United versus the new AA

Discussion in 'American Airlines | AAdvantage' started by esrfalco, Mar 23, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. esrfalco

    esrfalco Active Member

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    I travel about 100k miles per year for work, mostly international, to the same destination. With the new AA merger, I can basically choose to continue on United, or switch to the new AA. I would be grateful for the insights of those on this forum, so I might benefit from your wisdom.

    My priorities in order are:
    1. availability of international upgrades for elite flyers
    2. international lounge access
    3. mileage accrual

    Thank you in advance.
     
  2. ballardFlyer

    ballardFlyer Gold Member

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    AA SWUs are the better than United GPUs because - at this time - they work on any paid fare class and you get more of them (8). However, that could easily change with the new AA run by US Air (which currently has a program that is worse then United for SWUs).

    Both United and AA programs have similar copay + mileage upgrade options.

    The other thing to consider is that you're Gold on United and have no status on AA. AA doesn't status match so you have to pay $240 for a Platinum challenge to get mid-level elite in their program and fly 10K miles (your first trip likely) with no status. Then you still have to fly the 100K miles to get the SWUs so basically for the rest of this first year you won't get any international upgrade SWUs until you actually make EXP.

    On United, you'd be getting E+ all along the way, and when you hit Plat things will get better, and as 1k you'll get GPU. I also imagine you have some United miles already banked so you'll hit 100K BIS sooner. If you expect to have this job for a few years, you will also be earning United 1MM status which is FAR more valuable then AA 1MM status.


    International lounge access for AA EXP is superior IMHO - you can get into F lounges on Economy tickets, etc. United and Star Alliance isn't far behind, but is not quite as generous.

    Also, this goes without saying that United has better "own metal" network into Europe and Asia. If you destination is in South America, then AA is the clean winner.
     
  3. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Another question is the relative success rate in clearing SWUs. It would not be great to have 8 SWUs for any ticket fare but have a relatively low clearance rate...;)
     
  4. Photonerd71

    Photonerd71 Silver Member

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    And of course the whole AA/US program could be totally revamped once the merger is complete , in which case none of us will know if will be better/worse or equal to UA.
     
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  5. DestinationDavid
    Original Member

    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    Except AA EXPs generally have a fantastic SWU clearance rate. I've missed one in 5 years and that was because I requested use one day prior to departure.

    A non-issue entirely.
     
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  6. flyforawg

    flyforawg Silver Member

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    Agree with ballardFlyer. I prefer AA, but it suits my needs for now. Will reassess after the merger is complete. Stick with what you have unless there is a compelling reason to change. If your international destination for work is South America, definitely switch to AA, otherwise UA is probably a lot more valuable for you for both points 1 and 3 at this point.
     
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  7. ballardFlyer

    ballardFlyer Gold Member

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    That's fair, but I've never missed a SWU on AA - even buying pretty close in at 1 week out. Admittedly, sometimes they clear at the gate, but they do clear consistently. Reports of them not clearing are relatively rare in AA land - usually those who buying within a few days of departure or buy a flight with no J available at all :)

    On United you have to pay extra for W fares and it is still less guaranteed that the GPU will clear. I have 1K friends here in SEA who run into this issue. You see it on MP and TOBB too. Certainly a lot of GPU clear without issue, but AA is better here.

    The bigger thing that is limiting about AA SWUs is that AA has fewer metal routes and you have to use SWUs on AA metal. United has more routes to more places and also lets you use them (in a limited fashion) on key partners like Lufthansa.

    OP, my recommendation would be the new United since you won't get many upgrades in this first year on AA without paying mileage/copay just like United and the new AA is most likely to go downhill under US Airways. Plus AA is bound to be a nasty mess of integration over then next ~18 months. United is just finally settled down this year.
     
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  8. ballardFlyer

    ballardFlyer Gold Member

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    Agree with your succinct summary too
     
  9. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    I have a very high success rate of clearing GPUs (all but one segment out of more than two dozen last year), but I find little to disagree with in this post, which, in fact, challenges my view that GPUs would be more difficult to clear if they were allowed to be used with all fare classes. For Region 1 (US, Canada, Caribbean, Central America), GPUs can be used with almost all fare classes. It is for other int'l destinations that W is the lowest fare class that is GPUable. I still believe that GPU clearance rate for int'l flights would go down if the latter restriction were to be lifted...
     
