American is going down the tubes. Award availability is never available, the service is going downhill, and operationally, AA is well behind the other legacies in terms of on-time performance. Complimentary upgrades on 500-mile stickers are the only sticking point for a lowly Gold member like myself. All this leads me to the question, is United MileagePlus the right program for me?
Being in the Northeast corridor, United doesn’t have a strong network. Last year, United eliminated key routes in the Northeast, which will require 95%+ of routes to go through Washington Dulles and Chicago O’Hare. But perhaps that isn’t a large issue after all.
AA’s Philadelphia hub is a mess, with delays and tarmac stalling almost a permanent feature of flying to the city. Washington National is only regional service on the terrible E-145 planes that can’t support tall people. And Charlotte is the one airport with rock-solid performance for my routes, and where weather isn’t a huge issue. While United will only have IAD and ORD available, perhaps these will provide connecting routes that work well for my travel patterns.
But, that’s not my only consideration in this thinking. Let’s talk award availability, or lack thereof on AA. It’s getting a bit frustrating to generate miles and then always have to look deeply for any meaningful award in the Continental US and to Europe. Given I have family in France / Germany, OneWorld and AA in particular offer a terrible route network to get me over the Atlantic. This is where Star Alliance and United shine. And not to mention, United almost always has awards available, even if they do require more miles to get a business class award to get there.
I’m all about practical points, and the difficulty to book a half decent AA award to Europe is getting to me. It seems flying United and achieving minimal Premier Silver status from work travel will help with finding optimal business class awards to Europe that I generally redeem miles for.
Sure, I could be giving up more route options with American’s large breadth, but United should provide benefits that I will surely take advantage of. Add in the generous same-day change policies with same-day changes (Gold status) and pairing with the Chase credit card products, and I might be a happy camper on that side of the pond. Perhaps the grass is greener elsewhere.