Honest Comparison: Delta Diamond vs AA EXP

Discussion in 'American Airlines | AAdvantage' started by theYipster, Dec 3, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. theYipster
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    theYipster Silver Member

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    Greetings! Please forgive what may be a repetitive subject, but I hope to spawn a conversation comparing the life of a very frequent flyer on AA vs DL. I'm well-versed in the key take-way differences between the two programs (i.e. value of RDMs and SWUs) but instead am looking for a deeper exploration of experiences -- namely that of a Delta DM vs an AA EXP. Note, I'm not interested in discussing the ease of redeeming AA miles vs. DL SkyMiles. I get it. This is largely why I decided to start a new thread -- I'd like to preemptively table that discussion and focus on other tangibles.

    I've been a NYC-based Platinum Medallion on DL for the last two years and am now a Diamond on the airline. I'm an avid reader of FlyerTalk, MilePoint, and various blogs, and know the DL experience and route-system inside and out. In August, I took a new role in my company which has me significantly increasing my travel. What was once about 50-60K BIS/year has become 150-200K BIS as I gallivant across the country each week (about 50% west coast travel, 25% south east and 25% midwest.) Now, I'm told that my role might expand to world wide, and on that notion, I'm thinking about adding AA to the mix for the significantly easier to use SWUs (compared to DL.)

    It's been years since I've flown AA in coach or business, and I'm wondering what the experience is like these days. For instance, for those who've flown domestic first and international business on both AA and DL in recent years, what are the strengths and weaknesses of each airlines' hard and soft product? I've read a bit about AA's modernization program, and I like where it's going (similar to DL's which is several years in progress,) but what's the timeline for roll-out?

    Also, assuming I make EXP, what would the upgrade experience be in comparison to that of a DL DM? Unfortunately I seldom have the luxury of knowing my work travel well in advance, so am often buying close-in/high-fares. My understanding is that AA prioritizes ticketing time over fare class on upgrade lists (within a status range.) If so, would this negatively impact my chance of upgrades as an EXP? On a similar note, what are EXPs' general experience (disregarding the recent labor unrest issues,) with IRROPS and same day flight-change flexibility. Delta's same-day-confirmed (SDC) program is free for mid and high-tier elites, and is very useful. I understand Confirmed-Flight-Change (CFC) isn't... Is this an issue for EXP's or are there other ways to accommodate flexibly day-of-departure scheduling?

    I understand I'm asking a lot of questions... My intent is to simply setup a dialog and have them guide the conversation. Thank you in advance for chiming in with your experiences and opinions. They are greatly appreciated!
     
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  2. Juanefny

    Juanefny Silver Member

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    Hmmm Interesting questions. I used to be a DL Diamond and switched about a year and a half ago after being Diamond for its first year. Where do I start... well if AVOD is important to you... well AA is just starting to roll that out. I believe they plan to have their plane modernization plan done within the next five years. AA, however, will have wifi on nearly all mainline domestic aircraft by the end of the year.
    SDC on AA is much more limited as only the standby feature is free. Otherwise it's $75 to confirm a seat. Standing by means you will most likely lose the upgrade.
    When you don't upgrade on AA, they offer a free alcoholic beverage (or whatever else you want to drink) and a snack, including sandwiches etc. All you have to do is show your EXP card or boarding pass. Much better than DL...
    Upgrades... well... I believe I have only missed one upgrade since making the switch, but it does seem like there are more first class seats "being sold" as of late.
    As you know, SWUs and miles at AA are hands down better than DLs.
    Meals in first class at AA are much better and more substantial.
    Please feel free to message me if you have any questions about my move from DL Diamond to AA EXP.
     
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  3. malikguy

    malikguy Silver Member

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    I agree with this a lot. I've been on some flights that I've booked months in advance and checked-in at T-24. I'll end up 2nd or 3rd on the gate list and not clear even though 3 hours for the flight F was empty. So far I'm 0/12, but then again, I'm just a petty Gold. ;)
     
  4. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    No need staying up late or waking up early to do this. Check-in time only matters for SWU requests, not domestic comp/sticker upgrades. ;)
     
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  5. theYipster
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    theYipster Silver Member

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    Thanks for the quick replies. Great info so far! Please keep it coming!

