Which Airline Should I Fly For The Second Half Of 2017?

Airline status isn’t as valuable as it used to be, but it still matters for business travelers.  I’m not scoring as many complimentary upgrades and the benefits aren’t as great.  But, access to customer service agents who have some ability to make decisions when bad things happen is still a real asset.  That’s why I’m struggling just a bit with what airline to fly for the rest of 2017.

I outlined my mid-year status check just a few weeks ago.  The bottom line there is that I’m just about done with 1K status for 2017 in terms of booked (not flown) travel.  After taking a hard look at the second half of the year, I have enough travel to make 3 choices.  My choices for the rest of the year are:

  1.  Continue to fly United.
  2. Put 55,000 elite-qualifying miles with American to achieve Platinum Pro status (their 75K level).
  3. Take advantage of the JetBlue challenge and earn Mosaic status through the end of 2018.

Let’s take a look at each one:

Continue To Fly United

I don’t see a lot of upside here, but I also don’t see a lot of downside.  The most I could hope for was earning 2 more Global Premier Upgrades (GPUs) if I got to 150K PQMs with United in 2017.  I don’t think that’s likely.  While I probably have enough total miles left in the year to get there, some of those trips are more logical on other airlines (or alliances).  In some cases, I might be sacrificing my time to earn those extra GPUs.  Without fail, I’ve never had a year where I was able to redeem all of my GPUs.

Bottom line?  Sticking with United is a safe choice but doesn’t earn me anything extra.

Put 55,000 elite-qualifying miles with American

I’d had Platinum Pro status on American Airlines as my “stretch goal” for 2017.  I didn’t think I’d have enough travel to hit 100K on both American and United this year.  I did think there was a chance that I could make it to 75K.

I had it in my head that Platinum Pro would offer me some upgrades over Platinum status.  I already have lifetime Platinum status with American Airlines.  Heck, I have over 3 million lifetime miles with AA.  The implementation of the Platinum Pro level really hurts my Platinum status.  Those folks get upgrades before Platinum members, when there are upgrades to be had.

Here’s the thing.  You think I would know that the actual benefits of the Platinum Pro level.  I’ve written about the level quite a few times since it’s announcement.  I even noted that one of the ways I might stay loyal was if American outlined a path to lifetime Platinum Pro status.

Except, there’s really not that much difference between the Platinum and Platinum Pro levels.  Upgrades clear a bit sooner (when they clear, which is another problem).  You earn a few more miles.  But, most of the fee waivers don’t kick in until the Executive Platinum level.

I guess while I’ve presented Platinum Pro (flying an extra 55,000 miles with AA this year) as an option for 2017, I’ve kind of told you not to suggest it!

Take advantage of the JetBlue Challenge

This one interests me.  In case you missed it, JetBlue has a pretty cool status match and challenge going on right now.  I have a few routes that I could fly JetBlue on to hit Mosaic status until the end of 2018.  Is it worth it?  My home airport of Washington-Dulles doesn’t have a lot of Jetblue nonstop destinations (JFK and Boston, to be exact).  Free drinks onboard doesn’t help me much.  But, free change fees if I did fly JetBlue is a nice perk.

The Final Two Pennies

I started out to present a compelling argument for all three choices.  I sort of eliminated the American Airlines one, but maybe you guys have some good feedback there I haven’t considered?  I hadn’t even considered that I could chase mid-tier Delta status.  At any rate, I’d love to know your thoughts.  Feel free to leave a comment below, and I also hope you’ll vote in my Twitter poll.

What would you do in my situation?

19 Comments

  1. I get your dilemma. Living in Germany the past four years, I’ve been able to earn UA 1K without worrying about PQD levels. With the affordability of business class fares on Star Alliance partners on long-haul trips to Asia and Africa, UA redeemable miles (+ EQMs) have added up quickly. After reaching UA 1K this past June, I decided to switch it up and start earning Alaska miles. My reasons are two fold: 1) like you, I don’t see much value in 2 more GPUs (even though I’ve been lucky to have used all of mine year to year) and 2) I wanted to try the A350s on Finnair and Cathay Pacific. Those airlines have great earning potential on AS. (I’ve already booked J Class on AY to BKK and CX to HKG for the end of 2017.)

