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Should I switch to UA from AA? What differences to expect?

Should I switch to UA from AA? What differences to expect?

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Old Jan 16, 17, 9:55 am
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: North Sentinel Island
Programs: AA Gold, BONVOY TIT
Posts: 705
Question UA vs AA - Should I switch to UA?

I'm based in Chicago and my travel pattern has been around 30-40k BIS miles every year. I've been using AA for a few years after some (several) bad experiences on UA and because they used to have mileage based FFP, which of course is now gone. Now that it's a new year and I only have a couple segments booked on AA I figure its time for a reassessment. I have UA Silver via Marriott Platinum so jumping ship would be easier since I'd have at least some status.

Anyway, I've done some pros/cons, let me know if I'm off base.

Non-stops out of ORD - UA > AA - they have a bigger operation.

Connecting Points - AA > UA - I'd much rather connect in DFW or PHX than DEN or SFO, EWR/PHL is a wash, and I think CLT is probably better than IAD - internationally I'm not sure but LHR is awful. I wouldn't have much occasion to connect at either MIA or IAH.

FFP - Wash

Partners - UA > AA now that AA has devalued too, UA has more available partners and booking online/finding availability seems to be easier

Operations - Not sure? AA has had a lot more MX lately, but this was where I always had trouble with UA.

Customer Service - Again not sure? It's been a while since I've taken UA, and while I've never had any trouble with AA, it seems like they are going downhill as well.

IT - UA > AA, AA's IT is trash. You can't do 1/3 of what you can do on the UA app on the AA app.

My travel is 1-2 RTs a month domestic and maybe 1-2 TPAC/TATL trips a year.

Anything I'm missing here or recommendations from the crowd? My question really is whether UA Ops and CS have improved in the 3 years since I last flew them.
rdurlabhji is offline  
Old Jan 16, 17, 10:17 am
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: London & Sonoma CA
Programs: UA 1K(until 2022), MM *G for life, Hertz PC, BAEC Silver
Posts: 8,954
I think it's six of one and half a dozen of the other and probably really depends if you are the sort of person who is inclined to make the most of a bad job, or someone who always thinks the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.

In many ways, it does seem that both AA and UA are keen to eliminate any areas where they might be better than the other so, for example, mileage earning was better on AA and it got eliminated. Where UA really scores, I think, is its huge partner network for redemptions. Everything has been horribly devalued but international redemptions are still relatively easy to get.
lhrsfo is offline  
Old Jan 16, 17, 11:20 am
  #3  
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: ORD
Programs: UA Silver, Marriott Platinum/LT Platinum, Hilton Gold
Posts: 5,116
To me the big difference is in operations. IMO, UA has improved quite a bit and AA had really dropped over the last 2 years. But that could change again 6 months from now if AA is trying to do anything to improve.

All of the other differences are likely to come together, meet in the middle, at some point over the next year...totally my opinion of course.

It's interesting you're looking at connections. Out of ORD, I rarely connect anywhere in the U.S. Most places I fly domestically (maybe 20-25 destinations per year) I can take nonstop flights on UA. When I travel internationally, I can connect in Europe (ORD-FRA/MUC/BRU) or Japan (or SFO). Perhaps you need to connect more on AA, or it has to do with the partner network?
JBord is offline  
Old Jan 16, 17, 11:52 am
  #4  
 
Join Date: Feb 2015
Programs: UA 1K
Posts: 717
If you're travelling primarily mainline UA and partners, I'd somewhat lean towards UA. If you're flying UAX, I would RUN to AA. In my experience, UAX out of the hub airports is as bad as it gets. I've had improving travels on mainline the last few years to where the majority of my poor experiences have been due to weather, but with UAX it's a 50% thing.
gold23 is offline  
Old Jan 16, 17, 12:00 pm
  #5  
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Telluride, CO
Posts: 175
This is so anecdotal and really comes down to personal preference as any of the three legacy carriers, IMO, have the same struggles: apathetic employees/bad labor issues on a recurring cycle, merger hangover, and similar cost models/investor/shareholder demands/pressures.

That being said, I am a long time UA 1K (lived near KDEN for a long time and now in the CO Mountains has made UA my only choice) and my father is an even longer-time AA Exec Platinum. I've heard more AA horror stories from him lately and I've had more delightful "wow, UA really took care of me during IRROPS, etc" stories to tell.

