Picking Next Years FF Program.....

Discussion in 'Newbies' started by mo26, Dec 11, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. mo26

    mo26 Silver Member

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    Hi,

    A career change has me flying extensively next year, which means I can put all of this MP airline knowledge to use for the first time....I have done a ton of research, but I want the MPs to weigh in with any advice before I make my decision. First off, here is what I've got, and what my goals are:

    I currently have 70k Delta Skymiles (which I don't want, and have ZERO interest in using DL as my program next year).....No one can change my mind on this, so don't bother :)

    I've got 40k US AIR miles (guess where those came from ;) )

    And should have around 100k AAdvantage miles by the first churn next year :)

    I also have 200k UR points that can shift into United.

    My goal is after a couple years of this line of work (i know FF award rules can change, but i'm stuck looking into the future) for two people to redeem awards for first/business travel.

    I'm looking at 6k miles and 16 segments a month....Which I know isn't much, but with 500 min. segments, that could get boosted a bit.

    The only real elite benefit I think I need is the 500 mile minimum.....The legs are too short to worry about upgrades (since most are on RJs anyway), I never check bags, and won't be doing much in the way of award bookings for a couple of years (when my elite status will probably be gone anyway).

    I'm looking at United, AA, and US Airways, here are some of my thoughts about how each program could work for me:

    United:

    Their schedules line up nicely in most cases, and the miles earned will provide a nice baseline to add to a UR transfer when the time comes.

    Unfortunately, crediting to US Air doesn't get me the 500 mile min. segment.

    American:

    Unfortunately their fares are significantly more expensive (i'll be responsible for half of my travel each month).

    However, based on everything I am reading, I am putting a high value on their miles for 1world bus/first redemptions.

    Us Airways:

    Cheapest tickets, the availability to purchase low tier to get minimum mileage credit quickly, and the potential to have these shift into AAdvantage miles post merger (probably a diluted program by then, but such is the world of mergers).


    I will probably have one or two international business class trips a year, which could give a nice boost, but nothing I would count on for sure.

    Additionally, this spend will go on my CSP, or my US Airways if I choose that program.

    I'm leaning towards crediting to US Airways (even if flying on United, albeit no min. mileage), after purchasing/challenging to silver status for minimum mileage.......Then challenging for AA platinum, which I would have after my first international trip.....Then just waiting to see what happens to a merged carrier.....I figure even if the merger doesn't happen, Two years from now I would have around 300k UR miles, 200k US Airways miles, and 150k AAdvantage miles......That should give me a few good options for Int'l Business awards......Particularly if the merger went through and it was 300k UR, and 350k AA.

    I tried to provide as much info as possible, so I apologize for the length of the thread.....But if anyone has any thoughts, I'm all ears :)



    - MO
     
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  2. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    Sounds like you have it all figured out (esp the point where FF programs might change)

    one thing though I don't get is
    UR/UA also has geat Bus/F redemption for award tickets ... but it just falls to where you wanna be. For OW getting to EU will be more expensive than SA because of BA's fuel surcharges ... so probably going on UA would be better. Asia is pretty much wide open between the two. OW is better for S. America ... etc etc
     
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  3. mo26

    mo26 Silver Member

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    I should have been more specific, I was putting up the higher value primarily due to Cathay 1st, and some of the other carriers products in OW.

    I've been really fortunate to see 30+ countries already, so my purpose on burning the miles will probably be more about experiencing the flights more than the destination.....Hence the lack of interest in the SkyTeam...That and their award charts!!!!
     
  4. Mike Reed

    Mike Reed Gold Member

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    at 16 seg/month, that's 192 segments/year! That gets you 1K on UA at 120 segs, and EP on AA at 100 segs. VERY significant... especially on AA.

    Could also consider Alaska. 90 segments gets you top tier, can redeem on AA, AS and DL, and get upgrades on AS and DL based on your status. Get preferred seating on AS, AA and DL as well.
     
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  5. mo26

    mo26 Silver Member

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    Thanks Mike,

    I thought about AS, except I would have about 190k miles in their account in two years....Which is only going to get me 1 INTL BIZ/FC ticket i'm afraid.....And the Mrs. and I are in this together, so i'm going to need around 250k miles to feel comfortable.

    I'm not crediting to DL, and those AA flights are about 2x as expensive as USAIR & United for the routes i'm looking at.

    -MO
     
  6. sharris503

    sharris503 Silver Member

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    I would go United. I would be hesitant to rack up miles in US Airways over the long term given the rumored devaluation to a revenue based award system. Plus united lets you redeem one way for half the points while US charges you round trip for a one way.
     
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  7. mo26

    mo26 Silver Member

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    Thanks!!!!

    A big part of the draw to United & AA was the 1-way award availability
     
  8. Wandering Aramean
    Original Member

    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    I don't see much value in accruing via flying in the US program. It certainly has its moments but the miles are, at least historically, reasonably affordable to buy outright. And if you can manage to be elite on the carrier you're flying there are advantages to that.

    If you're flying on UA then earn on UA. Ditto for AA.
     
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  9. mo26

    mo26 Silver Member

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    Thanks for the tip!
     
  10. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    There's also the alaska credit card, but more importantly based on your proposed flying, you'd earn much more than 190k redeemable miles. You'd have ~170k after just 1 year.

    Do not forget elite earning bonuses - it looks like you didn't account for them.

