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Old Jun 1, 13, 7:28 pm   #1
 
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Best airline for leisure traveler?

I live near DTW, and often travel to EWR (will go to LGA or JFK if I must) and PEK to visit families. What airline should I stick with when it comes to ease of attaining and maintaining FF status? I fly for holidays and summer/winter vacations, so those requirements for miles or segments flown that resets every year is a little hard for me to achieve.

Usually I fly DTW-EWR and DTW-EWR-PEK on UA. Or DTW-LGA and DTW-ORD-PEK on AA. I also know that Delta has DTW-EWR and DTW-PEK (rarely) but have not flown on either.

Right now I'm leaning towards UA because their award miles are easier to redeem. However, Chase credit cards are not churnable, so that's a con. Next is AA, besides, award redemption may be easier after AA/US merger finalizes. Citi's AA credit cards... well... I don't know much about them anymore since the new one app per day rule. Delta is last since their miles are hardest to redeem for award flights, but Delta/Amex cards are churnable every 2(?) years and there are enough cards for me to rotate through.

Not sure which airline to go with.

Last edited by agp423; Jun 2, 13 at 12:59 am.
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Old Jun 1, 13, 8:05 pm   #2
 
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i would go UA

most of Chinese are keeping UA FF. looks like you can't make status segments so points are more important to you.
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Old Jun 1, 13, 10:29 pm   #3
 
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Best airline for leisure traveler?

there are enough chase cards for now. and when that ends try manufacturing spend. that's always a journey =]
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Old Jun 1, 13, 11:53 pm   #4
 
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I's say A3 (Aegean Airlines) FF, but UA flights if you like UA. 20K miles in 1 year = *Gold for 3 years IIRC.
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Old Jun 2, 13, 7:32 am   #5
 
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I prefer both UA and AA to DL, with an edge to UA because I'm interested in aawrd redemption USA-Europe and UA's partners offer more and better options than AA's. But AA will at least come closer to UA for my purposes when the merger with US is complete. In your case, I'd suggest keeping your accounts in both programs active, but probably giving preference to UA other things being equal.
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Old Jun 2, 13, 9:00 am   #6
 
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I'd argue that this should be pretty much a dollars and cents decision, as opposed to "maximize the benefits of loyalty" one (things like IROPS and getting upgraded on longhaul are essentially nonfactors at the 25K level when you are travelling solely for leisure). The benefits at the 25K level on UA, AA and DL are pretty minimal and will likely not be worth the occasional BOHICA fare or silly routing you have to fly just to requalify (plus I would imagine hub routes in or out of DTW, or into/out of EWR/LGA are pretty impossible upgrades- you're going to be fighting with a lot of senior elites).

I'd probably look at getting credit cards that can simulate the benefits of low-level status (extra baggage and so on), and my loyalty would be... to Kayak (whoever's got the best fare). If you wanted a "jack of all trades, master of none" status/accumulation point, Alaska (AS) might be useful; you can credit BOTH AA and DL to this (less orphan miles), the RDM bonus is 50% instead of 25%, and you get some extra benefits on BOTH AA and DL.

One thing you might find useful is that DTW-LGA is only 4500 BA Avios one-way, 9K round-trip. So a card with a large BA bonus is going to come in handy (as well as transferring AMEX->BA, there are often bonuses for this, such as one right now). So BA may also be a good place to accumulate miles (if not a particularly useful place for status) with that particular travel pattern (lots of Detroit-NYC trips).