Totally unscientific metric, yes, but as someone who is/has been particularly hard on UA and has thought about jumping to AA or DL (esp now that AA is running year round directs to DFW out of a nearby airport), I think AA's decline has been bad enough that that with the small improvements UA has made, if UA fits you better in terms of route/network/hubs that UA is "better" in that situation.
bmustaf is offline  
Old Jan 16, 17, 12:19 pm
  #6  
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Location: Austin, TX
Programs: Airline Free Agent, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG
Posts: 1,585
Originally Posted by rdurlabhji View Post
Anyway, I've done some pros/cons, let me know if I'm off base.

Non-stops out of ORD - UA > AA - they have a bigger operation.

Connecting Points - AA > UA - I'd much rather connect in DFW or PHX than DEN or SFO, EWR/PHL is a wash, and I think CLT is probably better than IAD - internationally I'm not sure but LHR is awful. I wouldn't have much occasion to connect at either MIA or IAH.

FFP - Wash

Partners - UA > AA now that AA has devalued too, UA has more available partners and booking online/finding availability seems to be easier

Operations - Not sure? AA has had a lot more MX lately, but this was where I always had trouble with UA.

Customer Service - Again not sure? It's been a while since I've taken UA, and while I've never had any trouble with AA, it seems like they are going downhill as well.

IT - UA > AA, AA's IT is trash. You can't do 1/3 of what you can do on the UA app on the AA app.

My travel is 1-2 RTs a month domestic and maybe 1-2 TPAC/TATL trips a year.

Anything I'm missing here or recommendations from the crowd? My question really is whether UA Ops and CS have improved in the 3 years since I last flew them.
FFP: I'd say UA > AA now that AA devalued it's FFP. UA also doesn't charge sky high "fuel surcharges" on TATL award tickets like AA on awards involving BA.

Other areas:
E+: UA > AA. UA planes have more E+ seats than AA planes, which means better chances of UA silver (equivalent to AA Gold) getting free E+ at check-in. Plus, the LUS planes (except for the A319) do not have E+ section.

Long haul business: UA > AA, UA is 100% lie flats while AA still has many planes with angled seats.

Domestic upgrades: wash

App: AA has one advantage in you can track your checked luggage

Last edited by Austin787; Jan 16, 17 at 12:26 pm
Austin787 is offline  
Old Jan 16, 17, 12:50 pm
  #7  
cur
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Programs: fwp blood diamond, dykwia uranium
Posts: 7,140
yes. united is better. but i'm a non fussy, carry on only, long haul in y, mostly thru iah kinda ua customer. the airline has bailed me out of quite a few some jams and also did some nice goodwill stuff as a ua platinum. just sucks when you get a senior crew that act ratchet but otherwise everything else has gotten better. can't really comment on bag delivery, i'm 2 for 4 with on time bag delivery, on ua last 12 months, 2 of those occuring during wx irrops.
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Old Jan 16, 17, 1:31 pm
  #8  
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Join Date: Jul 2014
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Programs: AA Gold, BONVOY TIT
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Originally Posted by JBord View Post
To me the big difference is in operations. IMO, UA has improved quite a bit and AA had really dropped over the last 2 years. But that could change again 6 months from now if AA is trying to do anything to improve.

All of the other differences are likely to come together, meet in the middle, at some point over the next year...totally my opinion of course.

It's interesting you're looking at connections. Out of ORD, I rarely connect anywhere in the U.S. Most places I fly domestically (maybe 20-25 destinations per year) I can take nonstop flights on UA. When I travel internationally, I can connect in Europe (ORD-FRA/MUC/BRU) or Japan (or SFO). Perhaps you need to connect more on AA, or it has to do with the partner network?
Thanks everyone for the helpful responses.

The only places I really end up connecting are to get to the outstations in the LA area (ONT or BUR) or oddball places in Texas. Although for example on an upcoming trip to Birmingham UA has a nonstop but AA doesn't (on the other hand, AA has a nonstop to Charlottesville but UA doesn't).

