Value of AA miles vs UA miles - One Blogger's Perspective

Discussion in 'American Airlines | AAdvantage' started by DestinationDavid, Apr 27, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    Lucky from Boarding Area's One Mile At A Time posted this (LINK) summary of what he believes the value of AA miles are versus UA miles in different regions of the world. Seems he gives the edge to American in quite a few areas. The analysis focuses mainly on premium cabin redemptions, does not address domestic redemptions, and doesn't take into account special award products like AA's explorer awards.

    Quick summary:

    Asia - American
    South America - American
    Australia - American
    Middle East - American
    Europe - United
    Africa- United

    Any thoughts on his analysis?
     
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  2. meFIRST

    meFIRST Silver Member

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    I disagree with Asia.

    Star
    Asiana
    Singapore
    Thai
    Eva (Soon)
    ANA Japan
    United

    Oneworld
    Cathay / Dragon
    Malaysian (soon)
    Japan Airlines
    Not including AA here, because AA has NO INTRA ASIA FLIGHTS.

    Lucky (Ben)'s word isnt always gospel. Just because he doesn't fly AA anymore, it doesn't make those miles more "valuable"
     
  3. DestinationDavid
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    Can you be more specific about why you disagree. Simply listing partners doesn't do anything.

    He makes a case that despite having more partners, many of those partners do not release premium cabin award space TPAC making the partnerships much less valuable. He counters that AA/CX/JL offer a better opportunity to get around Asia in F/J (though I disagree with him about JL's F availability). Have you found this to be contrary to your experience?

    As for the blogger's carrier preference, do you think that's heavily influencing his decision? He includes a lot of information about *A alliance carriers and often flies them, so he clearly has some affinity toward that airline grouping. Also he does run that award booking business, so I'd assume he has some experience booking a variety of awards with both AA and UA miles.
     
  4. yaychemistry

    yaychemistry Silver Member

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    Not that I have any experience flying OW in Asia, but I would agree that Lucky discount's *A's Asian presence too much.

    As meFIRST points out, Lucky didn't include Thai and EVA in his analysis. Granted TG doesn't have any flights to/from North America anymore. However, they're awesome for intra-asia.

    Also, my anecdotal experience with ANA is that I was able to find 2 F seats on NRT-ORD in April 5 months in advance. Maybe I just got lucky (unintentional pun!).

    Plus United's routing rules allow you to have a stop-over or connection in Europe and then fly a European carrier (or TG) to Asia.

    So as far as Asia, I might still lean towards *A/United.
     
  5. DestinationDavid
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    I think the analysis was mostly focused on the over water portion of the award and didn't really look at intra-area award space. I guess the question is - does intra-Asia award space matter if you can't get to the region in a premium cabin to begin with?

    I think the area I take the biggest pause over is Australia. HA and TN's products aren't really up to par for redemptions even if space is available, and QF's space is really awful in premium cabins unless you have extreme flexibility.

    Overall I think it was pretty surface level and didn't really dig into the meat of the issue, but that would probably take a very lengthy post. I'd have liked to see an analysis of domestic award space and how AA's explorer awards change the value proposition of mileage use as I mentioned above.

    With regards to Thai, don't they still fly LAX-BKK for a few more days before they switch to LAX-ICN-BKK? So they have at least one flight to North America.
     
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  6. VIEWFROM1A

    VIEWFROM1A New Member

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    When comparing the value of a mile, AA vs.UA miles are roughly equal on both the earn and burn sides, however their true value is inextricably tied to ease of use. As a frequent Intl. premium cabin redeemer of both AA and CO miles, I have found AA award availability to be infinitely better. Initially, availability seems better on the new UA than it was on CO (1K status may likely be helping) but only time will tell.
     
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  7. sobore
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    sobore Gold Member

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    For me, much of this depends on Award/Upgrade availability. That is one of the biggest factors as redeemable miles are worthless unless they can be used. I have not been particularly happy with UA on this matter.
     
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  8. yaychemistry

    yaychemistry Silver Member

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    Yeah, I forgot about the LAX-ICN-BKK, though who knows how the availability will be on that, and if being a "direct" (but not non-stop) flight will complicate redemption.

    I agree that intra-asia is probably less important than the overwater portion. But Lucky did mention that UA allows the "long-way" routing. I think that's a huge benefit since you can route through Europe (and have a stop-over) to Asia and that opens a lot more options (including TG). And if you're an east-coaster going through Europe might even be shorter than a trans-pac connecting on the west coast (if there's no non-stop going over the pole).


    I agree... and not to mention that it has a LOT to do with personal taste as well. There's also the issue of hard product vs soft product and how the traveler values them.
     
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  9. DestinationDavid
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    The loose routing rules and the ability to stop over are probably in the top 3 things I covet as an AA mileage user, and those are definite pluses in the UA column. Sadly, even if I could get a stop over in Europe on my way to Asia, BA's YQ charges would make doing so difficult, so AA's program certainly has its own blemishes.

    One of the things I do like about OW is that the hard and soft product on many carriers are usually pretty high. With so many airlines in *A, there are a few airlines that would need to be avoided. Of course, with LH, SQ, NH, and LX the average service quality is still very high. :)
     
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  10. LAXtraveler
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    True, but redeeming on LH, LX, and SQ for F has gotten to a point of near impossibility unless you can take off on a whim. BA and CX both offer availability months out in their F cabins, even if it isn't perfect availability, much moreso than the *A carriers can say for themselves IMO. On the other hand, if you can snag a LH or LX seat, then you are definitely in for a treat!
     
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  11. dhammer53
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    dhammer53 Gold Member

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    You have to take this with a grain of salt, since lucky doesn't fly UA anymore. You have to ask him or UA why that's the case. YMMV.
     
