Which Elite Status Should I Aim for Next year? UA/AA

Discussion in 'Newbies' started by edekba, Oct 19, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    So I've sort of thought this through, and I am really going to AIM to hit the 50k mark next year. This year I would've been either UA/AA Gold if I didn't split up my flights; and I didn't even do a mileage run. Thus I hope that next year, I will be able to hit at least the 50k mark or possibly more if I actually do just take a flight just so I can get the EQM/PQM.

    I normally do 2/3 LAX - NYC Trips a year via work; and when I do i try to route as much as possible so no direct LAX-JFK for me. Other than that there's the occasional LAX - SFO trip + others. Nothing else really planned at the moment.

    I've made a fairly rough spread sheet comparing the two programs, but honestly I still don't know which way to sway. I"m based out of LAX so either program would provide a good network for me; and currently I don't have allegiances. I usually just take one or the other depending upon price.

    Currently I have the UA Explorer Card so Priority Board/Bags & I plan on getting the AA cards in Jan so that benefit would zero out.

    If anyone had some more food for thought for me to ponder about please share.

    BTW Spreadsheet is here & its editable but please don't mess it up for the sake of messing it up.
    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ausy7yM2i-ncdEFWS3I1Z0JLb1FJN3J1ZWNSRTdKbmc

    Thanks!
     
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  2. LIH Prem
    Original Member

    LIH Prem Gold Member

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    the entry level 25k/30 segments on UA is Premier Silver, not Premier Gold. (from the spreadsheet).

    I don't have an answer for you, but the mid-tier (Gold) level is worth going after in one program if you can make it. The benefits at the gold level are much better at UA than the entry Silver level, plus you get *A Gold status and the ability to reserve E+ and exit row seating at ticketing. On UA you will even get upgraded on non-elite heavy routes with CPU as Premier Gold. (ie, Hawaii.) Doesn't AA still use the 500 miler "stickers" until you get to EXP?

    -David
     
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  3. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    Edited Thx!

    and yes I AA still uses the 500mile upgrade thing
     
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  4. LIH Prem
    Original Member

    LIH Prem Gold Member

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    so since you have been flying both AA and UA, which do you prefer? Is there any difference or does it all even out at the end?

    What about award travel? Do you have any destinations in mind?
     
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  5. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    Either or.. both are the same. AA does have MD80 which I dislike; but that's about it.

    Award travel; Well I do have 2 destinations in planning stages. One is a KRK-VIE-PRG-TXL or somewhere around there next year or early 14 that I was going to use UA miles for. After that I wanted a Tokyo/Kyoto/HK trip that I planned on using AA explorer award on.
     
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  6. sithlord
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    sithlord Silver Member

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    I think AA is best for upgrades.
     
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  7. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    care to explain why you think so?
     
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  8. sithlord
    Original Member

    sithlord Silver Member

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    Its just my opinion. Otherwise research the programs and make a decision .
     
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  9. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    Thanks for your opinion :)
    I guess I don't understand the 500mile upgrade rule for AA to fully understand your point of view. If EXP vs 1K then I might be able to understand your position since both get upgrades correct? But for lower tiers AA requires the 500 mile thing; while UA is just based upon status?
     
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  10. 8MiHi

    8MiHi Silver Member

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    If you fly 50K miles per year it is almost always worth it to fly them all on one airline. This gets you to a higher status level on that one as opposed to the entry level (at best) on both. Further, if something comes up that requires you to fly on the other airline, status matches are often available.

    Choosing which airline requires some thought and research - get the details and think about how they might make your travel better for you. If one airline is significantly more convenient for you, then the choice probably should not hang on the details: take the convenience over the details. I am only going to speak to UA Gold since that's what I know.
    UA is better for award travel according to several studies and Premier status (Silver on up) improves availability of Economy awards. Gold status gets you three 70lb bags and makes E+ seating available (2 seats, no fees) at reservation rather than at check-in (silver gets 2 seats only if available at that time). Premier Gold includes Star Alliance (*A) Gold status which is very useful for foreign trips for lounges and elite check-in at foreign airports with *A.
    While many have complained that Gold is not what it was a year ago since the introduction of Platinum has reduced upgrade availability, its still pretty useful.
     
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  11. DestinationDavid
    Original Member

    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    On UA everyone with status is on the upgrade list. On AA, lower tier elites have to choose which routes they want to use their stickers on, which means less people seeking upgrades. This can work for or against you depending on where and when you fly, so simply looking at the systems themselves on UA or AA isn't really telling you much.

    Not sure I'd walk off into the sunset with that statement just on face value. It really depends on what you want to do with your miles, where you want to go, and how much planning you need to do. The availability on some of AA's partners for premium cabin space through out the schedule vs. only a week/few days prior to departure is definitely a plus. The ability to use AA miles for distance based oneworld explorer awards is certainly a plus as well.

    The question of which airline program is best is dependant upon the traveler and their needs.
     
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  12. 8MiHi

    8MiHi Silver Member

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    I agree. I will admit that I was thinking in terms of economy and economy saver awards where UA has shown a substantial edge (WSJ - The Middle Seat - May 16, 2012) over AA. Premium cabin availability was not made clear in the surveys I have seen and UA has put in its Premier Benefits chart that the best award Premium cabin award availability has been saved for Platinum and up.
     