  10. Canadi>n
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    Canadi>n Gold Member

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    What routes are you flying and would be using SWUs on? Like others I have yet to miss an international upgrade and only not flown in F within NAmerica when I've had last minute changes due to voluntary re-routing. And even then, agents were able to block off an entire row of economy seats...and as an ExecPlat you get free drinks and BoB items when flying in coach, no coupons required! And no need to play W-fare lotto as at UA when SWU upgrades don't clear in advance. As someone who's made the move, I have no regrets. But at the same time, I do not want to see a further rush of UA elites over to AA to increase competition for all these wonderful benefits. (But as noted, how the merger will change things is anyone's guess. Hoping it won't go the way the UA/CO merger went.)
     
  11. KtownTraveler
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    KtownTraveler Silver Member

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    Generally, yes. Nevertheless I missed two TATL SWUs and one transcon SWU last fall alone. On tickets purchased several months in advance.
    Don't we all wish. Instead I think it's largely a YMMV thing.
     
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  12. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Clearly a mixed bag...

    I fly mostly internationally, TPAC more than TATL, South America or elsewhere, and have had a fantastic run clearing SWUs, both pre and post UA-CO merger . Intuitively, the fact that tickets for int'l trips cost more and that economy fares (W or higher), which are required to request SWUs, also cost more, can potentially deter some money-conscious elites from requesting upgrades using this instrument, thereby increasing upgrade chances for those who do request upgrades with GPUs...like I said, "intuitively", but it might be tough to test that without a large survey...
     
  13. Aktchi
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    Aktchi Silver Member

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    esrfalco: It would be helpful for us to know the international route you fly regularly. As you know, the new AA is still not here yet. It would take at least one year to know what happens to their program. By coincidence, even if you switched to AA, it would also take about 1 year for you to reach the top status anyway. Unless your itinerary makes the choice for you, I would suggest sticking with what you have now, and revisiting this choice once AA's new program is known.
     
  14. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    Ability to use SWUs on any fare is less important if the OP is regularly booking qualifying fares. My brother's company used to do this for him all the time because it dragged its feet and all that was left was W and above.

    Of course he never bothered to tell me. It would have been easy for me to sponsor his upgrades using SWUs from my account.
     
  15. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    All things are YMMV by nature. A 100% guarantee is nice but not possible when it comes to these programs.

    Using your personal experience from within a short period to evaluate the entire program uses a sample size of one. Not a great idea.

    My personal experience has been great, and my experience on MP, FT, Twitter, and Facebook talking with quite a large number of other EXPs over the years tells me that for most situations SWUs on AA are approved (though sometimes one needs to wait till the gate) for the majority of EXPs.

    Do some EXPs miss upgrades? Of course, but it's hardly at a ratio that should cause folks to view the use of SWUs was a gamble. It's almost always a winning bet.

    I stand by my assessment.
     
  16. tom911
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    tom911 Gold Member

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    I'm waiting on an ORD-LHR upgrade right now with an empty business class cabin and two weeks to go (zero seats occupied when I booked a month ago--I do place some weight on seat charts). Clearly they are clearing closer to departure than years past, but in my case all that matters is that they're still clearing. I've not missed a systemwide upgrade in 12 years and have every expectation this one will clear.. I'm very careful to book off-peak flights to increase my odds versus just any travel date out there, so you're likely to see me traveling October-May midweek when the fares and availability are better. That's worked well for me. I've cleared 7 systemwides so far this year for Europe travel (three for me, four for friends traveling with me) with that strategy.

    Now, would I expect to clear LAX-LHR in the middle of the summer? Probably not, as that flight might be able to sell out business class without any upgrades. It's just a risk I wouldn't take. You'd more like see me trying to get out on the last flight of the day JFK-LHR instead midweek or on a Saturday.

