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HELP - New job, more travel - NYC area flyer thinking of switching to DL from UA Gold

HELP - New job, more travel - NYC area flyer thinking of switching to DL from UA Gold

Old Oct 20, 19, 11:19 am
  #1  
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Join Date: Aug 2014
Posts: 5
Question HELP - New job, more travel - NYC area flyer thinking of switching to DL from UA Gold

Hello,

I have been fairly loyal to UA and able to maintain Gold with mix of domestic trips + one TPAC per year. I recently took a new job that will have me traveling domestically a lot more (including TCON) and making 1 to 3 TALTs with a possible occasional TPAC for a conference every other year. My company approves economy only for domestic but pays for Premium Economy for int'l (not for TCON). Leaning towards doing a status match challenge and switching to DL, mainly due to my proximity to LGA and its frequent direct flights to places I will frequent (such as BOS and DCA, but will probably intermix Amtrak for these as Acela service is close to office). Still, I want to get the views of DL flyers to make sure I am not missing anything. Here are details

Home location/Home airport
- Live in Westchester, closest to HPN and LGA (JFK and EWR are more equal in total drive time usually, with EWR being slightly more expensive for Uber due to tolls)
- Work in Midtown (34th between 5th and 6th), and often depart (and sometimes return) to office rather than home, prefer trains (thus EWR and JFK work well)
- In sum, DL is better out of LGA and JFK sometimes better than EWR, and DL is wayyy better (very limited still) out of HPN which I want to consider more often.

Domestic Destinations
- Frequently (at least 1x if not 2x-4x a year) - BOS, DCA, IAH, LAX, SEA, LAS, MCO, FLL, TPA
- Occasionally (maybe 1x a year, not every year) - SFO, SAN, PHX, PDX, RSW, ORD, DFW, CHS, BNA, MIA, ATL, CLT, DEN, and other big US cities

Int'l Destinations
- Frequently (up to once per year, maybe not all though in a given year) - CPH, ARN, HEL, WAW
- Randomly (will occasionally have to go) - London, FRA, CDG, MUN, OSL, HKG, PVG, Tokyo, and other major European cities (Asian ones less so)

Total Miles/Spend Anticipated
- I am comfortable in estimating I will be able to hit 75k miles flown and around $8-$10k in qualified spending, but I could see it jumping over 100k miles and to $12-$15k in spending in a given year
- Thus, one issue I have with DL vs US is not having a status level at the 100K miles mark, it seems like Diamond may be out of reach but 1K is obtainable (less certain under the new PQP for '20)
- Given that I am often booking at about 2 weeks out, the spend level could be higher, and given that UA now better gives credit for Int'l partners, am I missing out on higher status on UA especially if people leave and flood DL in the NYC region?

Other details maybe important for consideration in recommendation
- I have the Amex Plat for DL lounge access, also have a UA club card and would get rid of and either go to no-fee or lower fee DL card (or maybe higher fee DL card and downgrade the Plat) Thoughts?
- Have and earn a lot Chase UR points (partially why I like UA for redemption), but find using pay with points via CSR 1.5 cent better than limited award availability and timing (worse with new job)
- I used to be more in private consulting and thus had to pay own expenses (sometimes reimbursable), now travel with corp card (thus, more sensitive to schedule and less to cost of Ubers, I used to preference EWR as it was cheap and easy via NJT, but now can use Uber/Taxi/car service as I please)
- Have high status with Marriott and will thus be able to keep UA silver for what is worth (if I do the switch)
- My company uses a travel vendor (concur software) but lets me pick flights/times and considers DL and UA preferred airlines and makes me use corp CC to pay for travel (no more earning miles/points via reimbursable expenses, sigh)

Most Important Considerations (and current thoughts for you to judge)
1. Schedule/flexibility (and ability to get nonstop) - I think that given where I live, I have to give this one to DL (but EWR has served me fine for past two years when I moved there) - This is mainly due to better service out of LGA and HPN (however, I think UA via Star Alliance is better for my European travel due to SAS and LH, but is KLM, AF, and VA just as good?)
2. Benefits of Status at level I can reasonably be sure I'll obtain - I like that UA Gold gives me access to Econ + at booking, seems like I will need to hit DL Plat for same? (can someone quickly explain difference with Delta Comfort?)
3. Service during IRROPS - I want to get home, honestly have had mostly good experiences with UA personally, and am afraid of DL at LGA for this reason (especially during winter)
4. Quality of lounges - UA is really mixed in this category (EWR is awful and crowded), SkyClubs seem mixed as well - thoughts? I use lounges to get work done often, as I like to get to airport early

Questions and Input Desired
1. Is DL really as good for NYC as people talk about (I know EWR and UA take a lot of crap, but honestly I think both have improved in recent years)
2. Is DL a good option for me giving the facts I have laid out
3. What am I giving up with UA/Star Alliance
4. Tips, tricks to optimize strategy (including what credit cards to optimize DL experience, should I keep Amex Plat, etc.)