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  12. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    We were discussing quality of alliance carriers, availability isn't really something I know about *A carriers using miles. I have heard great things about LH and LX though!

    One doesn't have to fly UA to understand its program and use UA miles to book awards. With credit card spend, accumulated miles over his time with UA, and his award booking business where I'm sure he uses UA miles quite often, I willing to bet he has insight into UA miles usage that many don't have. Whether it clouds his opinion is another issue entirely. Is that what you're suggesting?

    I'm fully aware there is a rift between Ben, UA, and some FFers who use FT and MP. I still find his analysis interesting, think there are areas he made some missteps, and think it's great that people can discuss it. And that's the key for me - I'd rather discuss the issues to come to conclusions about where his opinions don't ring true with others than dismiss it wholesale.
     
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  13. LAXtraveler
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    As I re-read lucky's post I think that availability played into much of his analysis. Why do you say quality of the carriers is the only thing in the analysis? It seems to me availability played a big part of it.

    A few quotes:
    "In the past Air New Zealand used to be a great way to get to Australia using United miles, but I’ve just about written them off because I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen a premium cabin award seat on them.";




    "American releases plenty of first class award space on their own flights, as does Cathay Pacific and JAL. Meanwhile using United miles, only Asiana, Air China, and United release award space in first class between the US and Asia, none of which have nearly as much space as American or Cathay Pacific.";

    "Believe it or not, I consider this one to be at only a slight margin. Why? Because the only first class product you can book between the US and Europe in advance is United first class. In the past you could redeem on Lufthansa and Swiss in advance, in which case I’d say United won by a long shot."
     
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  14. DestinationDavid
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    Seems you're a bit confused ;)

    I never said Lucky's analysis didn't mention availability. In fact I talk about it quite a bit in my posts above.

    The quality issue you quoted me about was a side issue between me and another poster regarding *A and OW in general, hence me replying to you to explain just that. :)
     
  15. LAXtraveler
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    I see how you meant it now. Thanks for clarifying.

    Nonetheless, I think the value of the product is only so good (or not) as the ability to be able to actually try it.
     
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  16. DestinationDavid
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    That I fully agree with :)
     
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  17. JetsettingEric
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    JetsettingEric Silver Member

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    Each program has their strengths, and there is more out there than just AA/UA. I love my avios points for US/Canada short-haul. The best airline program from US to Asia is US. 90k in business to North Asia on Star carriers is a fantastic deal. UA doesn't come close with 120k in business - which would buy first for US.
     
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  18. LAXtraveler
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    Wow, I should re-think getting me some US miles.
     
  19. DestinationDavid
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    With Grand Slam and frequent promos offering bonus miles you can probably get some soon enough.
     
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  20. PointHoarder
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    PointHoarder Silver Member

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    Given that Lucky's analysis is focused mainly on premium availability, do you guys think the conclusions he draws would change much if one were focused more on maximizing traveling opportunities in Y instead of F?
     
  21. okrogius

    okrogius Silver Member

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    Yes. There isn't as huge of a difference between Y cabins and availability in Y. As such, star wins due to better network/more airlines.
     
  22. DestinationDavid
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    I'm not so sure, the use of a Y oneworld explorer award with AA miles is pretty lucrative.

    Fly up to 50K miles in distance on 2 or more oneworld airlines with up to 16 segments in any direction over a one year period for 160K miles vs 2 economy saver awards using UA to SE Asia with the looser stopover and routing rules for 130K? I don't think it's such an easy call, there are pluses and minuses to both options.
     
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  23. okrogius

    okrogius Silver Member

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    Every program has it's pros and cons in terms of their award charts and how you can optimize that. For AA that may be the explorer award, for UA it may be a usa-north asia via the atlantic with a stop over (36k worth of flying, any segments/airlines, stopover anywhere for 65k).

    My comment is largely that there isn't a huge difference in what you get in Y between say BA/LH or UA/AA. When you look at overall availability, it certainly varies, but is semi-comparable. I'd then lean slightly more on star simply due to the selection of airlines. Of course, if your trip is better optimized by say AA's award chart, that probably makes a bigger difference than number of airlines (you can get most places with either alliance with a few differences around south america [oneworld] and africa [star]).
     
  24. DestinationDavid
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    To each their own, but I'll take a OW explorer award any day of the week in terms of value for miles spent.

    AA's partner network does have weaknesses in Africa, and it's something that really bothers me when it comes to redemption. There really isn't a viable way to address it to be honest though. :(

    Edited to Add: I think the point we're both making is that "value" is difficult to pin down because it's a subjective term that can vary from user to user. My focus is mostly in Asia, so things like BA's YQ don't bother me as much and don't factor into my evaluation of AA's program worth. So a program that doesn't really look like it has much value on the surface can still work wonders for someone who has specific needs and desires that aren't effected by that program's shortcomings.
     
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  25. Gardyloo
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    I bought a ton of US miles when they were having a 2-4-1 sale last year, for something like 1.2 cpm net. I've only used some on domestic F flights (same cost as AA, but they go where I want) but plan to use them some more this year to Europe - there's often okay availability out of PHL and US's new J suites (which look like CX's) have gotten rave reviews. Unlike most of the Doug-o-phobes around, I thought that US's service was just fine. Who knows, maybe my AA miles will end up being used on US metal anyway. I do wish they had one-way awards, however.

    I too think the Explorer awards are impossible to beat. (You know, those that were formerly "Oneworld." AA keeps digging the hole deeper in their redemption names - Partner = Partner and Oneworld, Oneworld = Explorer, and Oneworld Explorer = paid RTW product. Doh!)
     
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