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CO/UA or AA better for Intl Biz to 1st upgrades?

CO/UA or AA better for Intl Biz to 1st upgrades?

Old Jun 19, 10, 2:23 pm
  #1  
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CO/UA or AA better for Intl Biz to 1st upgrades?

Hello,

I have a new job which will require me to travel in excess of 100K a year, almost all Intl Bus class to Europe\Asia! I live in San Antonio so routing will be easier via AA or CO (potentially UA\CO)! What is the best program for getting Intl upgrades from Biz to 1st class (if 3 class plane) including their alliances (i.e. Star vs. OW)?

Any advice is much appreciated!
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Old Jun 20, 10, 12:50 am
  #2  
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Originally Posted by gunpig View Post
Hello,

I have a new job which will require me to travel in excess of 100K a year, almost all Intl Bus class to Europe\Asia! I live in San Antonio so routing will be easier via AA or CO (potentially UA\CO)! What is the best program for getting Intl upgrades from Biz to 1st class (if 3 class plane) including their alliances (i.e. Star vs. OW)?

Any advice is much appreciated!
You can (easily) cross CO off your list since they don't have an F product.
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Old Jun 20, 10, 11:37 am
  #3  
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Your decision could hinge on where in Asia and Europe you'll be flying. Plus you're looking at something of a moving target, in view of the tighter integration that's coming between AA and BA on the one hand and the pending UA/CO merger on the other. Both of those developments could lead to positive or negative impacts on upgrade possibilities, but we don't yet know what those effects will be.

To my mind, it's a close call for you, with factors on both sides of the equation. If the F upgrade possibility is the primary consideration for you, then I'd lean towards UA unless, as explained below, you are just flying to Japan and China in Asia. But anyway...

As an Executive Platinum (100,000 miles per year), you get eight systemwide upgrades per year from AA. As a 1K (also 100,000 miles), you get six from UA. Plus you're just a quick hop away from Dallas, where lots of AA's international flights go from. Plus once you reach EXP on AA you have access to first class lounges when you fly internationally even if you're in business class, which is a nice perk. So on those count AA wins.

But AA has fewer routes to Asia, just flying to Tokyo and one or two cities in China (and Hong Kong not being one of them), I believe. And UA's international F is far superior on its 767s and 747s, where F has been improved in recent years, and is about on par with AA on its 777s, which are slowly being changed as well. From your post, it sounds like the best connections from San Antonio are on AA and CO.

One other consideration is whether you'll fly on the cheapest international business fare, which is called a Z fare. You can't upgrade that on UA. I believe that's also the case with AA, but I'm not sure. On the other hand, you can use your UA upgrades on a same-day basis to upgrade to F on Star Alliance partner Lufthansa (including on a Z fare), if the space is available.

What you could do, then, is join UA's program but fly CO (which already is tightly tied to UA in terms of mileage credits, etc. and will of course become one with it after the merger goes through) if you need the domestic connections to the international UA flights.

Last edited by Thunderroad; Jun 20, 10 at 11:45 am
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Old Jun 20, 10, 6:15 pm
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Originally Posted by Thunderroad View Post

But AA has fewer routes to Asia, just flying to Tokyo and one or two cities in China (and Hong Kong not being one of them), I believe. And UA's international F is far superior on its 767s and 747s, where F has been improved in recent years, and is about on par with AA on its 777s, which are slowly being changed as well. From your post, it sounds like the best connections from San Antonio are on AA and CO.

.
It's business class fare, so you can fly AA combine CX to HK & other asia location. So you can still get full credit
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Old Jun 20, 10, 6:37 pm
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Thunderroad answered your question nicely but until you completely understand the rules of booking travel within your new company, I'd play it safe & join both AA & UA, giving you access to both global programs. If you really do have freedom to book which ever carrier you want, then I think UA/CO offer you a good chance for upgrades in both EU & Asian markets, especially if you have flexibility in travel dates/times. You probably haven't considered this yet, but there are also many other differences between these 2 alliance programs, and while upgrades are very important, there are other features which may gain significance the more you fly. In any case, enjoy your "free flights/free miles" as much & as long as you can!
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Old Jun 20, 10, 6:47 pm
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Search for AA Platinum Challenge and get status before you start all of that flying.
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Old Jun 20, 10, 6:54 pm
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AA will now let you upgrade from any fare. It used to be that you could not upgrade from "I" fares - equivalent of "Z" fares on UA/CO, but that changed.

http://www.aa.com/i18n/urls/awardChanges.jsp
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Old Jun 20, 10, 6:59 pm
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Originally Posted by Thunderroad View Post
...cheapest international business fare, which is called a Z fare.
AA uses "I" for this fare bucket. AA does allow systemwide upgrades to be used to upgrade from I. (It is also possible to redeem miles to upgrade from "I". This requires 25,000 miles plus a $550 co-pay one-way.)

