some of that is based on availability. And... if you're really flying 200k a year, how about going for top-tier status in both programs? That way you get fourteen international upgrade instruments (8 AA, 6 UA).

    Noting the IAD base: if you care about lifetime status, and if there's a decent chance that you might work for the USG or a contractor later in your career, I might give more thought to UA - the Fly America Act will mean less ability to use partners, which makes One World less attractive. Furthermore, if you have to use USG city pair fares, many of those out of IAD end up being on UA.
     
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  3. timfrost

    timfrost Silver Member

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    Do you absolutely *have* to fly through IAD? Would DCA work? I ask because AS has a pretty significant presence at DCA, a good codeshare with AA, and excellent on time performance. Their planes are a little bit on the basic side but very well kept up. All miles flown on AS count towards AA elite status as well. Just a thought but if DCA won't work for you it's irrelevant.
     
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  4. traveltoomuch

    traveltoomuch Silver Member

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    One piece I forgot: the AA-US merger. That's likely to lead to some irrops and other integration pain. You might want to avoid that. It could also lead to some nice offers from AA: DEQM or the like, to encourage people to not abandon them. This is a very short-term consideration, and it pales v. lifetime status, perks of having top-tier status, and award redemption options, but it might still be worth considering.
     
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  5. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    A no-brainer, really. With estimated 200K BIS miles to travel and a $75K budget, I would go for the most convenient way to get to the various places (e.g. UA/*A to BKK or AA/OW to AMS), while also working to achieve a roughly even split in BIS miles earned and spend between the two airlines/alliances to make top elite in both...
     
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  6. Aktchi
    Original Member

    Aktchi Silver Member

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    Right now, you should fly whichever seems more convenient, flight by flight. You can't compare the new AA with UA simply because the new AA program is undefined. No amount of speculation here will change that. Make the choice later when the choices are clear and can be compared. :) Good luck.
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2013
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  7. tom911
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    tom911 Gold Member

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    Have you factored in the Alaska nonstops DCA-SEA? Have you looked at elite status on Alaska as an alternative to AA? You can get AA credit on Alaska flights, or Alaska credit on AA/DL, but I'd seriously look at the Alaska program if you want to upgrade and fly that route with the frequency you do. You won't see those upgrades as an AA flyer (though I don't know how available they are to even Alaska flyers--could be a tough route).

    Much like being an SFO-based flyer, if you're an IAD/DCA based AA flyer you need to make concessions in terms of route network and connections. You're not based in an AA hub. How are you doing on upgrades with UA? With AA this year I'm at 93% domestic and I've cleared 10 systemwides (6 for me and 4 for others traveling with me). No reason to think you wouldn't do as well not being in an AA hub.

    I'd split up the travel between two alliances with the kind of miles you're going to fly. That always give you the option of making a complete jump to one or the other if your travel needs change or your primary carrier has more issues than you want to deal with (or just devalues something that makes you want to leave-- in my case 1MM at UA).
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2013
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  8. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    You quoted someone else's post and it was somehow attributed to me, but I do fully agree with the idea of splitting the travel between the two alliances to try to achieve top-tier status in both:
     
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  9. Captain Oveur
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    Captain Oveur Gold Member

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    I switched from UA to AA a year ago. Despite the poor inter-west coast and Canadian routes on AA (which will likely be fixed by merger), I have stuck with AA.

    That said, there are only two perks to AA EXP status on AS -- priority boarding and access to exit row seating. No SDC or upgrades, but the culture at AS is pretty good. Aside from one flight having a mechanical issue with the windshield, AS has been reliable for me (they replaced the aircraft at SEA rather quickly).

    As you mentioned, UA is in trouble. My guess is that 2014 and 2015 are going to be extremely turbulent years for UA.
     
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  10. tom911
    Original Member

    tom911 Gold Member

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    No idea how that happened. I think I fixed it.
     
  11. Garp74

    Garp74 Gold Member

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    Thanks for the replies everyone. I really appreciate the input.
    *goes to his own private lounge to mull things over*
     
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  12. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    UA also has non-stops to AMS, LHR & MEX.
    UA is retiring the oldest domestic planes - the 75s - and replacing them with 737-900ERs over the coming year. That's not going to change things overnight, certainly, but I believe the net impact is probably going to be reasonable over the coming year.

    The UA 320s aren't a ton older than the AA 738s at the oldest end - 5-6 years - but I understand the perception, especially as AA takes on more and more new planes. And, IMO, the impact of one domestic F seat versus another for sleeping is relatively minimal.

    I don't believe the first part is true in any way. And the second half remains to be seen. Integration of the two parts through the merger is going to be challenging.

    BA & JL. Who else? Certainly for your travel patterns that might be enough, but that's really up to you on whether you want the extra connections on more trips or not.

    On paid business class I'd take more flat beds (UA) and more non-stops (UA) over connections and angled flats (AA). I also wouldn't put too much stock in the lifetime thing unless you expect that you're going to be quitting the business travel game within the next 2-3 years.

    I get the idea of splitting between the two programs but I'm also not really seeing the allure of AA for Garp74 right now. The main draws, IMO, are eVIPs for international travel and reasonable upgrade rates domestically. If you're paying for business class anyways then the eVIPs are not as valuable.

    If SEA is really the only domestic part I'd split AS/UA, suing UA for the better schedules on intercontinental service and AS for the better options to SEA.
     
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  13. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    I must be living in a parallel universe for I have not seen any evidence that United is in a considerably poorer shape than any of the other major US airlines, statements like the one above notwithstanding.

