If you’re a business traveler, the availability of direct flights from your home airport largely determines your airline preference. Being based in Minneapolis, I’m a natural Delta flyer. Like many, I’ve been frustrated with the progressive devaluation of the program, the difficulty in booking awards, and (to a lesser extent) the new revenue tiers. I had a breakthrough a few weeks ago when I found out that Delta had canceled its direct flight from Minneapolis to Tucson. (I’m currently working in Tucson.) Since I will now have to make a connection to get to work, I have the opportunity to try out a new airline!
Looking at cost and schedule over the next few months, I determined that the most viable options were US Airways and American Airlines. (Delta’s schedule simply is no longer workable and United is incredibly expensive for some reason.)
US Airways was the obvious choice at first glance. The proximity of US Airways’ Phoenix hub to Tucson means that even if my regional flight to Phoenix got canceled, I could drive to Phoenix and get one of many direct mainline flights to Minneapolis.
The other viable option was American Airlines. Connection options include Chicago and Dallas/Fort Worth. Because American’s routing from Tucson to Minneapolis is less direct, the travel time is a bit longer, but I tolerate time on planes well.
After looking at routes, I looked at status. My objective here was, at a minimum, to have free upgrades to economy seating with extra legroom. Consistent first class upgrades would be nice, but certainly were not a requirement. This is where status matching came into play. US Airways required a minimum $200 fee to purchase a status match and challenge for 90 days, but American Airlines offered me a 90 day match to Executive Platinum status and a 25,000 elite-qualifying point challenge for no charge.
The generous status match won my business for American. The Executive Platinum status will have me sitting in first class on most flights and will allow me access to priority rebooking during the inevitable flight cancellation. The requirements of my challenge (fly 25,000 elite qualifying points in 90 days) are pretty steep, but one good international mileage-run fare out of Chicago or Minneapolis will get me there. I’ve said for a long time that if you can fly 100,000 miles/year and you care about international upgrades, American Airlines is the best program for you.
What American has to do to keep my business
To a large extent, American keeping my business depends on if they provide a good schedule between Minneapolis and my next project. I don’t see a reason to maintain status with American Airlines unless I am able to maintain Executive Platinum, so I will need to hit 100,000 miles/year if I am going to keep my business with American.
American must keep their usable system-wide upgrades. In my opinion, this is the reason to reach Executive Platinum on American. Since I travel internationally often, these upgrade certificates, which can be used on any fare, are a huge value to me and I fully intend to take advantage of them.
Handle irregular operations well. I haven’t flown American for at least 15 years because I remember being treated horribly during a flight cancellation. This was when I was on a vacation with my family and I remember thinking that I never wanted to fly that airline again. It took a long time for American to get a second chance with me. Let’s hope they make the most of it!
Readers, have you recently switched your business to another carrier? Tell your story in the comments!