Is this the end of our relationship American Airlines?

I remember the moment you accepted my status challenge. I had been a long time United 1K, but the Premier Qualifying Dollar (PQD) introduction was too much for me, coupled with fewer upgrades, so I bailed. All of my friends said you would be so much better, even if your aircraft cabins weren’t at the same level. 
I met that status match/challenge with an impromptu trip to India (visiting the Hyatt Delhi and Oberoi Amarvilas), flying on your partner British Airways. It was a 74 hour trip of a lifetime, I still share stories from the trip. It was an amazing start. I had even been successful in convincing my wife to do a status challenge from her United Premier. By the end of 2013, we were both Executive Platinum. A status we coveted and enjoyed for 4 solid years.
I even did crazy things to maintain status with you. My wife too! We did date night–dinner, a movie, and a Cairo transit–in February of 2015. It may have been our craziest mileage run ever, I look back on that as amazing fun. 
In 2014, my wife and I commonly did Date Night, which at the time constituted of round trip flight from DCA to SFO, via DFW. They were painful. The Centurion Lounge in SFO was never open for us, but at least we could rest at the DFW Centurion Lounge each way. I may be getting older, but gosh, I remember those trips as being fun yet exhausting, even with the complimentary domestic upgrades.
But things did change. In 2015 you devalued your award chart. I was sad. Many were sad. But we understood. United had devalued their award chart. Delta, well, we’re not quite sure whether they even have an award chart anymore. So we moved on from there. 
I continued to fly. In fact, my wife and I flew the cycle–sort’ve–closing the deal on our status in 2016. We had a double open-jaw flight from Europe to Brazil where we flew Economy, Euro Business, International Business, and International First. The economy part was tough for me. It took a lot, we burned many more miles than we earned, just to get to and from Europe. On the way home though, I did get Schnitzel, but you didn’t have any part in that one.
Then you changed the AAdvantage Program. Like United 3 years before, you instituted Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD)s. You changed the status paradigm from: “hey, you love to fly us, and you fly a ton, so we’ll reward you.” to “what have you done for me lately?” American, you went from the bigger, wider, global view of loyalty, to a more transactional view. As Gary Leff has said (though I can’t find an appropriate link), I am not my fare, but you now believe I am. 
I stuck around in 2017. I had my Executive Platinum status anyway, but I’ve found myself wandering. I don’t feel like I’ve cheated on you with Southwest, after all, we have the companion pass, and if you value me by my fare, well, maybe I should value you based on your cost. Southwest was cheaper. 
I still flew a few dozen flights on your metal, with varying experiences. You should really take care of that. I can tell in the first few seconds on a plane whether it is a Legacy US Airways aircraft, or a Legacy American Airlines aircraft. Wait, I’m not so sure of that last statement, because it seems like so many more aircraft look much more like Legacy US Airways. A lack of personal In Flight Entertainment (IFE). Perhaps I should look to see how many ovens are onboard? We know US Airways had fewer. Really, American, your aircraft don’t really pass muster compared to your competitors.
American Airlines
I won’t even let myself get started on your award chart. Yes, you devalued it in 2015, but the amount of saver space you release now-a-days is quite simply embarrassing. The joke within my circles now is that your “lowest level standard” space is the new saver. Every time I look for awards, I feel like I’m being slapped in the face. Another example where you demonstrate that loyalty means nothing to you!

The one shining grace of American Airlines

The single aspect that I will miss the most about having Executive Platinum status, is your amazing twitter team. I cannot say enough about the cadre of individuals that you have on your twitter team. I’ve been able to upgrade flights while wandering the streets of Taipei, I’ve been able to do things that would normally take 20-120 minutes waiting on the phone, with but a single direct message. If there is a single area that you have continued to do well since the merger, American, it is your twitter team. I wish I could give each and every team member a big hug. They are amazing, and they are your greatest strength.
But let’s consider that statement for a second. American, you are an airline, a transport company. Your greatest strength is your twitter team. Really, they are that great, but consider how many other aspects of your business that you are neglecting! We’ve discussed your woeful aircraft interiors. Some don’t even have power, and this is the 21st century. 


I haven’t made the final decision. There are still 3 months left in the year. Perhaps I’m naive, but maybe you will see the error of your ways. I am holding out hope. But, if you don’t, I have a wonderful JetBlue Mosaic challenge that I plan to make. I’ll also be looking into other status match and challenge offers. I’m not sure, but it could be refreshing to be a free agent again. 
But really, as I finish off this brief introspection. The saddest part for me, is that we had so much together. I can’t count the number of amazing experiences that we shared together. You were the first US Airline to take on the 777-300ER, and boy did we enjoy it together. To Hong Kong so many times, as well as a flight to Sao Paulo. My only regret there is that I never had an espresso onboard. But you have so much potential American, I truly believe that. But, you, who has one of the oldest Frequent Flyer programs, need to remember those foundations. They economy won’t always be as it is now. Soon, instead of worrying about Voluntary Denied Boarding (VDB) candidates, you’ll be concerned whether you’ll have enough paying passengers to make a flight profitable. That is when loyalty matters most, and what you are doing now, is poisoning the well.
So please, consider the value of loyalty before it is too late for myself and so many others.


20 thoughts on “Is this the end of our relationship American Airlines?

