2015 was an odd year for elite status for me, though a bit of status quo when it came to work travel. With American Airlines and US Airways integrating their systems in late 2015, there were upgrade issues throughout most of the year on US Airways and combined itineraries that required patience and planning. Overall, it meant more flying to more places versus last year, which was not the goal I set out for.
I set out with the plan to retain my Executive Platinum status with American Airlines and drop from Platinum to Gold on United (after dropping from 1K to Platinum in 2014). I accomplished the first part (EXP status) and failed (?) on the second part, actually earning enough miles to retain Platinum status with United.
The year clocked in with 149,000 miles, or about 20K more than last year. That’s roughly 6 times around the world. For comparison sake, where most people take 2 weeks of vacation over the course of a year, I spend just over 2 weeks (16 days) physically on planes.
It was certainly one of the most interesting ways I’ve ever gotten to EXP with American. Needing 100,000 miles total, I actually only flew 45k on AA. US Airways (now technically AA) was just shy of 30K prior to the system integration in October. And, I had roughly 30K on other oneworld partner carriers, including my first time on the polar route from JFK to Hong Kong. That’s also my new longest flight at just over 8,000 miles and 16 hours.
The year saw me add a bunch of new destinations, upping my total number of states I’ve flown to at 33. I’ve been to more states than that but not flown to some (Delaware is a great example, since they don’t have commercial service right now). This year also involved 11 countries, with new international stops in Greece, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Istanbul, Hong Kong, China, Martinique and Guadeloupe.
The effects of the AA/US merger are immediately telling when I look at my breakdown. Prior to this year, I had a total of 20 flights that originated or departed in Charlotte (CLT). This year alone I had 24.
I flew a host of airlines for the first time:
- Norwegian Air
- Cathay Pacific
- Turkish Airlines
- Aegean Airlines
- Spirit Airlines
- Air Antilles
- Air Caraibes
I also managed to experience the American Airlines 787 inaugural as well as fly from Austin to Heathrow on the 787. My second inaugural flight (Norwegian to Martinique) wasn’t nearly as glamorous but was just fine in its own regard.
In the world of domestic upgrades it was again a tale of two cities (2 and a half?). On 44 AA flights this year, I missed one upgrade. I missed 3 on US Airways flights but I’ll chalk that up to pre-integration issues.
United was again the laggard when it came to upgrades. I had almost 10 instances where my best friend David played the role of RPU fairy, upgrading me well before the complimentary upgrade window opened up. That left me 21 instances where I was eligible for an upgrade. Of those, I scored 10. That’s below 50% overall. You could argue that I would have cleared at a higher rate on the flights I redeemed RPUs anyways, but given that some of those were transcons and hub-to-hub, I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume I would have increased my upgrade percentage by much. The thinning of the elite ranks at United didn’t help my upgrade situation.
My elite status plan remains the same. Achieve Executive Platinum on American and reduce traveling on United. I’m even contemplating using Southwest a bit more frequently for family travel up and down the east coast as a backup to AA. I think EXP is an easy get this year for me, whereas I’ll have to wait and see how often I end up flying United. I think it’s fair to say the highest status I can see there is Gold. I’ll miss free award changes but not much else.
You’d think the upgrade percentage I’ve enjoyed on American would be a good indication of future results. I’d disagree. While I like the new formula of extra EQMs on business and first class fares, I suspect that will add to the bloat of elite ranks already large from the merger. And, I think the United/Continental merger has shown us the concentration of elites on popular routes and the resulting lack of upgrade space to accommodate all top-tier elites. I expect similar (though maybe not as pronounced) demand for upgrades with AA.
This year will also feature more new travel destinations. I have international travel scheduled for Istanbul (more on that soon), Vienna, Panama and Italy again, Brussels and potentially one more country for a summer trip to Europe. I’ve only been to 27 countries, so that means I’ve got may more to go.
Inevitably, other travel will pop up, but I’ll hope to keep the work travel down and the family travel up!
And, for those who like maps with lots of lines, here’s a look at my mostly complete travel history.
How did your travel look in 2015? What do you expect in 2016?
The post My 2015 Year In Flight was first published on Pizza In Motion.