Thanks in advance!
raftermanfl is offline  
Old Oct 20, 19, 11:41 am
  #2  
 
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Regarding your question 4:
Keep the Amex Platinum; the extra lounge options (Centurion, Escape, Airspace, Priority Pass) are a big help when at international airports without Sky Club lounges (DL does not give elites access to contract lounges when in coach). I don't think the Reserve is good enough to beat 5x points on all airfare, and its lounge access is worse. It doesn't sound like you would need the MQD waiver for PM, so the SkyMiles Platinum card is less useful for you but the MQM boost(s), companion ticket, and Pay With Miles might still make it worth having.
CKDGM is offline  
Old Oct 20, 19, 12:13 pm
  #3  
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DL's operational reliability is a big plus for heavy business travel.

European connections through AMS or CDG work pretty well, although MUC (but not FRA) might be better, although it's farther too. (VS doesn't have a lot of service from LHR that helps with European destinations IME.) Of course, if you need smaller airports in Scandinavia, *A and SAS would be better. Some people like AF's premium economy and others don't, while DL is in the process of phasing in aircraft with these cabins.

For TPAC, DL flights increasingly do have Premium Select (what DL calls premium economy), but partners in Asia generally don't offer a version. PVG and HND (Tokyo) are well served, but DL does not fly into HKG on its own metal. The standard routings would be to use KE connections through ICN, MU through PVG/PEK if you're willing to go through mainland China (use TWOV), but the Taiwan based China Air is also a partner, as are Guardia and Vietnam for Southeast Asia if you ever need to go there beyond KE/MU coverage. I think the KE lounges in the new T2 at ICN are horrible while DL is in the process of opening its own lounge at HND, although for the next six to nine months the current contract lounge arrangement isn't very good either. OTOH, the old NRT lounges were excellent, so we hope HND won't be disappointing (and in the meantime elites in PS do not get access to that lounge).
MSPeconomist is offline  
Old Oct 20, 19, 2:48 pm
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SkyClubs have gotten better and better over the years. I'm really pleased with my "home" club, DCA. Where there are crowded clubs, such as ORD, Delta is planning a big new club when they move to T5 in 2021. Anew club is being constructed at SLC, another "standing-room only" club during peak hours. They are building a gigantic new club in LAX that will sit atop the bridge being constructed between T2 and T3. They've reopened clubs in DEN and PHX. They've built great new clubs at SFO, SEA and HNL. They are renovating their main club in DTW; same with JFK T4. The clubs in LGA are fine.

The only airports I travel to annually that don't have clubs that could easily support them are STL and BHM (There was a club at BHM before the old concourse was torn down). I'm looking at upgrading my AMEX to Reserve when my club membership expires in March; it will add AMEX Centurion Club access at LAS and IAH to the Delta SC network.
ND76 is offline  
Old Oct 20, 19, 2:52 pm
  #5  
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Are you sure the Reserve card gives Centurion lounge access?
MSPeconomist is offline  
Old Oct 20, 19, 3:13 pm
  #6  
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If the OP -- for whatever reason -- is unwilling to fly AA, then I agree that flying DL, and crediting those flights to DL or a Sky Team partner is the best option.

OP: what do you hope to redeem the miles you accumulate for? Domestic travel? International travel? In what class of service?
guv1976 is offline  
Old Oct 20, 19, 3:36 pm
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
Are you sure the Reserve card gives Centurion lounge access?
it doesn't yet, but it will when the recently-announced changes go into effect
WillBarrett_68 is offline  
Old Oct 20, 19, 3:36 pm
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
Are you sure the Reserve card gives Centurion lounge access?
Yes it will as of January 30th, 2020

Amex Delta Reserve Changes & New Benefit Changes.
MCO Flyer is offline  
Old Oct 20, 19, 5:59 pm
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Originally Posted by guv1976 View Post
If the OP -- for whatever reason -- is unwilling to fly AA, then I agree that flying DL, and crediting those flights to DL or a Sky Team partner is the best option.