    In any case, 2014 is almost upon us, so that we're about find out if the doomsayers are prescient...;)
     
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  14. Garp74

    Garp74 Gold Member

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    I decided to look, and their most recent financials are fine. For the nine months of 2013 ending Sep 30, they have net income of $431mm, most of which was earned during Q3. Their fuel hedges were a near wash (slight loss, but nothing significant). Their load factor for YTD is a healthy 84%, and their various revenues by passenger seat miles are net good. They have considerable debt of $12B, but they also have nearly $2B in cash right now.

    All-in-all, they look healthy to me. They had a great Q3.
     
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  15. Photonerd71

    Photonerd71 Silver Member

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    Facts don't matter to haters. :)

    Sent using a small piece of fruit.
     
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  16. Seacarl
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    Seacarl Gold Member

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    With your travel pattern, UA seems like the better bet. They have so many more flight options from IAD, both non-stops and flights to all of their hubs. The differences in domestic aircraft between UA and AA aren't all that significant. Both airlines are taking delivery of new aircraft and both have some older aircraft in their fleets. Internationally, UA has lie-flat seats in business class in the entire international fleet, while AA has angle lie-flat on most aircraft, and only the very newest 77W (aka 777-300ER) has lie-flat. AA also has very few flights to Asia and fairly limited service to Europe - and the impending merger integration. So UA seems like the obvious choice if IAD is the most convenient airport. I agree with the poster above who said if you are close to 1K this year, why not go for it so that you start 2014 as a 1K and get your 6 GPUs too.
     
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  17. satman40

    satman40 Gold Member

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    I split them, and look for the best departure and travel times.

    I departed on one only to return wit the other,
     
  18. Captain Oveur
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    Captain Oveur Gold Member

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    UA is on record saying they're going to cut $2B in expenses in 2014. I'll just leave it at that.
     
  19. Garp74

    Garp74 Gold Member

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  20. Canadi>n
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    Canadi>n Gold Member

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    My condolences on flying from IAD, one of the worst airports in the US. UA's C/D shed is a disgrace to be the gateway to the capital of the greatest country in the world. The train system is a laugh, since the stop serving the C/D gates is a mile from the actual terminal and requires a walk as long as UA's ORD-C terminal itself! On those grounds alone I'd stay clear of flying UA and take OW partners internationally from the B wing terminal, or AA on its hops to a gateway to go elsewhere. Of course, you fly enough to earn 1K and ExecPlat, so split your travel for the year and see if the AA/US merger goes as badly for top tier elites as the UA/CO merger has gone.
     
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  21. Garp74

    Garp74 Gold Member

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    As a flyer out of IAD for 17 years, you just sort of get numb to it and don't worry about it. My friends and I use it as a mental excuse to get more exercise. I know one person who skips the train and just takes the long tunnel underneath B. It also helps that the C/D restrooms have all been refurbished. It was pretty rough if you had to go #2 before. (Can you tell I have Stockholm Syndrome?!?)

    I actually feel a lot worse for the folks who have to TRANSIT through IAD. Especially in the pre-train days when they had to get on people movers to get anywhere.
     
  22. JetsettingEric
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    JetsettingEric Silver Member

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    If DCA is an option for your DCA flights, why not go for Alaska 75K MVP? top tier on a small airline, free changes. you can credit AA and DL to AS for now.

    If you travel paid business internationally, consider BA Avios as you rack up tier points quickly, get access to domestic lounges when AA works for you. BA's ground service bests UA's, you get a SPA treatment at Heathrow. BKK is now out of UA's network, so you need to rely on alliance partners on either. Avios points can come in handy for short haul redemptions out of DCA.

    You may want to keep status on UA for MEX and other destinations where they work better, but why not sample a bit. US runs a great operation, so I have not minded connecting. If you do end up doing more connections, Amex sells a trip delay insurance package for 109/year that I did quite well with being NYC based for my tight connections.
     
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  23. Seacarl
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    Seacarl Gold Member

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    At least the people movers served the actual concourse

    The walking path to take the train from C to A must have been designed by a sadist. Not only is the C station nowhere near the C concourse, you also have to us about 5 or 6 escalators to get to the UX A gates
     
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  24. Newscience

    Newscience Gold Member

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    Wow! I fly internationally out of IAD all the time. I find that experience to be just fine, especially as a *A elite (US), I have access to the lounges, and miss the decidedly 1960's terminal experience. For me, the issue is not with anything at IAD (TSA, overall security, airline check-in lines) other than the experiences when flying international coach class out of IAD with UA. As has been well stated in other posts by Milepointers, that experience can leave much to be desired (such as wishing that you were on another airline, any airline!). :eek:

    Now, I avoid DCA like the plague (I'm outside of the DC Beltway) ! If you live within the DC Beltway, and also within a reasonable distance of a Metro station, and can then take the Metro to DCA (assuming that the Metro is running :rolleyes:), then that's definitely the way to go. If you live outside of the Beltway, the distance from to IAD from DC works in it's favor, with the ability to get to and from IAD in a reasonable commute time. ;)

    You really don't want to have to drive to DCA during the DC rush hour traffic in anything besides a tank, as it can turn into the commute from hell! :mad:
     
  25. Newscience

    Newscience Gold Member

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    Garp74,

    There are many great comments above, so I'll try not to repeat any of that advice. One thing you may want to consider is: how many lifetime miles do you now have with AA? At present, 1,000,000 lifetime miles will earn lifetime Gold status with AA, and using the Citibank AA credit card will also help earn miles towards that lifetime total.

    I'm not sure about what it takes to achieve the same permanent Gold status with UA. I also know that there has been some healthy debate in this forum and others about just what will happen when US and AA merge (in the US program, 1,000,000 only earns lifetime silver status).

    Good luck, keep us posted on your choice, and how things work out!

    Newscience
     
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