  1. Hard to not agree with anything you say here. Remember AA wasn’t one of the first FF programs – they invented airline FF programs! And now they compete with DL to see who can be the least rewarding. For now at least AA still beats DL on using miles on partner airlines.

    Can’t imagine AA will change your mind in the next 3 months. They seem to have their minds made up.

    • @Dave – yeah, I’m thinking I may go to Delta. If for no other reason than to change things up… I’ve already played the United game and Alaska doesn’t have enough service to my area.

      • You’ll love status on DL, Last year when I was still Diamond I was 32nd on the upgrade list MSP to ATL. I now fly SWA as much as I can, the wife gets the companion fare and it is what it is,

        • @David – Fair point. So my wife has the companion pass as well, and I have been flying a fair bit on Southwest, but they don’t fly all of the places I want to go. Delta flies many more places, and the possibility of flying upfront more comfortably is appealing.

  2. I gave up the ghost this year on EXP but I will hit Plat or Plat Pro. I’m having a hard time justifying flying to hit Plat Pro status. The biggest plus is not having to buy 500 mile upgrades but flying out of DFW as a Plat Pro it is going to be tough to clear anyways.

  3. I wish I could say I’m surprised by what you wrote. But, the sameness of the Big 3 when it comes to loyalty is rivaled only by how much AA has degraded their offering over the past few years to get there. Welcome to free agency.

  4. I don’t think it has to do so much with “cash is king” as it does with their executive bonuses. Since Wall Street has a short-term thinking, the exec’s get as much as they can before it crashes down.

  5. I stopped flying AA exclusively when they stopped releasing saver awards. Now I fly based on times and equipment. With 2m hard earned butt in seat aa miles in bank impossible to use I often fly a competitor because im so frustrrated with AA.

    Jetblue has a great product with reasonable prices. Ive also booked tons of transcon first fares on delta (decent hard product – even on 757).

    Next downfall of the economy will make AA wish they didnt screw their loyal flyers.

  6. So many travelers in these circles place a ton of weight on the value of their upgrades and rewards and overlook what I think is still most important – relative reliability for flights to get you where you want to be on time. AA still hits those marks for me and thus I’ll still be semi-loyal (I’ve never been 100%). Maybe for people who live at larger airports that is a “given” on all airlines, but operations on trips I have to take will always outweigh a free ticket in my book.

    • This is one of the exact reasons I left AA. Unreliable boarding times, a ridiculous obsession over closing the door early and rolling delays that weren’t well communicated. (all reflective of my experiences, obviously – not discounting the differing views of others).

  7. All of the mileage programs have been devalued in the last few years so there is no longer any reason to be loyal to any. We now fly based on schedule, equipment and price. That’s what the devaluations have come to.

  8. First time to visit your blog (courtesy of Gary’s link). You are 1. older, and 2. have had some truly outstanding experiences with AA, so I am in that wheelhouse as well.

    All the internal issues of loyalty programs aside, the primary driver for the vast majority of us boils down to the real estate maxim: Location, Location, Location.

    If you fly from a smaller or more remote station, your options shrink. If you fly to smaller or more remote airports, your options shrink further. This is what drives traveler “loyalty” and the carriers know it. So over the years they’ve honed the reservations/ticketing operation to a fare-thee-well. There is no longer excess inventory; there is no bargain pricing. Carriers monitor one another’s systems from minute to minute. In my market, the price of a ticket on Southwest versus that ticket on AA never varies by more than 5 CENTS between the two. The systems automatically change the price such that I’ve had it change from one screen to the next while actually in the process of online ticketing. It’s the amazing software that has brought us to this juncture.

    Since Doug Parker hates Sabre and has a pending lawsuit against them, it’s no surprise that a new system is currently being thrust upon the AA employees, starting last month with the ticket counter folks. As it rolls into the gate agent computers and later during the holidays, into the Admiral’s Clubs’ computers, a traveler’s options will get even worse, as employees can no longer exercise the discretion and expertise formerly available to them in Sabre.
    You ain’t seen nuthin yet!
    The only way to win is not to play (War Games).

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  10. You haven’t left AA Trevor, AA has left you and all of us. I am doing a status match with Alaska and being a free agent for any non-Alaska routes. I just cannot keep trying harder and harder to get less and less.

    • @Paul – That is true – they have decided that we are no more valuable than our fare. Just not sure Alaska works well for an East Coaster.

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  12. I also made the switch from UA to AS. Been EXP for many years and prior was a UA 1K for 20 years and became a 2MM flyer with UA.

    AA is broken but fixable. I don’t see the latter happening with the current management team. There isn’t an original thought amongst them. I fly in premium cabins more and more across, AS and DL – every now and then with UA – still make EXP but wonder why the heck should I care when I can fly DL in domestic F get treated really good and not have to worry about high tier status. I’ve been lucky this year on delays – others I know haven’t and AA you should be embarrassed (but exec team isn’t one bit) on how operationally terrible the airline has been. I won’t recommend AA to anyone now and even if on premium cabins I tell them to pick someone else. If you don’t have EXP or CK they aren’t a great carrier to fly and even with that status you’re still taking a risk. Does Doug actually care? It’s clear the board doesn’t one bit – as like most US company boards they are all in a big echo chamber with zero understanding or ability on what’s wrong

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