    As a PM this year, my upgrade success rate was about 90-95% with careful planning and skilled use of EF. Many of my fares lately have been M, H, or Q, which helps greatly in DL land. My expectations with Diamond is that this rate will continue, but I can be a bit less careful about optimizing for the upgrade. The issue of people purchasing cheap first class fares has been a big complaint on the DL forums over the last two years -- they call it FCM and some would have you believe it represents the death of elite travel.

    I do JFK-LAX quite a bit, and when connecting, I'm typically going through ATL or SLC. Another question -- is there any way to see advanced complimentary upgrade inventory on AA? EF shows C and A classes in its award search, but I don't know if this is for SWU/mileage upgrades or for complementary & stickers.

    Also, every now and then I'm able to snag a seat on an international wide-body-typically JFK-ATL or ATL-LAX (and back,) that's being ferried between international services. Delta has a regularly scheduled 777-200LR with flat bed seats between ATL-LAX that's a fun catch, and there are typically a few domestic routes each day flown by 767-300ERs or A330s. Does AA do similar things, and if so, what's the upgrade policy when you have an international plane flying domestic service?
     
  6. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    This used to be available on ExpertFlyer but was recently removed. Now you can only view SWU upgradeable space.

    AA operates a three cabin 772 between MIA-LAX daily. There are also 767s and 757s with the international business class (angled lie flat) seats that operate on some domestic routes. DFW-HNL and the seasonal ORD-HNL is one example.

    Upgrades on those flights are the same as any other. The domestic 772 upgrade goes to J class, not F.

    Keep in mind the updated aircraft you mentioned in your first post. AA's Airbus product between JFK-LAX will be 3 class, with J and F featuring lie flat seats.
     
  7. jparker

    jparker Silver Member

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    As a DM this year, I have only missed two segments for upgrade domestically this year. This is out of a totel of 92 domestic segments, so maybe 65 or so that had FC cabins. I always buy lowest fare option so this rate is hard to beat. I have limited experience with AA so cannot contrast.

    Jason
     
  8. 737823

    737823 Silver Member

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    Skymiles
    Pros: DM is great for domestic travelers, Delta Diamond line, sameday confirmed, fee waivers, free SkyClub membership
    Cons: Lack of one-way awards, partners (no F awards), award availability, no SWUs or international upgrades for most fares. Also remember no upgrades to Hawaii.

    On-board service
    Pros: FAs are polite and professional, aircraft are generally clean, similar/identical amenities on 2-cabin RJs to mainline, wi-fi availability, SPMLs available on all meal service flights
    Cons: Older planes (and this isn't changing judging from the recent WSJ article), meal service windows and limited to flights of 900+ miles, hot meals on 1500 mile+

    Ground/Airport
    Pros: Friendly staff, Pre-Check in many airports, SkyClub facilities are newer/renovated, good snack selection in SkyClubs
    Cons: No showers in SkyClubs

    Network
    Pros: ATL, CVG, DTW, SLC all great to connect in, user friendly and not delay prone. Great service throughout Asia and NRT hub, service to DXB & TLV, many destinations in Europe
    Cons: JFK facilities

    This is what I can think of, DL is good to me but it seems if you are traveling internationally and don't either 1) live in a DL hub city or 2) anticipate traveling extensively to Skyteam hubs it maybe more difficult.
     
  9. theYipster
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    theYipster Silver Member

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    Thanks for all the replies. Please, keep them coming!


    Relative comfort/age/refinement of aircraft interiors is a significant differentiator IMHO. Delta may have older aircraft, but the cabins on many have been recently renovated. For instance, I'm currently flying LAX-JFK on a 20 year old 757. The plane, however, features a 737NG-like interior with a swooped ceiling, large overhead bins, and AVOD in every seat. The first class (BE) seat I'm in is the same Recaro electro-recliner VX uses with the massage function, and the plane is WiFi equipped. In general I find the DL hard product to be very nice, although more legroom in first is always welcome, as is better food.

    Curious about AAs flagship service across the country, as JFK-LAX is a key route of mine. Never flown AA to Los Angeles, but one of the reasons I chose DL as my airline of choice several years ago was due, in part, to my evaluation of DLs transcontinental BE service compared to United PS. I feel that Delta has nicer cabins with more to offer than UA, despite a similar fleet, and DL has a better upgrade policy.

    How does AA compare on JFK-LAX? What's the service like? Is it international? Also, most importantly, do ExPlats get complimentary upgrades, and typically what is the success rate?