    The big difference for me, being a past 1K and current 1MMer with UA, is that I don't have to buy-up. On my last year with UA I gave away 7 of my 9 systemwides to those I knew that were traveling in higher-paid fare classes, either through an employer purchase or individual purchase. I just would not pay the extra money to buy-up, particularly when there were no refunds of the fare difference if you didn't clear. I did try to retain EXP and 1K, but when you add award travel in there it was just too much time in the air for me, so AA became my primary carrier at the time. With the changes to 1MM I'm not putting any miles on UA currently, though if they restore 1MM benefits I'll be a purchaser again.

    I do have photos of some of the partner F lounges (BA, QF, CX) in the lounge gallery linked below.
     
  17. marcwint55

    marcwint55 Gold Member

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    Although I am an AA flyer, one thing to consider is that you can eventually achieve lifetime Global Services with UA by flying. With AA you need to qualify every year for top status as there is no lifetime EXP.
     
  18. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    The number of people who will achieve lifetime GS (or even 1K) is terribly small. And I think that at the 1MM level UA is a bit more valuable for lifetime status, at least as of today.

    If the AA route map works and you fly enough to get to the 100K level then it is well worth considering, especially based on the stated preferences in the first post. There are going to be places where it is better than UA and places where it is worse. The key is what is important to you.

    Their route network and award rules wouldn't work for me and I place a much higher priority on those things than lounge access or GPUs, for example.
     
  19. KtownTraveler
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    KtownTraveler Silver Member

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    I merely gave a counter-example to an amazingly rosy claim. I've been an EXP for many years. But I generally cannot control the dates I must fly, and I do not have the great and wonderful SWU success claimed by some.

    Presuming to know the travel history of others. Not a great idea. ;)
     
  20. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    I didn't make any comments about your travel history beyond commenting on the information you provided. I spoke about my own and the many EXPs I know.

    And amazingly rosy is an accurate assessment of my outlook on AA SWUs. But I believe that's an accurate assessment for a majority of EXPs. Is there a smaller group of individuals with travel situations that cause them to struggle with use? Yes. But as I mentioned before, that ratio is largely in favor of successful usage. My personal experience, those of the many EXPs I know personally, and even the posts so far in this thread seem to jive with that outlook.

    I wasn't looking to start a fight and I'm still not. But this isn't a topic that I just shot my mouth off about willy nilly. It's a major part of my loyalty to AA and I'm very inquisitive about other EXP's success rates. I'm constantly evaluating whether my success rate is an anomaly or consistent with my comrades. My inquiries have shown me that I'm not really an anomaly.

    I'm sorry you've struggled, but I still stand by my statements.
     
  21. KtownTraveler
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    KtownTraveler Silver Member

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    Certainly no fight is intended. It's too bad not everyone can have the astonishing SWU success rates some report. May the OP be so fortunate. I do not pretend to speak for anyone but myself.
     
  22. Aktchi
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    Aktchi Silver Member

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    I understand that one may have a tight schedule and not much flexibility. I just visited India, via LHR. My departure was constrained by my wife's big meeting; arrival in India by my niece's wedding. Date flexibility? None. Flight flexibility? I think I had to choose between two flights. And we were two travelers. I did not expect to clear SWUs, and decided to save them for another day. I find that entirely fair. That some flexibility on our part should be required in exchange for premium class upgrade seems like a reasonable bargain to me.

    I do not speak for DestinationDavid, but I would be surprised if he meant that even people with no schedule flexibility can expect high success rate. I would bet that anybody scoring close to 100% success rate has had the flexibility to choose his dates and flights with an eye towards the upgrade. I would guess that such flexibility---or, being forced to travel midweek in peak low season by flights that depart or arrive at exceptionally bad hours :)---goes a long way towards making one "fortunate". :)
     
  23. KtownTraveler
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    KtownTraveler Silver Member

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    I have no hard evidence on that point ... but I would surely not bet against you! The OP may want to think about this in weighing his/her various options.
     
  24. Aktchi
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    Aktchi Silver Member

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    Just out of curiosity, what kind of hard evidence is needed to conclude that upgrades tend to be available on some dates/flights but not on others? Or that, therefore greater flexibility with dates/flights will help? :)
     
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  25. KtownTraveler
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    KtownTraveler Silver Member

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    AA should be able to tell us that. But they're not talking. Finding out on MP? Good luck! :D
     

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