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  13. 8MiHi

    8MiHi Silver Member

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    I also agree that partner premium cabin availability is not clear. :confused:
     
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  14. DestinationDavid
    Original Member

    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    I have had issues with WSJ's The Middle Seat and many of the stories they put out. The study that article was based on, IMHO, is rather flawed.

    Gleff does a very good job of outlining why the results of that award study do more to mislead folks than actually shed light on award availability. LINK.
     
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  15. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    For me, the true advantage of UA and *G is that I travel internationally, and *A being by far the largest airline alliance, there are almost unlimited ways to get to most destinations around the world, including fairly remote or obscure ones. Here's a side-by-side comparison of the two alliances (data source: Wikipedia). For each item, OW then *A:

    OW vs SA.png
     
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  16. 8MiHi

    8MiHi Silver Member

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    I had no luck in getting to Gleff's page from your link.
    I assumed the study was correct because I have had excellent outcomes whenever I have sought UA awards. I have gotten UA saver awards to LHR and HNL for the times I needed along with numerous awards in the past where I have always gotten the seats on the flights I wanted. One of the saver awards did require a bit of flexibility (+/- a day or so) and all needed some lead time, but the standard awards were simple.
     
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  17. DestinationDavid
    Original Member

    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    BoardingArea (the site that hosts Gleff's blog) is down at the moment.

    I'm sure you might have great success with UA awards. I've had great success with AA awards. I'm willing to bet that you don't have nearly as much experience redeeming AA awards as I do though, and vice versa, so we'd both be rather biased with our personal experiences, no? ;)

    That's why I would take gleff's experience as much more insightful than my own. He runs a business where he books award travel for people from all types of mileage programs on a daily basis, so has a much better view of the whole system vs. many FFers limited views of the handful of programs they accumulate in and redeem miles on a few times a year.
     
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  18. 8MiHi

    8MiHi Silver Member

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    Getting back to the original purpose of this thread, convenience has to be factor one. If one airline has more flights from the easiest origination point to the most desired destination points, that should be the airline the OP should focus on. If they are about even, then the OP has a bit of work to do to determine which program makes his travel work best for the OP. It seems that both airlines have reasonably robust programs that can make traveling better.
     
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  19. 8MiHi

    8MiHi Silver Member

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    A good parallax view can give depth and dimension to an opinion.
     
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  20. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    Home base is LAX, since both UA/AA have hubs there its a wash.
    Work travel (3 to 5 trips a year) is exclusively SFO/NYC; so I think its a toss up there.
    Leisure wise; it's wide open. Only thing currently targeted is an Easter EU trip (BER/PRG/VIE/KRK) and a Japan/HKG trip. Which I guess would give *A an edge on EU while OW on the JP trip.

    To me everything evens out; and I guess it's hard for me to pick one or the other right now as both are fairly equal.

    Only thing currently that seems to have a significant difference is hte upgrades.
    AA - 500 stickets thus you're not automatically waitlisted for upgrades and have to pick & choose.
    UA - everyone is waitlisted ... but if you're not mid/top chances are slim.
     
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  21. 8MiHi

    8MiHi Silver Member

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    I assume there is little difference in fares, so cost may be even. I would probably try for the airline that has given me my best flying experience. Which has the aircraft you prefer on the flights you take? Which has the most proffesional staff? Perhaps you're thinking you might buy into a lounge. Which works best for you; UAs or AAs?
    I have been reasonably happy with UA and DestinationDavid appears to be happy with AA, so it sounds like you have a solid recommendation from knowledgable flyers for each airline. Relying on your own experiences for your choice plus going over the benefits of each elite program with an eye to what you can use strikes me as a rational approach to making a decision.
    Heck, if it all goes pear-shaped after a year you can try for a status match and switch.
     
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  22. edekba

    edekba Gold Member

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    If I wanted to nit pick;

    AA planes seem a bit older, I dislike the MD80s that i've been in & their pilots seem to land a tad bit harder than UA.
    UA seems a lot busier, more people. Also Cost a tad bit more (as a result i've flown more AA miles than UA this year), FA seem more grumpy.

    But then again that's really me nit picking ...
     
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  23. 8MiHi

    8MiHi Silver Member

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    Those are some nits, though.
    Costs matter if they are more than a few bucks and you get the same product - a safe, on-time flight.
     
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  24. desamo

    desamo Gold Member

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    United has more gates at LAX, and they have boatloads more at SFO, where American now has fewer gates than Virgin America. I switched from AA to United last year and have been happier, but I am SFO-based, so United makes more sense for me.

    Sent from somewhere near an infinite loop
     
  25. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    If UA awards are anything, they are quite flexible, especially for elites.

    For UA elites, there is no difference between a standard award seat and a revenue seat, meaning that any seat that is available for booking with money is available for booking as a standard award. This is why UA standard award miles are worth twice as much as Star Alliance award miles, which are equivalent to UA saver awards: *A and UA saver awards are availability-controlled whereas with UA standard awards "if there's a seat for sale, UA elite members can get it with standard award miles, guaranteed, even if it's the last seat on the airplane." Moreover, United travel awards can be one way or a mixture where you do saver one way and standard award the other...that is flexibility.

    I have never had trouble getting a UA award seat. I usually have loads of redeemable miles so that I seldom find it necessary to hold out for saver awards. Importantly, I usually redeem to travel between different countries overseas, meaning that I redeem for *A awards, which are the same as UA saver awards (i.e., you need half as many). This is also where being part of *A pays off: the huge *A membership and fleet make it relatively easy to find flights to just about any place one can think of...;)
     
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