    Thanks again for all the info!
     
  10. civet five

    civet five Active Member

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    I can comment on AA transcons, as it constitutes more than 50% of my AA BIS yearly. All of this is my opinion.

    1) Frequency. Very high on LAX-JFK. I rarely have an issue with convenience of schedule. They even run 2 eastbound redeyes, departing ~930 and ~11, to give even more flexibility. SFO frequency has softened up a bit and fluctuates between 4 and 5 dailies.

    2) Seats. The J recliner is pretty solid for a recliner, with good pitch and recline. Everything is manual and gives it an outdated feel. The Y product is pretty weak - only 4 exit row seats, and they don't offer any appreciable increase in pitch. I've never flown in F on this route. Also, the 762s have the old original overhead bins, meaning they are extremely space constrained for carry ons.

    3) Wifi. Gogo on all 762s; JFK-SFO sees at least 1 763 per day, and that will not have wifi.

    4) Service. Meals are pretty good, and these flights have above-average catering. Y is standard BoB. J will have a full meal service. The redeye flights will have substantial snack served that is meal-worthy.

    5) Upgrades. I have had incredible, incredible fortune on LAX/SFO-JFK upgrades: By doing a little bit of planning, I've only whiffed once in 3 years as an EXP, but only cleared once as a Plat (more than 3 years ago, before I was EXP). I have often found that the first 1-2 flights of the morning are often sold out well in advanced (in both directions), so have been able to adjust my schedule accordingly.Upgrades on these routes for Y--> J are currently treated the same as any other route (ie, stickers for Gold and Plat, comp for EXP, and elites on full fares). J --> F upgrades require miles or instruments, but anecdotally are more easier to clear (there are 10F seats and 30J, and upgrades come out of A, a discounted first revenue bucket).

    6) Standby. I've almost never used this, so I cannot comment. However, given the huge % of sold premium seats, my guess is that standing by will forfeit most chances of an upgrade, unless you're traveling on the weekend. This is my own opinion, but the opinion of someone who frequently gets the last battlefield upgrade.

    7) Lounges. I have an Admiral's Club membership, and recently became BA Gold. ACs in JFK, SFO and LAX are all solid as domestic lounges go, and now that I can access the FLs, even better. I flew a lot with UA and have been in their respective lounges, and ACs >> RCC/UL except in the snack category.

    8) The Future. The new A321 product looks to be a huge improvement, especially in J. I suspect Upgrades will become harder, and the rules might change. Not clear how capacity and frequency will be adjusted, especially into SFO which already sees a lot less than LAX.
     
  11. rwoman
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    rwoman Gold Member

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    On the wifi front, until AA sorts this out, DL wins easily. ;)

    Great for DL domestic FFers.

    DL's Have One on Us coupons offer a non-perishable snack or drink when not upgraded...I get them almost every time when not upgraded in advance and on international flights. DL also gives vouchers for a free drink (or headphones or non-peishable snack) with Medallion kits. Not as easy as showing an EXP card, but the "fresh" sandwich on AA is not necessarily better than the snack box IME when sitting in the back.

    Unfortunate, but we all know they'll sell the seat in many cases if they can...:confused:

    ABSOLUTELY!! :)

    And my thoughts...

    The one thing with AA between LAX-JFK is the fact the 762's are in a severe need of an update. At least DL is updating the interiors and the lie flat seats that are coming with the 763's will be a nice addtion.

    Admirals Clubs versus Sky Clubs: It depends, but I find the wifi more reliable in the AC. Snacks are roughly the same in many cases. But with no Biscoff in the AC...;)

    We'll see how the next year goes as an EXP in addition to DM. :)
     
  12. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    AC can have some nicer food, but you pay for it. The free snacks are lesser in my experience, although admittedly that's primarily in outstation clubs. Delta's alcohol choices, particularly complimentary but also paid, are a fair bit better. They are the booze leader among US airlines.
     
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  13. rwoman
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    rwoman Gold Member

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    I don't drink alcohol, so I wouldn't know. :)
     
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  14. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    Skyclubs pretty much always (the one previous exception I am aware of was MSP F/G which has reportedly seen the light and is now pouring Summit) have a local beer of good quality on tap with no charge. ACs (and most other domestic lounges) tend to have undrinkable swill. Also, I find that at most other clubs (AC or otherwise) a couple of the paid liquor choices are the same as Delta's free selections. Delta's paid selections are generally a bit nicer as well and while expensive, not priced out of line with even what some off-airport places charge.

