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Help my mother pick an airline to be loyal to -- AA or UA?

Help my mother pick an airline to be loyal to -- AA or UA?

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Old Jul 14, 19, 3:29 am
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Originally Posted by giblet View Post
Based on the above, is there any benefit to choosing UA over AA?
Yes.

Setting all status issues aside, UA does fly SFO-LHR nonstop. With AA, at least 1 stop is required unless booked as BA codeshare.
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Old Jul 14, 19, 3:35 am
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I'm confused as to why people are saying they wouldn't get status -- two roundtrips SFO-MXP in Premium Economy gets 35,000 PQM on UA (or 24,000 in economy), and add another 2-6 flights from SFO-NYC which is 5,000 each trip in econ, and it seems like an easy path to status. Am I missing something?

Originally Posted by craigthemif View Post
If there are genuinely 2 trips to Italy every year, then perhaps the best bet is to look at flipping things around to get cheaper fares. i.e. premium fares departing Europe are usually cheaper than those departing the US.
Is this actually true? I did a few test dates and for most of them, ex-Europe is $200-400 more expensive in PE than ex-US. They are on this flight pattern now, though, anyway.
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Old Jul 14, 19, 4:17 am
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Originally Posted by giblet View Post
I'm confused as to why people are saying they wouldn't get status -- two roundtrips SFO-MXP in Premium Economy gets 35,000 PQM on UA (or 24,000 in economy), and add another 2-6 flights from SFO-NYC which is 5,000 each trip in econ, and it seems like an easy path to status. Am I missing something?
You are not missing anything. They simply did not say it out loud.

The issue there are different level of status. Just take UA/AA alone, if you want a status with significant (i.e. usable) benefit, like baggage and lounge, you have to become at least mid-tier instead of low-tier.

The travel you have mentioned will only land your parents to the lowest tier. Hence, the status becomes meaningless (sort of).

Originally Posted by giblet View Post
Is this actually true? I did a few test dates and for most of them, ex-Europe is $200-400 more expensive in PE than ex-US. They are on this flight pattern now, though, anyway.
YMMV.
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Old Jul 14, 19, 4:45 am
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Originally Posted by garykung View Post
The issue there are different level of status. Just take UA/AA alone, if you want a status with significant (i.e. usable) benefit, like baggage and lounge, you have to become at least mid-tier instead of low-tier.

The travel you have mentioned will only land your parents to the lowest tier. Hence, the status becomes meaningless (sort of).
I am feeling like a broken record, but as a low tier UA silver, I am loving my benefits. Getting to choose "preferred seats" at time of booking means I'm usually in the emptiest section of the plane. Then, I can upgrade to E+ at check-in. For all my flights this year, that's been successful. And I get a free 70lb bag as a silver. When you're flying back and forth from Europe, that can be a lifesaver. So I think that the low tier benefits are great and always mean that I have better seats and legroom than I would otherwise.

Plus, my parents would be able to get to UA gold in a year. So is the idea that unless you're going to get platinum (or equivalent) or above, it's not even worth trying?

FWIW, lounge access is no longer part of the equation as far as I'm concerned, with so many credit cards offering it now (although I recognize this is most convenient outside of the US where there are a ton of great Priority Pass lounges).
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Old Jul 14, 19, 9:11 am
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Originally Posted by giblet View Post
My parents are in their 70s and fly often between SFO-NYC-MXP or combinations therein. They are constantly flying Norwegian or Air Italy and then complaining about how horrible it is. Because they do 2 round trips to Italy each year, and between 2-6 SFO-NYC flights, I think they should pick an airline or alliance and try and stick to it and get status. They usually fly economy but after their last flight are now thinking of starting to fly Premium Economy or Business, and they are also willing to use LHR as a hub and take cheapie flight to Milan.

Based on the above, is there any benefit to choosing UA over AA?

The only one I can think is that UA waives the spend requirement for those with an overseas address (they have both). Any other differences we should factor in? I know questions like this are boring, but your expertise would be appreciated.
As others have stated, the only status they're going to get is something low-mid tier. Kind of a waste of time if you ask me, especially for people booking W or J.

With such travel patterns, I would personally use B6 Mint for SFO-JFK and EK for JFK-MXP. All miles could be credited to B6 or to EK and both J products are about as good as you're going to get. Other than this, Delta would be my second choice. In general, UA isn't great however still better than the disAAster.
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Old Jul 14, 19, 9:38 am
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Originally Posted by cmd320 View Post
As others have stated, the only status they're going to get is something low-mid tier. Kind of a waste of time if you ask me, especially for people booking W or J.

