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While I’ve been a Delta Diamond for the past couple years and I enjoy my top-tier status, as a Oneworld Mega Do participant I was recently offered the opportunity to complete a relatively easy challenge to achieve American Airlines Executive Platinum status: simply fly 20,000 miles between October 9 and January 13, 2012.
To be completely honest, I haven’t had many good experiences with American Airlines. I’ve flown them in coach, business and international first within the last year and each experience was just eh (see my trip reports Buenos Aires- JFK and JFK- Madrid for examples). Additionally, when I purchased a first class fare to Hong Kong this year on AA.com for $4,000, they decided not to honor the fare and I believe they handled the situation very poorly – holding thousands of my dollars hostage for about a month and then canceling the ticket and dealing with me in a very unapologetic manner. I ended up getting my money back and that’s it – not that I was looking for huge compensation, but a, “Hey we are sorry our mistake caused you inconvenience, here is $200 in flight credit- we hope you still consider us in the future.” I probably could have sued, but honestly I don’t have the time and I prefer to focus on positive things, like blogging.
Additional reasons why I don’t like AA in comparison to Delta: Lack of wifi on most flights, more disgruntled flight attendants, less nice lounges, not a 1:1 transfer partners with American Express or Chase, no international stopovers on international awards and more regional jets out of NYC.
So why the heck do I want Executive Platinum status?
1) I moved to Miami this year and will be spending a good amount of time there (as well as NYC) and AA’s route network is unparalleled. I frequently travel the triangle of JFK-LAX-MIA and having AA as an option will make my life easier. Delta only has one flight a day MIA-Los Angeles and its at 7:35am and the only LAX-MIA is a red-eye, which I abhor.
2) I will get 8 super-valuable system-wide upgrade certificates that can be used on pretty much any coach fare class to get upgraded to business class. I anticipate a ton of international travel in 2012 and it would be nice to buy cheap coach tickets and get upgraded to business class. Whereas on Delta, you need to purchase expensive full-fare (Y,B,M) tickets in order to use system-wide upgrades. Often times these coach fares are more expensive than discounted business class. In short, flying AA will save me money and allow me to avoid coach, which is much appreciated since I’m 6’7″.
3) More valuable miles. While AAdvantage has it’s flaws, AA miles are far superior than SkyMiles for the following reasons: one way awards, international first class awards, lower award thresholds, much more lenient ticketing rules (no 72 hour cancellation nonsense like on Delta) and lower fees.
4) Better chances of upgrades on transcontinental routes. Delta does not release ANY advance elite upgrades on JFK-LAX/SFO so it’s always a nail biter and you never know until you are about to board. AA upgrades Executive Platinums as a part of complimentary domestic upgrades on these routes and from what I hear, the upgrade success rate is pretty good. I’ve had to sit in coach several times as a Diamond on LAX-JFK (or have had to play major Same Day Confirmed games to swing an upgrade). I’d prefer to eliminate that stress from my life as much as possible (yes I know, first world problems at their finest).
5) As a full-time travel/points blogger, I think it will be good for me to experience top-tier status on another airline. If anything, to make me realize how good I do or do not have it on Delta.
So right now I’m really evaluating where my loyalty will be in 2012. I’m going to do a big AA run to Asia in the first week of January to get most of the 20,000 miles I need for the challenge – that way they will count towards 2013 qualification as well. Executive Platinum is only 100,000 miles vs Delta’s Diamond at 125,000, so I’m thinking I will stop short of Diamond this year at 124,000 miles and roll over 44,000 miles to start 2012 with. That way, if I decide AA just isn’t for me, I’ll be well on my way to requalifying for Diamond. And frankly, the only reason I really valued Diamond was for the upgrade priority on those super-hard JFK-LAX upgrades – If I’m now taking AA on those routes, it doesn’t really matter if I’m Platinum or not.
So stay tuned! I flew my first AA leg Miami to Aruba yesterday and it was perfectly fine and I’ll be doing a quick trip report of my experience. 1,133 miles down and only 18,867 to go!
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