It does seem like UA is trending in the right direction while AA is sliding, which is kind of why it seems like a good time to jump ship.
rdurlabhji is offline  
Old Jan 16, 17, 3:46 pm
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jan 2017
Programs: UA
Posts: 324
For me, it got slightly better about 18months ago, and either I've had a run of bad luck or UA has started sinking again recently.
TominLazybrook is offline  
Old Jan 22, 17, 12:50 pm
  #10  
 
Join Date: May 2015
Location: Munich, Deutscheland
Programs: Try to be elite again... :)
Posts: 472
Having been UA elites for about 4 years (usually either Premier Platinum or Premier 1K) and I want to say that I have a feeling upgrades work worse in UA than in AA. For long haul international flights I have been flying with AA from US to Germany last year during Jan and Feb 5 times and all my flights got upgraded through SWU. But none of the UA flights this year (flew 4 times already, all booked with eligible upgradable fare class) I wonder whether people have the same feeling? I also found UA flights are much more occupied....

people have the same feeling? I am in the middle of deciding my flights for February now...
Tommys888 is offline  
Old Jan 22, 17, 12:53 pm
  #11  
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Location: NYC (Primarily EWR)
Programs: UA 1K / *G; Marriott Bonvoy Gold; ALL Gold; Hertz PC
Posts: 8,032
Originally Posted by Tommys888 View Post
Having been UA elites for about 4 years (usually either Premier Platinum or Premier 1K) and I want to say that I have a feeling upgrades work worse in UA than in AA. For long haul international flights I have been flying with AA from US to Germany last year during Jan and Feb 5 times and all my flights got upgraded through SWU. But none of the UA flights this year (flew 4 times already, all booked with eligible upgradable fare class) I wonder whether people have the same feeling? I also found UA flights are much more occupied....

people have the same feeling? I am in the middle of deciding my flights for February now...
To be fair, US-Germany is probably heavy on *A elites (given LH is part of *A). Imagine that an off-hub international route on OW means that AA folks have a better shot (perhaps?).
PsiFighter37 is offline  
Old Jan 22, 17, 1:01 pm
  #12  
 
Join Date: Mar 2012
Programs: Mileage Plus 1K; Marriott Platinum; Hilton Gold
Posts: 6,355
Originally Posted by Tommys888 View Post
Having been UA elites for about 4 years (usually either Premier Platinum or Premier 1K) and I want to say that I have a feeling upgrades work worse in UA than in AA. For long haul international flights I have been flying with AA from US to Germany last year during Jan and Feb 5 times and all my flights got upgraded through SWU. But none of the UA flights this year (flew 4 times already, all booked with eligible upgradable fare class) I wonder whether people have the same feeling? I also found UA flights are much more occupied....

people have the same feeling? I am in the middle of deciding my flights for February now...
I'm in Germany at present. Used GPU on UA58 SFO-FRA, and will a have confirmed upgrade on the return UA59 to SFO. I think it depends what US gateway you're departing from. This month there's more R space that I could see out of SFO than ORD or EWR, for example.
transportprof is offline  
Old Jan 22, 17, 1:42 pm
  #13  
 
Join Date: Mar 2016
Location: Tampa, FL
Programs: UA 1.5mm, *gold, AA - P, Marriot Platinum
Posts: 65
If redeeming miles is important to you, then UA spanks AA. I am switching back to UA this year (made Platinum last year on AA to test it out) because every time I go to redeem for an award, availability on AA for Saver awards is mostly non-existent. What good are accumulating miles if you cannot use them?
Jeffw5555 is offline  
Old Jan 22, 17, 2:01 pm
  #14  
 
Join Date: May 2015
Location: Munich, Deutscheland
Programs: Try to be elite again... :)
Posts: 472
Primarily fly out from Houston to Frankfurt... did not get any upgrades. Flew last year same time from Philadelphia to Munich all upgraded...
Tommys888 is offline  
Old Jan 22, 17, 2:12 pm
  #15  
 
Join Date: Mar 2016
Location: Tampa, FL
Programs: UA 1.5mm, *gold, AA - P, Marriot Platinum
Posts: 65
Here is an example. You are based out of ORD, which is a place I book award tickets to all the time as I have a daughter in college up your way. I live in Tampa. I typically would prefer for her to travel on the weekend, so let's look at one-way availability a month out, in this case Saturday Feb 25, for ORD to TPA. United shows me three nonstops that day that are available, two of them are Saver awards at 12.5K. The third nonstop is at 25K Standard.

AA is much more devious. If you look at that date, they show Saver availability, but if you look at it, there is just one flight, and it is NOT a nonstop, it is a terrible connection thru CLT with a 3 1/2 hour layover. If you then select Standard awards, you then can see their three nonstops, each at 30K.

If you look going forward, you cannot find Saver availability on any nonstop on AA from ORD to TPA. None, at least a few months out. They do not make nonstops available on this route unless you look out as far as 6-10 months, and then they have maybe one of the nonstops (usually last of the day).

So to me, AA miles are worth only about a third of what UA miles are worth.
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