With such travel patterns, I would personally use B6 Mint for SFO-JFK and EK for JFK-MXP. All miles could be credited to B6 or to EK and both J products are about as good as you're going to get. Other than this, Delta would be my second choice. In general, UA isn't great however still better than the disAAster.
I gather that the OP's parents are contemplating flying in a premium cabin only for their two annual trips to Milan; for their several domestic trips, they would be flying Coach.

Even low-level oneworld status would give them a free checked bag per passenger in Coach; access to Business Class check-in lines; and free Main Cabin Extra seats (34" seat pitch, free alcohol) at T-24 (if any are still available). Mid-tier oneworld status (oneworld Sapphire) would enable them to select Main Cabin Extra seats for free when purchasing the ticket; and, if the status were earned through a program other than AAdvantage, would give them access to Admirals Club lounges even when flying domestically.

OP: I know you said that lounge access isn't an important perk because of credit cards that offer lounge access, but if they should end up flying AA in and out of JFK, be aware that the only Priority Pass lounge in AA's JFK terminal is a Bobby Van's steakhouse ($28 credit per person). If they wanted access to the JFK Admirals Club lounges when flying domestically in Coach, they would either need to: buy an Admirals Club membership; get the high-end Citi/AA card that includes Admirals Club membership; or achieve oneworld Sapphire or higher status through a oneworld FFP other than AAdvantage. That's why I suggested upthread considering crediting their trans-Atlantic oneworld Business Class flights to Iberia Plus, rather than to AAdvantage.
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Old Jul 14, 19, 10:00 am
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Originally Posted by guv1976 View Post
I gather that the OP's parents are contemplating flying in a premium cabin only for their two annual trips to Milan; for their several domestic trips, they would be flying Coach.

Even low-level oneworld status would give them a free checked bag per passenger in Coach; access to Business Class check-in lines; and free Main Cabin Extra seats (34" seat pitch, free alcohol) at T-24 (if any are still available). Mid-tier oneworld status (oneworld Sapphire) would enable them to select Main Cabin Extra seats for free when purchasing the ticket; and, if the status were earned through a program other than AAdvantage, would give them access to Admirals Club lounges even when flying domestically.
Even so, if that's the case, a couple trips to Italy and a few domestic economy roundtrips are unlikely to yield the $6000 (each) in EQD needed to hit Platinum and attain Sapphire. Not sure if the flying patterns would give them enough TPs for BA Silver either.

Low-level status can basically be bought with a credit card at this point. They won't be getting upgrades on SFO-JFK (EWR) as AA GLD or UA Silver.

Even in Y I would still say B6 is the best option flying SFO-JFK. In general cheaper, and better product. I just don't see there as being any benefit to enduring AA or UA Y on transcontinental flights or either J product on intercontinental flights for a checked back or business class checkin. Much rather just get a CC with such benefits and move on. And I would still choose DL over either UA or AA at that point if they're just really in need of some kind of status. Plenty of flights from SFO-JFK and JFK-MXP is also an option (who knows how long JFK-MXP will last on AA given their current track record of dumping JFK flights).
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Old Jul 14, 19, 10:20 am
  #23  
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Originally Posted by cmd320 View Post
Even so, if that's the case, a couple trips to Italy and a few domestic economy roundtrips are unlikely to yield the $6000 (each) in EQD needed to hit Platinum and attain Sapphire. Not sure if the flying patterns would give them enough TPs for BA Silver either.

Low-level status can basically be bought with a credit card at this point. They won't be getting upgrades on SFO-JFK (EWR) as AA GLD or UA Silver.

Even in Y I would still say B6 is the best option flying SFO-JFK. In general cheaper, and better product. I just don't see there as being any benefit to enduring AA or UA Y on transcontinental flights or either J product on intercontinental flights for a checked back or business class checkin. Much rather just get a CC with such benefits and move on. And I would still choose DL over either UA or AA at that point if they're just really in need of some kind of status. Plenty of flights from SFO-JFK and JFK-MXP is also an option (who knows how long JFK-MXP will last on AA given their current track record of dumping JFK flights).
As I indicated in Post #13 , two Business Class SFO-JFK-MXP round-trips on AA credited to Iberia Plus would yield oneworld Sapphire status; one such trip would yield oneworld Ruby. IB has no minimum-spend requirement; and unlike BA, IB does not require any IB flights to attain status.

An AA credit card would give you a free checked bag in Coach for domestic travel, and Group 5 boarding. It does not give you free MCE seats -- which have greater pitch than JetBlue's regular seats and free drinks -- or priority check-in, or free same-day standby, or lounge access. Even the OP recognizes that her low-tier UA status is valuable.

