Why I’m (Still) Loyal To American Airlines And Why It’s Good To Keep A Stash Of Miles

There’s so much for me to catch up on from the past few days but I had a quick story that I wanted to share.  I’ve booked a handful of mileage runs over the last few years that ended up being canceled for various reasons, usually something to do with the family, like the 102.7 reasons I didn’t go to Igauzu (still high on my bucket list).

I booked a pretty crazy one that was planned for last weekend.  On cue my daughter came down with the stomach flu earlier in the week.  But, by the day before my departure she was pretty much back to normal so I made the decision to head out on my trip.  It involved about 14,000 miles over 3 days, a combination of non-stop flying with some sleep mixed in.  My friend Michael and I were on our way to our second pass through Miami airport in 24 hours when I received a text from my wife:

Feeling icky…temp 99.8….prayers that it’s not what Cat had but my stomach is rumbling and I feel nauseous.

Full stop.  Ruh-roh.  My next two flights were MIA-JFK, then JFK-LAX.  I had a separate ticket booked home to Washington-Dulles.  Translation, a LOT of flying left to do.  I knew well enough that my wife wasn’t going to ask me to come home early, she’s a great wife.  But, I also was smart enough to know that I probably needed to start figuring out how to get home soon.  That’s a lot easier said than done.

American Airlines

After scanning through all the available options I settled on a flight from Miami to Dulles. I was fairly certain I would need to dump my mileage run and redeem some miles to get on that flight.  After all, airlines live for moments like this, right?  You need a last-minute ticket from A to B?  Enter this guy:

American Airlines

I’ve been Executive Platinum with American Airlines for almost 10 years now, their top-tier elite status.  While I was pretty sure it would be a brutal amount of money to change my flight I practiced what I preach.  It’s always worth asking(and politely).  I called the EXP desk and explained my situation.  Sick wife, two kids, husband out doing a crazy mileage run.  The agent sympathized but was skeptical.  She started banging away on her keyboard and had to put me on hold a few times to talk to the rate desk.

A little to my surprise, they were able to confirm me on the non-stop flight home (remember, a city that wasn’t even a part of this ticket) for just the normal $200 change fee.  The reason I say I was only a little surprised was the reason I’m loyal to American.  It just seems like every time I’m in a jam and need to get home to my family they find a way.  Heck, they’ve even waived the change fee here and there when I’ve asked (psst, don’t tell Doug!).

Some may say I’m a homer and that the brick doesn’t love you back.  Some will say I just got lucky.  But, the pattern has existed for years, so I’m not inclined to call it coincidence.  I don’t ask a lot and they don’t say yes every time.  But, my experience here is significantly better than a multi-year sample size with United.  There’s no question this could change going forward with the much larger elite ranks of a merged American Airlines.  But, they’re going to have to prove me wrong before I just assume things will get worse.

While I like first class, I can handle being stuck in coach once in a while.  I can handle the occasional delay or mistake, especially given how many hundreds of flights I’ve had over the years. I tend not to get too agitated about the little things.  That’s easier to do when American continues to make some of the big things relative non-issues.  Am I happy they reduced the number of systemwide upgrades I’m going to get this year?  No.  But, I still try to look at the whole picture (including how they fare compared to the competition).

On this day, I ended up in a first class seat home to take care of my family (and earning a few more EQMs as I went).  Oh, and I was rewarded with a case of the stomach flu myself when I got home!  An appropriate end to a crazy few days, and the reason I’ve been a bit quiet the last few days.  More on that later.

The other part of the title was about keeping a stash of miles.  My backup plan was to use 20,000 miles as a one-way standard award in coach to get home (no saver inventory available last-minute).  The one-way fare was just over $350.  Mileage purists would say that’s not a great redemption, and I’ve certainly had much better.  But, there are plenty of folks that don’t have the extra $350 when plans change.  That’s why I always (always) view my miles and points through a variable lens.  What other redemptions do I have coming up? How much is the actual cost of the flight I’m considering?  It’s one thing to say that you’ll only redeem your miles when you can get 2 cents per piece (in this case, 20,000 miles for a $350 ticket).  It’s another to fork over $350 when you weren’t expecting it.

It’s just another good reminder to pile up those miles and points when you can.  There’s always a way to put them to use.

The post Why I’m (Still) Loyal To American Airlines And Why It’s Good To Keep A Stash Of Miles was published first on Pizza in Motion.

Leave a Reply