    Personally, I’d recommend JetBlue. For me, AS Mileage Plan offers a whole new program to learn and hack and (of course) enjoy! I’m choosing the Alaska adventure over my tried and true carrier, United. Still, United is a good second choice should I need it and its alliance partners.

    So even with its limited Dulles flights, JetBlue–esp. with the Mosiac challenge–may offer the most interesting option than UA (or AA, but you seem to have eliminated that option all yourself). If IAD-JFK/BOS and onward routing becomes too difficult or annoying, you can always fallback on UA, which again is not bad second choice.

    Safe travels!

    1. Albert, the introduction of Mint to JFK-LAS is intriguing to me as well. Some of the times aren’t horrible connecting from IAD. You’ll have to let me know how Alaska works out for you.

  2. I’d say AA Platinum Pro is worth it so long as it doesn’t take much extra effort. Platinum status on AA still gives you your MCE seats at booking, and you’ll clear upgrades from time to time, but then you don’t have to worry about the 500 mile garbage if you have Pro. Just don’t force yourself into multiple extra legs over a few months just to do it.

    1. EJ, I’m just not sure if the free domestic upgrades are enough to push me over the edge. I’m sure I’d clear a bit more, but I already have a bunch of 500-mile upgrades sitting in my account. So, it’s really just the chance to clear earlier.

  3. If American had lower prices on the routes I fly, I’d fly them and credit the full mileage to my Alaska account. Sadly, that deal will be expiring. I’ve stopped crediting to my AA account. What’s the point of having the miles if award availability is limited.

  4. After flying more than two million miles with United, I can only say that my life is so much better after switching to Delta. Diamond status is very rewarding. I have had a few situations recently where I needed to make last minute changes. Delta waived the penalty charge. That never happened to me with United. Better customer service, better and bigger planes on short flights, better flight attendants. I know Washington is not a hub but neither is my home airport, SFO. To me it is worth the slight inconvenience to fly the better airline.

    1. Diamond Dave, I know there’s significantly better customer service than United, especially out of Dulles. But, the convenience of the schedule makes it awful tough to commit to another airline.

  5. I have a co-worker that’s one of the few existing PPPro’s out there today. Her upgrades clear pretty frequently, and she’s not often in the back with me up front (I’m EXP). We live in a big hub city. She struggles upgrading to LGA and BOS, but that’s about it.

    1. David, I suspect I’d do okay out of Dulles since it’s not a popular city for American. I am glad to hear there are some folks clearing at a pretty good clip, especially in a big city.

  6. Ed,
    Given your home location, [DC is in the southern part of USA], I’d look at Delta. For someone who travels/flys so much, I’d investigate what status challenges they have & if none &/or not so good, call & see what they will offer you. As a Delta Diamond, they seem to treat their top tier elites* very well & they have a good hard product.
    * if you can’t make Diamond, not sure if their other elite levels are worth the effort or flying time:)

    1. Maureen, I’m not sure if I can pull of Delta Diamond. I’d agree that the treatment of elites sounds pretty darn good. But, I’d be giving up a lot of time at home to connect on DL. I only have a small handful of nonstop DL destinations from IAD.

  7. 4. Fly whatever airline is fastest and most convenient to get you to your destination (and home to your family from your destination). I would give a “slight” nod to United, because of lifetime status and the fact (from what I gather) that it is the most convenient airline with regard to residence. One thing that impresses me with United, is that you can achieve lifetime GS. That’s impressive, IMHO, that an airline would allow you to achieve top-tier-uber-level for “lifetime.” Though, I only know of one friend that is about to reach that milestone.

    1. Baccarat guy, that’s almost always United. They have, by far, the most nonstop flights out of my home airport. I love the idea of lifetime GS. But, since I’m 2.5 mm paid BIS away from it, I’m kinda hoping I don’t hit it.

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