    Also, if you're putting in 192 segments a year domestically, do consider what airline provides the best schedule for your needs as well as the best domestic in flight experience. You're going to be spending a lot of time in planes and airports. Make it as pleasant as possible, and make sure you put yourself in the position for your airline of choice to take care of you (i.e. be elite with who you fly on). Don't kill yourself connecting where you can take a nonstop, overpaying for tickets, getting up at odd hours, and spending more time away from home than necessary unless it makes sense for you. At the end of a long week away from home, a lot of the time it's more important to get home reliably, on time, and with a backup plan in case things go wrong than it is to earn a particular5 mileage currency. What seems like a huge difference between different FF programs isn't always as large as people make it out to be. Sometimes it is - it all depends on flying patterns.

    Also figure out your hotel options.
     
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  11. mo26

    mo26 Silver Member

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    Thanks!
     
  12. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    Out of curiousity, what routes do you intend to fly? That will be important in choosing an airline.

    Out of MSP, with Delta controlling ~89% of the gates in the Lindbergh terminal, for me the network, in-flight service, and convenience of Delta trump the inferior (but not impossible) redemption and international upgrade program. Nearly every destination offers nonstop service or service with a short, ~1 hour connection, service and inflight product is pretty good, operational reliability as well as recovery is good as well.

    For my travel pattern - based out of MSP and flying mostly to the western and southeastern US, AA for example would require really inconvenient connections on most flights. They also are a bit more expensive. I could maybe cobble something together and fly some on AS as well, but if I do a carrier-agnostic search they are almost never among the top options. I almost forget that they even serve MSP. If I had more schedule flexibility or was flying more to the east or internationally, they could be an option. If you qualify for EXP the program is nice. If you don't, it isn't (in my opinion). In short, I would need to go out of my way to fly AA.

    On the Star Alliance side, for many destinations there are reasonable options on UA or US. Sometimes you can get equivalent schedules to DL, sometimes you would need to leave a a day earlier, or get up really, really early to connect in e.g. chicago or denver. The Star alliance lounge is UA operated, so can be closed for some US flights, and isn't necessarily open for those early morning hops - annoying when you can't grab coffee and a quick breakfast. There can be fewer frequencies between Star hubs and MSP than delta hub-hub frequencies, which can mean longer connections, and/or more significant adverse effects from irops. You have fewer opportunities to reroute etc. when getting home is a priority. A lot of the time you're either spending less time at home with family or less time at your destination doing business, neither of which are attractive.

    US has the nice feature of most of their lower fares requiring only 7 day advance purchase in this market. I've flown 20-25k on them this year primarily on short-notice trips to the southwest and southeast when the equivalent Delta flights were several hundred dollars more expensive. They work well for that purpose out of MSP. Itineraries on US can get longer connections, though.

    In general, I feel like I could switch to star, but not to AA. When/if AA and US merge that could change. The more attractive FF redemption options of star alliance are not, at this point in time, an attractive enough prospect to outweigh the negatives for me.

    FF program is certainly an important factor to consider, but don't ignore schedules and service. Also, unless you're on an E-Jet, F is what makes RJs bearable ;)
     
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  13. mo26

    mo26 Silver Member

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    Thanks Matt,

    I'm in MSP currently, but work will have me shifting to RIC, with travel between RIC and DTW, GRR, TPA. I have solid RIC service on US, so I figured on using them for DTW and TPA, and crediting to them on UA when I need to hit GRR.

    - MO
     
  14. mattsteg
    Original Member

    mattsteg Gold Member

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    So DTW is the only route any airline would serve nonstop, and you have the best connectivity with Star Alliance, although with 3 regular routes general purpose connectivity doesn't really matter.

    From a random day search on ITA Matrix

    AA seems horrible for RIC-DTW. Connecting on US takes about an hour longer than direct on DL. Not a huge deal. Picking AA I don't see anything much under 6 hours - the schedules are not good.

    US has excellent options to TPA. DL does as well. US has slightly shorter travel times. AA is again terrible, with 5.5hr+ travel times.

    UA and DL have good options to GRR. AA is again just not practical imo.

    AA I would consider not really usable with the schedule they fly out of RIC. There's no point, imo, of thinking too hard about the ff program of an airline that would be a pain to use. Either the combination of US+UA or DL would work well, and with the mileage programs as a tiebreaker US/UA looks like the way to go. If/when US and AA merge, you'll need to reevaluate as you would likely lose the UA option to GRR and gain a long connection unless the combined airline beefs up operations.

    Sometimes we all get wrapped up in FF programs, and ignore the airlines involved. The AA program would give you probably the best benefits with that level of flying, but the schedule may just not work. Is it OK to arrive at your destination at say 10 oclock in the morning, or will you be flying out the day before? AA you would pretty much have to fly out in the evening prior, the others would give you an option. If the morning flights work, that's a lot of extra nights with your wife just from choosing US/UA (or DL for that matter) over AA.
     
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  15. mo26

    mo26 Silver Member

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    Thanks again Matt!

    AA was never a viable BIS option, but crediting to US and getting a bump in points post merger would be nice....then like you said, re-evaluate as a new route structure develops.

    I'm thinking US is the way to go, using UAL metal for GRR.

    Whatever happens with AA, i'll cross that bridge when i get to it :)


    -MO
     
  16. Mike Reed

    Mike Reed Gold Member

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    If you're going to do that, buy up to a starter status and make sure to credit the UA flight to US as well.

    Might consider the Aegean trick, too.

    Sent from my iPhone using milepoint
     
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  17. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    A3 (Aegean) gives 500 mile minimums on UA, and with 16k flown miles within a year of flying 3k miles (19k total0you get *G which will get you in Star alliance lounges for domestic itineraries. Normally this works best for people who fly Star Alliance as secondary, but also for short hops if you don't otherwise get the minimum. If you're doing the GRR flight once a month, just that segment gets you almost there.

    First and foremost get to the top with your primary airline, though. It does not generally make sense to sacrifice that for secondary gold.
     
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