Yes, concern about whether AA will keep its JFK-MXP flight is legitimate, but given that NYC and Milan are both fashion capitals, that concern might be overblown. Time will tell.
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Last edited by guv1976; Jul 14, 19 at 11:25 am
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Old Jul 14, 19, 10:22 am
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Originally Posted by cmd320 View Post
Even so, if that's the case, a couple trips to Italy and a few domestic economy roundtrips are unlikely to yield the $6000 (each) in EQD needed to hit Platinum and attain Sapphire. Not sure if the flying patterns would give them enough TPs for BA Silver either.
This is why I was thinking UA might be a better option, because they have a foreign address so the PQD requirement is waived.

However, I have thought about all of the comments here and they may be better off just not flying coach anymore and choosing whichever PE or business class seats are the cheapest and strike their fancy (rather than trying to stick to a loyalty program). I like the UA silver perks I get, but they can just pay for preferred seats or whatever and don't need to "earn" them. So I guess the real issue is to just convince them they should spend the money and do it. So maybe I was actually approaching the problem from the wrong direction and the issue isn't that they need a loyalty program, the issue is they just need to fly business class or premium economy.

I haven't flown domestic in a while, but I also used to prefer B6 for SFO-NYC flights.
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Old Jul 14, 19, 10:25 am
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Originally Posted by guv1976 View Post
As I indicated in Post #13 , two Business Class SFO-JFK-MXP round-trips on AA credited to Iberia Plus would yield oneworld Sapphire status; one such trip would yield oneworld Ruby. IB has no minimum-spend requirement; and unlike BA, IB does not require any IB flights to attain status.
Sorry, I didn't catch this before. This may be a good option for them because they've also been flying Air Italy and they can credit their miles there to Iberia. How are redemptions with Iberia? I've never used their program.

Originally Posted by guv1976 View Post
Even the OP recognizes that his low-tier UA status is valuable.
Her
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Old Jul 14, 19, 10:27 am
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Originally Posted by cmd320 View Post
Even so, if that's the case, a couple trips to Italy and a few domestic economy roundtrips are unlikely to yield the $6000 (each) in EQD needed to hit Platinum and attain Sapphire. Not sure if the flying patterns would give them enough TPs for BA Silver either.
-assuming they have an address in Italy, they could possibly use it to avoid the $6k spend requirement for AA
-the reason I bowed out of the BA status game was the BA flights requirement
-the Iberia angle is somewhat intriguing to me, especially mid-tier because of the lounge access
-assuming Iberia points work the same as BA points, and are similarly easy to book, I would prefer them to AA points
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Old Jul 14, 19, 10:38 am
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Originally Posted by moondog View Post
-assuming they have an address in Italy, they could possibly use it to avoid the $6k spend requirement for AA
They do. But I didn't think AA waived the spend requirement for those living abroad. Do they?

Originally Posted by moondog View Post
-the reason I bowed out of the BA status game was the BA flights requirement
-the Iberia angle is somewhat intriguing to me, especially mid-tier because of the lounge access
I'm also intrigued, but wonder if there are any flights required on Iberia metal.
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Old Jul 14, 19, 11:18 am
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Originally Posted by moondog View Post
-assuming they have an address in Italy, they could possibly use it to avoid the $6k spend requirement for AA
-the reason I bowed out of the BA status game was the BA flights requirement
-the Iberia angle is somewhat intriguing to me, especially mid-tier because of the lounge access
-assuming Iberia points work the same as BA points, and are similarly easy to book, I would prefer them to AA points
Even though both use Avios as their "currency," the BA and IB FFPs are very different programs, so it's best to research each. However, if you've had both a BAEC and Iberia Plus account open for more than 90 days and have earned at least one Avios in each, you can transfer your Avios back and forth between the two programs.

I've gotten very good value from IB Avios for a four-segment short-haul redemption on AA. BA would have charged 30,000 Avios for the trip (7,500 Avios per segment); IB charged just 12,000 Avios! But Iberia Plus redemptions on AA are completely non-refundable, non-changeable, so that should be considered when planning a redemption. Fortunately, neither BAEC nor Iberia Plus has a close-in award-booking fee.
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Old Jul 14, 19, 11:21 am
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Originally Posted by giblet View Post
Her
Sorry about that.

See my post above for comments about the IB Plus program. IB does not require any flights on IB metal to attain status.
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Old Jul 14, 19, 11:24 am
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Originally Posted by garykung View Post
Yes.

Setting all status issues aside, UA does fly SFO-LHR nonstop. With AA, at least 1 stop is required unless booked as BA codeshare.
They're going to Italy, not London. LHR is a worse airport for connections (especially between different carriers when one must switch terminals) than some other major airports in Europe which could also get then to Italy within only one connection from SFO.
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