Last edited by eponymous_coward; Jun 2, 13 at 9:08 am.
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Old Jun 2, 13, 4:56 pm   #7
 
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Good point, I guess I'll stick with whatever's the cheapest while getting the max credit card bonuses I can from cards with UA/AA points.
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Old Jun 2, 13, 5:03 pm   #8
 
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Quote:
I prefer both UA and AA to DL, with an edge to UA because I'm interested in aawrd redemption USA-Europe and UA's partners offer more and better options than AA's.
Have you had any luck booking biz on LH, Austrian or Swiss using UA miles? Every time I look there is nothing available. What's the trick? I have a lot of miles but not interested in flying steerage to Europe. I find it much easier to book award flights in biz and first on AA or BA using award miles.
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Old Jun 2, 13, 5:22 pm   #9
 
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Originally Posted by uppereastff View Post
Have you had any luck booking biz on LH, Austrian or Swiss using UA miles? Every time I look there is nothing available. What's the trick? I have a lot of miles but not interested in flying steerage to Europe. I find it much easier to book award flights in biz and first on AA or BA using award miles.
Yes, people book LH/OS/LX in C all the time, sometimes in F too (LH Group doesn't make F available before T-14 days, though). How are you performing the search? Are you only looking for nonstops out of SFO/LAX (those don't tend to have much award availability on LX/LH)?

BA F has surcharges that can be up to $1000 USD in F compared to *A F, but hey, if that's acceptable...
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Old Jun 3, 13, 5:03 am   #10
 
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I agree with eponymous_coward comments. DTW-EWR is 976 miles rt, while DTW-ORD-PEK is 13628miles rt. If you only go to PEK once a year, you still need 11372 miles to achieve the lowest elite status with UA, that will translate to 12 rt DTW-EWR.
AA has routing for PEK via ORD from DTW, however they do not have direct service DTW-EWR, it will have to be to LGA. If that works for you, the above #s still work, you will need 12 rt DTW-LGA to obtain the minimum elite status with AA.

If looking for free baggage, priority boarding, seating, etc, then you have to look on a credit card that offers that and use that carrier, both UA and AA have that. If you are looking for upgrade possibility on the domestic part (DTW-EWR), I presume most aircraft are regional jets with no first class so no good here, upgrades on international flight, you are out of luck also as your status is too low to earn upgrade vouchers (SWU).

If looking at award redemption, on the above examples, you will get a little over 25k miles year provided you fly enough to achieve status, that is enough for a mile saver domestic rt award from DTW. If churning credit cards, then depending on how many cards you churn, that determines how many rt you can get. Typically cc give 35k miles, that is a rt domestic ticket. For international award redemption, it takes around 50-60k miles for saver rt award.

I think with this you already have enough information to make a decision. You have to determine what is really important for you. Personally, I will go with what is the cheapest, comfortable and convenient way to achieve what I want.

If your travel patterns change, or if you do go to PEK more than 1x a year, then you certainly have enough to achieve low elite status.

You might want to check the CC forum to check on churning cards. True, citi is easier than chase.

Good Luck
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Last edited by arollins; Jun 3, 13 at 5:08 am.
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Old Jun 4, 13, 10:10 am   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arollins View Post
I agree with eponymous_coward comments. DTW-EWR is 976 miles rt, while DTW-ORD-PEK is 13628miles rt. If you only go to PEK once a year, you still need 11372 miles to achieve the lowest elite status with UA, that will translate to 12 rt DTW-EWR.
AA has routing for PEK via ORD from DTW, however they do not have direct service DTW-EWR, it will have to be to LGA. If that works for you, the above #s still work, you will need 12 rt DTW-LGA to obtain the minimum elite status with AA.

If looking for free baggage, priority boarding, seating, etc, then you have to look on a credit card that offers that and use that carrier, both UA and AA have that. If you are looking for upgrade possibility on the domestic part (DTW-EWR), I presume most aircraft are regional jets with no first class so no good here, upgrades on international flight, you are out of luck also as your status is too low to earn upgrade vouchers (SWU).

If looking at award redemption, on the above examples, you will get a little over 25k miles year provided you fly enough to achieve status, that is enough for a mile saver domestic rt award from DTW. If churning credit cards, then depending on how many cards you churn, that determines how many rt you can get. Typically cc give 35k miles, that is a rt domestic ticket. For international award redemption, it takes around 50-60k miles for saver rt award.

I think with this you already have enough information to make a decision. You have to determine what is really important for you. Personally, I will go with what is the cheapest, comfortable and convenient way to achieve what I want.