    If you don't drink, this is of course immaterial. It's also immaterial if you drink primarily for intoxication as all of the clubs give you something for free. However, if you like to grab a decent beer when waiting for an afternoon flight it's certainly preferable to get one for free in a Skyclub vs. paying 8 bucks in an AC (the price of the local stuff that honestly was not that good in SAN on my last visit).
     
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  15. Juanefny

    Juanefny Silver Member

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    Here's the thing though... you can always get a snack and drinks on AA on coach by just showing bp or card - you don't have to check in online or use some sort of coupon. Additionally, on regional jets that lack a first class you can get drinks and snacks, again by just showing boarding pass or elite card. No need for coupons etc.
     
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  16. Canadi>n
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    Canadi>n Gold Member

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    IIRC AA is doing a status match at the moment for DL elites. Sorry I can't supply any more details or a link but may be worth OP checking out.
     
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  17. malikguy

    malikguy Silver Member

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    Ah, good to know. So, upgrades are strictly based on Elite tier, Fare code, request date all the way from booking to the gate? Where do LBFU's fit in to this process because I really think seats are getting sold to non-elites. Yes, I'm on that train, lol.
     
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  18. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    Yes, for sticker/comp upgrades. SWU requests do still have an element involving check-in time if one is still waitlisted and check-in opens.

    As for LFBUs, this was the subject of some recent controversy and the concensus seems to have landed on this:

    LFBUs are offered by AA's system when they believe they have enough F seats to accommodate all requested elite upgrades and there will be free seats. The system does not always upgrade all elites to the F cabin prior to offering the LFBUs though. So this does indeed leave room for an LFBU to be sold to a non-elite followed by a paying F customer being booked/re-accommodated or MX/WX issues causing F seats to disappear and some elites not being upgraded. It seems the times this will happen are fairly small though.
     
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  19. malikguy

    malikguy Silver Member

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    So it more or less sounds like LFBU's can and are sold before some Elites are accommodated with the expectation that all can be accommodated, but the LFBU in of itself does not bump an Elite out of their upgrade. What technically causes the bump is a full fare customer booking in to F class after the LFBU was sold causing a seat deficit. So it is NOT directly the result of an LFBU being sold that causes an Elite upgrade to go sour. Am I making sense?
     
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  20. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    I think so? lol

    My understanding is essentially this when it comes to how an LFBU might be sold that bumps an elite:
    1. System sells LFBU when it believes all elite upgrade requests can be accommodated but does not process elite upgrade requests
    2. A "situation" (F booking, F rebooking, MX, WX, etc...) happens
    3. System cannot accomodate all elite upgrade requests
    Again, it was noted by JonNYC on TB (where the discussion and info played out) that this is a rare occurance based on all the chatter that happened in the last year about this topic.

    Also, this doesn't account for the segment of elites (which is larger than I think many believe) who don't even request their upgrades until they check-in. The system could be selling LFBUs well before they even get to the airport to put their name on the list.
     
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  21. serfty
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    serfty Silver Member

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    AFAIK, for upgrades AA prioritise (within a status level) Y & B fares over other fare classes and before date/time of upgrade request is considered.
     
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  22. malikguy

    malikguy Silver Member

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    I think this may be the pain point that I am seeing here... But, could one say, you snooze you lose? Request your upgrade online? I think I could see people on both sides of this fence. Thanks for the awesome info. :cool:
     
  23. malikguy

    malikguy Silver Member

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    For more clarity, this is my understanding:

    Y & B EXP (BY REQ DATE) > EXP (BY REQ DATE) >
    Y & B PLAT (BY REQ DATE) > PLAT (BY REQ DATE) >
    Y & B GOLD (BY REQ DATE) > GOLD (BY REQ DATE)
    Y & B NON (BY REQ DATE) > EXP COMP (BY REQ DATE)

    Is this correct?
     
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  24. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    That is how I understand it. BTW, for DL it is similar too, differing mostly in detail. I have never tried to make the complete priority list fro DL, and for AA the data is easier to find. AA is always easier IME. Not always better, but easier.
     
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  25. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    http://cwsi.net/mupc/ is somewhat complete (but not 100% as it does not include SWUs, and the tiebreakers are located on the help page) for DL.
     
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