Note that AA operates only one three class aircraft, the 777. Many international routes are flown with two-class 767's.
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Old Jun 20, 10, 7:13 pm
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Originally Posted by cliffordchan View Post
It's business class fare, so you can fly AA combine CX to HK & other asia location. So you can still get full credit
CX is great and flying it in business class while getting full AA mileage credits is indeed a nice feature of their partnership.

Originally Posted by travelsavant View Post
JIC not said yet, "Welcome to Flyer Talk"!
Thunderroad answered your question nicely but until you completely understand the rules of booking travel within your new company, I'd play it safe & join both AA & UA, giving you access to both global programs. If you really do have freedom to book which ever carrier you want, then I think UA/CO offer you a good chance for upgrades in both EU & Asian markets, especially if you have flexibility in travel dates/times. You probably haven't considered this yet, but there are also many other differences between these 2 alliance programs, and while upgrades are very important, there are other features which may gain significance the more you fly. In any case, enjoy your "free flights/free miles" as much & as long as you can!
And this is good advice from travelsavant. Both your company's booking rules and the many other features of FF programs could affect your calculation of which airline and alliance best serve your needs.
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Old Jun 20, 10, 11:12 pm
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Thanks for all the great info... Basically my company will be booking me likely with only a day or two notice at best and always fully refundable fares, so I am guessing it will likely be "J" fare.

The Asia fllights will likely be to HKG or NRT with the occasional India or Sydney connection. The Europe bound flights will usually be London, CDG or as far as Dubai.

Do One World or Star alliance partner airlines usually offer comp upgrades to ExPlat or 1K members traveling in J (I know this is a really broad question)? Specifically Cathay/BA/Qantas if I were to go the AA route?
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Old Jun 21, 10, 5:11 am
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Originally Posted by moondog View Post
You can (easily) cross CO off your list since they don't have an F product.
I was going to say the same thing.

Originally Posted by Thunderroad View Post

One other consideration is whether you'll fly on the cheapest international business fare, which is called a Z fare. You can't upgrade that on UA. I believe that's also the case with AA, but I'm not sure. On the other hand, you can use your UA upgrades on a same-day basis to upgrade to F on Star Alliance partner Lufthansa (including on a Z fare), if the space is available.

What you could do, then, is join UA's program but fly CO (which already is tightly tied to UA in terms of mileage credits, etc. and will of course become one with it after the merger goes through) if you need the domestic connections to the international UA flights.
You can upgrade Z fares with miles/copay.

Originally Posted by gunpig View Post
Thanks for all the great info... Basically my company will be booking me likely with only a day or two notice at best and always fully refundable fares, so I am guessing it will likely be "J" fare.

The Asia fllights will likely be to HKG or NRT with the occasional India or Sydney connection. The Europe bound flights will usually be London, CDG or as far as Dubai.

Do One World or Star alliance partner airlines usually offer comp upgrades to ExPlat or 1K members traveling in J (I know this is a really broad question)? Specifically Cathay/BA/Qantas if I were to go the AA route?
I think the only carriers that offer the systemwide complimentary upgrades are US based airlines. You will be in C/J and thus be able to upgrade with these complimentary upgrades award to exp/1k fliers on AA or UA.
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Old Jun 21, 10, 9:01 am
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keep in mind that you can't earn AA miles when flying TATL on BA even though they are alliance partners.
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Old Jun 21, 10, 7:26 pm
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Originally Posted by gunpig View Post

Do One World or Star alliance partner airlines usually offer comp upgrades to ExPlat or 1K members traveling in J (I know this is a really broad question)? Specifically Cathay/BA/Qantas if I were to go the AA route?
As I'd mentioned, you can sometimes get same day upgrades on LH with your UA SWUs--though I should add that this process involves getting paper copies of the SWUs in advance to take with you to the airport. (Or something like that--I've never done it.)

No comp upgrades on the AA partners, generally. Over the past decade I've had two comp upgrades from J to F on CX out of maybe 30 or so flights, by virtue of my AA status. But this is definitely nothing to count on or plan around. I think it just happens when J is oversold and CX has run out of its own elites to upgrade.
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Old Jun 22, 10, 9:07 pm
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100k+ miles on UA in paid business class might get you in the Global Services wheel house. Doens't AA have something somewhat similar?
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Old Jun 23, 10, 6:13 pm
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Originally Posted by gunpig View Post
Thanks for all the great info... Basically my company will be booking me likely with only a day or two notice at best and always fully refundable fares, so I am guessing it will likely be "J" fare.
What kind of job requires this type of travel from SAT? Curious.
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