I’ve been keeping a pretty steady pace of travel this year, a bit more than I’d really like. After a while, domestic coach flying just ain’t fun. I was scheduled to fly cross-country today on American, from IAD to SFO, connecting in DFW. I don’t do a lot of Friday travel, one of the busier travel days of the week. That’s a decent part of the reason I maintain such a high upgrade percentage on American Airlines, well over 95% the last 4 years.
My upgrade out of Washington-Dulles cleared right at 100 hours, the earliest upgrades clear for Executive Platinum members. I pre-selected the beef tenderloin salad for lunch. American has been rolling out new benefits, including the ability to pre-select your meal on most domestic flights. I’d heard others tell me that the flight attendants hadn’t been practicing this on a regular basis or weren’t getting the information. So far, I hadn’t had any issues but today was a good test. I didn’t get much sleep the night before and airplane engines have this wondrous effect on me, they put me to sleep!
I dozed through meal service and woke up as the flight attendant was collecting everyone’s trays. She spotted that I was awake just about as soon as I woke up and came over to greet me. Before I could really say anything, she noted that I had selected the beef tenderloin salad and she was holding it for me. Great! It was a bit different from the beef tenderloin salad I’d had the last few weeks with teriyaki ginger dressing and udon noodles. This one was more savory, lightly crusted with herbs. All in all, I think I prefer the tenderloin with ginger dressing and this steak was cooked a bit more than I like it. But, a solid airplane meal none the less.
My second flight was DFW-SFO. This one did not clear prior to getting to the airport. I wasn’t expecting it to, Friday night to San Francisco and all. In fact, if there was a segment to miss, this was the one. It looked like I was going to miss the upgrade by one seat earlier in the morning. By the time I got to DFW things looked a bit worse as that seat had been taken (not sure by another EXP or someone buying a full-fare coach or First seat). I was meeting a colleague at the gate as we were both flying on to SFO together, though on separate records.
I got to the gate a few moments prior to boarding and the gate agent was calling my name (always a good sign). I had scored the upgrade (yay!). In a random moment of kindness, I gave the upgrade to my colleague who towers over me at 6’5″ and didn’t have a great seat due to no status. The gate agent saw what I was doing and immediately found me a bulkhead aisle seat, so things wouldn’t be all that bad for me on my second flight.
Since a decent amount of time has passed between my last visit to coach, I hadn’t seen the new menu. Another nice benefit Executive Platinum members receive is a free alcoholic drink and food item in coach. I took a gander at the new menu.
Nothing earth shattering and I wasn’t super hungry after the tenderloin salad. I chose the cheese platter which hit the spot.
I’ve had 29 flights on American Airlines this year. Counting these two upgrades today I’m still 100% for the year, 29 for 29.
Compare that to my United experience this year. If my math is correct, I’ve missed 4 upgrades on 10 flights. That’s right in line with last year’s upgrade percentage on United, though a much smaller sample size so far this year.
I’ve had wi-fi on both flights, gotten a ton of work done. I’ve enjoyed good food and good snacks, though I passed on the free wine since I need to drive when I land. Some of my fellow business travelers decry me for connecting on flights when I could fly direct on United. On this specific flight, United was over $400 more for the flight. I highly doubt I would have cleared a Friday evening hub-to-hub flight on United.
Just about midway through the year and I’m happy with my decision to try to focus more on American. They recognize my status, upgrade me and provide good service (and even provide me the occasional snack when I choose to sit in coach). That might not be the case in the future, but it is now. And, that’s just fine with me.