If your travel patterns change, or if you do go to PEK more than 1x a year, then you certainly have enough to achieve low elite status.

You might want to check the CC forum to check on churning cards. True, citi is easier than chase.

Good Luck
Excellent Analysis. If you won't mind, I will copy and save your post for a dozen family members who keep asking me what airline they should fly for the 1 or 2 flights they plan to take this year.
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Old Jun 4, 13, 11:56 am   #12
 
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Originally Posted by sahiljain22 View Post
Excellent Analysis. If you won't mind, I will copy and save your post for a dozen family members who keep asking me what airline they should fly for the 1 or 2 flights they plan to take this year.
The trick is that without MRs, you don't have enough flight distance to keep any status.
If you want cheapest, I will suggest sticking with Southwest Airlines. Having been UA elite, getting sick of it and becoming CO elite...just to get borged back into UA elite, and getting sick of it once again... Like the other legacy airlines, they charge ridiculous amounts for changes or changeable fares. And then they nickel and dime you to death with dumb fees.
Southwest makes beautiful sense to me.
For the international flights, the aforementioned advice is good. First checked-in bag is included anyway, still. Keep your fingers crossed. Your little bug-smasher connector flight won't have any class differentiation worth mentioning. If I were you, I'd do the best I can to connect to a non-US airline for nicer service.
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Old Jun 5, 13, 6:44 am   #13
 
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Originally Posted by Long Zhiren View Post
If you want cheapest, I will suggest sticking with Southwest Airlines. Having been UA elite, getting sick of it and becoming CO elite...just to get borged back into UA elite, and getting sick of it once again... Like the other legacy airlines, they charge ridiculous amounts for changes or changeable fares. And then they nickel and dime you to death with dumb fees.
Southwest makes beautiful sense to me.
WN doesn't fly NYC-DTW nonstop (so you're probably looking at having to fly DTW-MDW-LGA, and WN doesn't give extra miles for taking stupid routings), and is often not the cheapest fare on a route. Probably not the most convenient choice.

Again, I'd point out that BA Avios make some sense here as a mileage currency.

Last edited by eponymous_coward; Jun 5, 13 at 6:51 am.
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Old Jun 5, 13, 10:09 am   #14
 
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Originally Posted by eponymous_coward View Post
WN ... is often not the cheapest fare on a route.
WN is by far the cheapest if you factor in anguish & costs of baggage check-in, getting overhead storage space, and maybe flexible tickets?
Schedule is a different story.
The best schedules will come at a different cost. DTW obviously is a DL hub. Each NY airport is a hub for somebody else. Beginning a journey at the hub of a carrier means that you deal with a zoo/mayhem, and absolutely no chance of an upgrade at the lowest elite tiers because the hub locations have dense populations of elites for the hubs' respective carriers.
WN escapes that notoriety at both locations and therefore provides a significant measure of sanity. But of course, WN comes with the anguish of changing planes at MDW.
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Old Jun 5, 13, 10:20 am   #15
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I'd probably go A3 (Aegean).

I have limited utility for Star Alliance this year, so it's what I'm doing. I'll get right to about the 20k tier miles needed for Aegean Gold. That's lounge access and a pretty generous checked baggage allowance on United, plus priority access to everything at the airport.

You would need to match up your fare basis and specific airline flown against the tier miles earning rate on Aegean. For example, most United discounted economy fares earn 50% tier miles on A3, but with a 500-mile minimum. Most US Airways fares earn 100% tier miles, but with no 500-mile minimum. Depending on your travel patterns, you might want to look at an Asian carrier that can get you to PEK with 100% tier miles on a discount economy fare. (And that, in turn, could have you flying DTW-West Coast-PEK instead of through EWR or ORD.)

But I do think Star Gold would be worth it, and it's very much within your reach without too much(if any) suboptimal traveling.

Last edited by pinniped; Jun 5, 13 at 10:28 am.
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