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Whats the "right" alliance & airline for me

Whats the "right" alliance & airline for me

Old Mar 1, 10, 9:58 am
  #1  
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Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Los Angeles
Programs: Hyatt, SPG, Hilton, Choice, WN, AA, BA, UA, HA, Avis
Posts: 1,161
Whats the "right" alliance & airline for me

So I've been reading heavily into the insightful threads all over the forums, but still need some suggestions specific to my travels.

My background info:

1) Based in LA, fly almost exclusively out of LAX (have occasionally used Burbank for special deals and what not). I'm not willing to drive down to the OC or other airports which are further away.

2) My business travel consists of bi-weekly flights from LAX to OAK. I've been a member of Southwest RR for a number of years for this and thats not going to change much.

3) I would say the rest of my 'personal' travel consists of 1 or 2 trips per year when I get some vacation time. Almost always within the 50 States. Future places I want to visit, in no particular order, in the next few years: Savannah, Charleston, Chicago, Miami, Boston, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Denver, Hawaii, Washington DC.

4) Currently, I dont do much international travel, but it would be nice to have that option & flexibility in the future, particularly South America (Brazil, Argentina, etc).

5) Service to Israel would be nice if possible

6) Service to Africa/Asia is least-important

7) I have an AMEX Premier Gold card, which I put 95% of my expenses on... roughly $50k per year. The only reasons I have this card is that (a) my employer will pay for the annual fee even though its a personal card for myself, (b) the 3x points for flights is nice since I do the travel between LAX/OAK.

My "priority" list is in the following order

1) Availability of flights
2) Best price
3) Rewards and upgrades earned
4) Special/fast check in or other services

I dont care much for airport lounge quality as I dont hang around there much.

So my questions are:

1) What alliance (and of course specifically what airline) should I consider joining?

2) Should I get a CC with that airline, or continue to put my charges on the AMEX Gold?
rajuabju is offline  
Old Mar 1, 10, 5:30 pm
  #2  
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: MIA
Programs: AA EXP 1M, SPG PLT
Posts: 165
Well, based on 4 and 6, AAdvantage with American Airlines might be the way to go, they are the best of the domestically based major alliance partners for SA, and probably worst for Africa/Asia. As for 5, keep in mind that you want to look at the alliance as a whole, not just the individual airline. No idea about actually getting to Israel, though.

For #7, I would say you are probably experiencing an opportunity cost. With $50K spend you could get some pretty good advantages from the right card, and the value of these advantages would easily exceed the cost of the annual fee for most of them. There is no problem having one card for general spend and another card for special purposes. It seems to me that is what you should do: Keep you current card for flight purchases, and get a more rewarding card for everything else. Seriously look into the SPG AMEX, it gets rave reviews and is widely considered one of the very best, if not the best, FFP related card.

If you do end up getting that card, please give someone on this site the referral for it, they get some points out of it.

From your priority list, AA is excellent in numbers 3 & 4, comparing favorably or vastly exceeding some of the other domestic airlines. The key for number 4 is getting elite status on anyone, they will pretty much all give you a priority line once you do.

The numbers I have not commented on I just don't know enough about.
Osteomata is offline  
Old Mar 1, 10, 7:23 pm
  #3  
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Thanks for the detailed review & response. AAdvantage / OW Alliance was definitely the route I was leaning based on my own independent research and I think you validated most of my own thinking, my only hesitation was that it seems like *A is such a "bigger" alliance in terms of carriers & destinations, but I think a lot of that is destinations I dont care for much.

With regards to the SPG card... Right now I have AMEX Premier Gold, AMEX Blue (which I dont use, just keep open for the $20k CL I have on it), and I also have a Citi Platinum Select MC which also goes unused (previously used a few times for balance transfers).

I was thinking 3 AMEX cards might be too much, and a lot of people seem to like the AAdvantage MC card from Citi. Would that be a good alternative option?
rajuabju is offline  
Old Mar 1, 10, 7:55 pm
  #4  
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: MIA
Programs: AA EXP 1M, SPG PLT
Posts: 165
OK, a couple of thoughts on your reservations and concerns:
One World is indeed smaller than Star Alliance, but not overwhelmingly so. 1000+ destinations to OW's 700-. Market share is comparable, with *A taking it by a few percentage points. But as you point out, its not just how many, but where do they go that counts.

For credit cards: As long as your credit score is managed and you pay off at each month, I don't think there are really too many credit cards to have, and certinaly there should not be a concern about too many of them being AMEX. If the card gives you a worthwhile benefit, has a reasonable (or waived) annual fee, has minimal inpact on your FICO (a hard pull on your credit while applying will drop you a couple-few points, but the unused credit that goes into the score might very well compensate completely for that), and you have at least one card that is not AMEX for those places thatdon't take it, well then I think it doesnt matter.

Finally, the Citi Aadvantage MC gives a very solid sign up bonus, and if you go with AA you should seriously consider getting it for this reason alone. Currently it has the added advantage of a targeted offer in which they give you 1.2 (or in some cases 1.5) miles for every dollar spent rather than just one, though that is a promotion that only lasts for a few months. Be forwarned, and this is just anecdotal, but I have found Citi to have marginal customer service and is very quick to jack your rates if you run late on a payment. ON ths plus side, the sign up bonus is really good, they have a concurrent checking account prompotion with reasonable benefits, and the seemed eager to waive my rate jack when I called to complain after I got myself confused on payments last year. One of the key in this whole FFP game seems to be: don't be afraid to ask for anything, especially waived fees and compensation.

So, if I were you, and IF AA was the way I ended up going, I would look seriously at BOTH the SPG AMEX and the Citi AA MC, applying a few months apart, starting with the SPG, making it my primary use card and aiming hard to spend at least $15K in the first six months for the extra 15K miles bonus. Then get the Citi, meet your minimum spend for the bonus, and after that use it only for AA flight purchases.

As to your other cards: since your Amex Blue gives you what you feel is a good benefit (which I am not to clear on by the way), I would carefully balance the value of having the AmEx PG and the Citi Plat Select MC: do you get enough benefit from them to justify the annual fee?

Lastly: Whatever you go with, in terms of FFP, credit cards, hotel programs, whatever, be sure and check or ask if they have a referal bonus. Sometimes it benefits not only the referrer, but also the referee. And even if it doesnt, someone will be greatful.
Osteomata is offline  
Old Mar 10, 10, 10:18 pm
  #5  
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Programs: Alaska Gold, CO Plat, United Premier, US Airways Silver, HHonors Diamond, Hertz #1 Club Gold
Posts: 128
Is there any airlines you want to stay away from?
jpmmracing is offline  
Old Mar 11, 10, 6:49 pm
  #6  
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: MIA
Programs: AA EXP 1M, SPG PLT
Posts: 165
jpmmracing, I cant tell if you are asking the group for your own curiosity, or asking the OP in order to provide advice. If the former, I would answer "Delta," as would many posters here, apparently.
Osteomata is offline  
Old Mar 12, 10, 11:18 am
  #7  
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: New York, NY
Posts: 21
I'd go with everyone else saying American is the best. They have better service to Central and SA
adamkornfield is offline  
Old Mar 12, 10, 11:24 am
  #8  
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Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Los Angeles
Programs: Hyatt, SPG, Hilton, Choice, WN, AA, BA, UA, HA, Avis
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Yes, I've decided to go with AA.

Have not yet signed up, but will soon.
rajuabju is offline  

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