OP: what do you hope to redeem the miles you accumulate for? Domestic travel? International travel? In what class of service?
Europe and/or Caribbean ideally, would use for business class if reasonable, but not if would be the cost of another trip or 2 (well maybe would given how many UR points I have). I also like using for paying for domestic trips, TPA to LGA for family to visit. Have xfer AMEX points to DL for that purpose in the past.
raftermanfl is offline  
Old Oct 20, 19, 6:00 pm
  #10  
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Originally Posted by guv1976 View Post
If the OP -- for whatever reason -- is unwilling to fly AA, then I agree that flying DL, and crediting those flights to DL or a Sky Team partner is the best option.

OP: what do you hope to redeem the miles you accumulate for? Domestic travel? International travel? In what class of service?
Also, are you recommending AA? They don't seem as strong for the NYC market so not really given much consideration, should I?
raftermanfl is offline  
Old Oct 20, 19, 6:20 pm
  #11  
 
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Originally Posted by MCO Flyer View Post
Yes it will as of January 30th, 2020

Amex Delta Reserve Changes & New Benefit Changes.
this is true but it also depends on how the ticket is booked. this all sounds like corporate travel and if the bookings are on a corporate card then Reserve doesn't get Centurion access. The DL flight must be booked on the Reserve card to get Centurion access.
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Old Oct 20, 19, 6:33 pm
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Originally Posted by gitismatt View Post
this is true but it also depends on how the ticket is booked. this all sounds like corporate travel and if the bookings are on a corporate card then Reserve doesn't get Centurion access. The DL flight must be booked on the Reserve card to get Centurion access.
That is good to know. Does it still work where you get SkyClub access with Amex Plat regardless of how ticket is booked? I'm pretty sure I have used SkyClubs while paying on different card, has anything changed? Also, assuming I want to keep my Amex Plat, is there any situation where I will not have access to Delta SkyClubs?
raftermanfl is offline  
Old Oct 20, 19, 6:35 pm
  #13  
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Random extra question - Is the bag weight limit with DL Gold 70 lbs like it is with UA? Any difference there? That extra limit has been very helpful (besides the free checked bags) when traveling with family. Thanks!
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Old Oct 20, 19, 7:50 pm
  #14  
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Originally Posted by raftermanfl View Post
Also, are you recommending AA? They don't seem as strong for the NYC market so not really given much consideration, should I?
It's complicated.

DL does have a stronger presence in the NYC area, and is considered by many (most?) travelers to be better run than AA. But I suggest that you have a look at the LGA Airport Wiki, the JFK Airport Wiki, and the HPN Airport Wiki (Google each) to see which destinations each airline serves from each airport.

I'd also suggest doing some dummy award searches on each carrier's website to compare and contrast how many miles each carrier wants for your award destinations on the dates when you are likely to travel.

The decision about where to credit miles is different than the decision about which carrier you will fly the most. It's true that if you want to try for complimentary upgrades to Business Class, you would need to accumulate miles in that particular airline's FFP. But if you're not likely to get upgraded on the routes you plan to fly, you might just be interested in things like priority check-in, free checked baggage, free extra-leg-room Coach seats, and lounge access. If you were to fly AA primarily (and oneworld partners AY, BA, CX, IB, and JL for your Europe and Asia travels), you could probably get oneworld status pretty quickly by crediting to Iberia. But if you credit your flights to Iberia, you could only redeem for AA's "MileSAAver" award seats; AA's "AAnytime" award seats are only available with AAdvantage miles. However, status in the AAdvantage program won't get you lounge access on wholly domestic itineraries; mid-tier or higher status in Iberia Plus will.

Lots to consider.
guv1976 is offline  
Old Oct 20, 19, 9:27 pm
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Wow, no one can fault you for not giving complete information in your request for advice.

I think that once LGA is finally fixed (what'll that be,10 years?) the answer to your query would be easier. Right now, all the NYC airports are hellholes, if you ask me. Consensus around here is that DL is probably the best at IRROPS--you seem to have gotten a different impression. The problem is that every airline at LGA is flying out of LGA. The airport is a mess.

Customer service and award redemptions with AA are bottom of the barrel right now. I'd skip that.

I WILL add a contrarian sentiment about AF and KL. A lot of people around here seem to prefer LH. I don't. I actually like AF and KL just fine, and think LH is kind of overrated. Between them, I think you can easily get to all of your Scandinavian destinations. People complain about CDG, but I think FRA is even worse. And AMS is generally considered one of the best airport hubs in Europe, I think.

I also think Skymiles gives slightly better benefits. You can earn generous MQDs on partner airlines (UA is just switching to this, I think, in their new program). Golds get lounge access on international travel regardless of ticket class (although you'd get that with your Plat anyhow).

And if you're keeping your Plat, you'd get easy transfers to DL without having to use partners.

Why don't you give it a try? You can always change back if you don't like it.
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