As you well know by now, United recently gutted their MileagePlus frequent flier award redemption program and split it into two separate charts, one for United metal and one for Star Alliance carriers. Let’s face it, devaluations happen every year but this has got to be the worst. In most recent years, it has happened with Aeroplan, British Airways, Delta, and now United. There are still some sweet spots with United and Lucky from One Mile at a Time blog shares the best ways to use your United miles.
Recently, I announced that I ended my relationship with Delta Air Lines. Their skypesos are worthless and I value them at 1 cent per mile. I’m happy to even find an award redemption that can be redeemed at 1 cpm or greater. I value United and American miles at 2 cents per mile, but now with the recent United devaluation, I value United miles at 1.4cpm. That is still relatively high, but flying on United metal in coach is still a good deal and I don’t mind bumming it in coach.
I strongly believe that the American Airlines AAdvantage is currently the best overall frequent flier program. Why? Let me explain. I’m only going to reference their top tier Executive Platinum program since I have been a member for 3 years straight. Previously, I was a Platinum elite for 2 years and started with a Platinum challenge.
Free Same Day Standby for an Earlier or Later Flight
I absolutely love the ability to Same Day Standby for free. It really helps if I want to get back home early. There are some drawbacks though. Same day confirmed is still $75 and will make you eligible for complimentary upgrades. You can’t same day confirm or standby on international legs. You can avoid the fee if there have been schedule changes in your itinerary and it will work out in your favor. Sometimes you want to spend a little bit more time in your connection or destination city and it helps to same day standby for a later flight. As an Executive Platinum, I’ve always shot up to #1 on the standby list and have always gotten on the flight I’ve wanted. In addition, the gate agents will usually give you a good seat in coach once they process the upgrade list. I love that the gate AAngels take care of EXP flyers.
24 hour Executive Platinum Telephone Support
I can reach an EXP agent in less than a minute usually with no wait time. The agents all speak English and from America (not outsourced to India unlike some airlines). The only times there will be a wait is if there are severe weather problems affecting certain airports causing severe delays and/or flight cancellations.
Free Snack & Cocktail in Coach
Whenever your complimentary upgrade does not clear and you are stuck in the back of the bus, you can receive a free snack and cocktail in the main cabin. This benefit is only for Executive Platinum members. You can get a Boar’s Head sandwich with chips ($13 value) and a cocktail ($7 value) for free! Many times the Flight attendants will give you an extra mini and often times check back on you to see if you need anything else. Flying in the back isn’t half bad after all!
Free Unlimited Complimentary Upgrades
I’ve only missed one upgrade this year as an Executive Platinum. I’ve cleared 99% of the time. The times that I do fly coach are when I am on an Avios award ticket or when I for-go my confirmed upgrade and standby for an earlier flight. As an Executive Platinum, upgrades clear at the 100 hour mark and the earlier you book, the better your chances. I always book my trips 4-12 months in advance since I have a flexible schedule.
AAmazing Onboard Food
If you’re confirmed in J or F, you can actually request your meal choices on AA.com beforehand. This eliminates the FEBO (Front even, back odd) meal service mentality and you sit in your favorite seat without worrying about your first selection running out. The food is amazing in Economy, Business, and First Class. Who can beat Garrett’s Popcorn Chicago Mix in coach? Tito’s Vodka is hands down the best smooth tasting vodka I’ve ever had. Business and First class food is like having fine dining onboard. Don’t forget about their delicious baked on board cookies and hot mixed nuts. My favorite dish is the Beef Filet with mashed potatoes and asparagus. It goes great with a made to order sundae with all your favorite syrups and toppings.
Fast @AmericanAir Twitter Social Media Team
The American Airlines Social Media Team is AAmazing! They can help you out for anything and there is no bad question to ask. They can help you with IRROPS (although I still prefer the EXP line), seat changes, flight delays, etc. The best part is that their response time is often less than a minute and their Social Media Team is available 24/7.
Expanded Award Availability
I was able to book LAX-DFW-GRU all in Business Class on a low level saver for 50,000 American Airlines miles for the World Cup in June when there was absolutely no saver availability on the AA website. Expanded Award Availability is only available for Executive Platinums and the space can only be viewed from the Executive Platinum line. (Hint: Always call the EXP line when you’re booking an award).
SystemWide Upgrades (SWU’s)
As an Executive Platinum, I receive 8 Systemwide Upgrades that can be used on any fare class on American metal. That means that I can buy a cheap $600 LAX-PVG round-trip coach flight and use 2 systemwide upgrades to upgrade both segments to Business Class. There is no fare class restrictions unlike other airlines where their upgrade instruments are basically useless.
Priority IRROPS (Irregular Operations)
If anything goes wrong, call the EXP line right away and you’ll be put at the top of the queue, usually with no wait time. They will bend over backwards for Executive Platinums and get your itinerary straightened out faster than the lower elites.
Possible Operational Upgrades on oneworld Alliance Carriers
Most recently I flew from HEL-JFK (Helsinki to New York) on Finnair and attached my American Airlines Executive Platinum Frequent Flier number. As a oneworld emerald, I was given an operational upgrade because coach was oversold.
Flagship Lounge Access
As an Executive Platinum, I absolutely love Flagship Lounge Access when travelling in any cabin on an international itinerary. Flagship Lounges are so much better than Admiral’s Clubs and I’ve written about them here, here, here, here, and here.
No Penalty on Award Ticket Redemptions
The best thing about being an Executive Platinum member is that there is no penalty for award ticket redeposits. Basically, you can change your mind an unlimited number of times prior to departure. Usually, a change fee on an international ticket is $250!