I have a confession to make, I’m breaking up with American Airlines. After all of the changes to the AAdvantage loyalty program and a lucrative Delta Air Lines Status Challenge I’ve decided it’s time to leave American. I’m sad about it. I love American, I love their crews, I love O’hare, I love the Admirals Clubs, but like all abusive relationships, this one must also end.
How It All Began – We Started Dating
When I started traveling for work I didn’t care what airline I flew. I simply booked which ever flight got me to/from my destination with the least number of connections possible. I didn’t care about elite status, miles, or upgrades. Very very quickly however, that all changed. I knew it was time to select an airline. After each flight I would assess the airline and eventually decide on one.
In July of 2014 I made a decision to exclusively fly American Airlines for all future travel, work or pleasure. Going forward, I only booked American flights or OneWorld partners. Often, I ended up paying a few extra dollars to fly American or taking less convenient flights to earn as many AAdvantage miles as possible. At the end of 2014 I had qualified for AAdvantage Gold status. It was my first taste of airline status. By far the most valuable benefit of earning Gold status was the ability to fly standby on earlier flights without a fee. I often would book the last flight of the day for less and fly on a much earlier flight.
Opening The Citi Executive AAdvantage Credit Card – We Got Engaged!
After a string of canceled flights, delays, and missed connections I noticed a billboard at New York’s Laguardia Airport. Like a diamond in the rough, this shiny beacon of hope appeared, it was the marketing posted for the Citi Executive AAdvantage Credit Card! By opening this card I’d have unlimited access to Admirals Club lounges, but more importantly, I’d have access to unlimited complimentary alcoholic beverages. (Note: Alcoholic beverages are limited by the Admirals Club bartenders………..)
I still remember the first time I walked into the Chicago O’Hare Admirals Club, I was hooked immediately! Free cookies, pub snacks, fruits and veggies, it was incredible. Once I opened the Citi Executive card and had access to the Admirals Club lounges, I knew American and I were destined for a bright, happy future together.
Reaching AAdvantage Platinum Status – We Got Married!
In 2015, I ended up flying well over 50,000 miles on American Airlines, short of my goal, but enough to reach AAdvantage Platinum status. I frequently received upgrades on US Airways flights, thanks to a generous upgrade policy while flying US Airways operated flights. I also received several upgrades when traveling on American. It was tough to part with 500-mile upgrade certificates, but I’ll never forget flying business class from Dallas to Seattle or Miami to Chicago. It was basically our honeymoon.
American Introduced Several ‘Enhancements’ – We’re Seeing Other People
Shortly after the merger with US Airways, American announced several ‘enhancements’ to the the AAdvantage program. I was disappointed, but still willing to stick with American Airlines. The most recent news, of American switching to a revenue based system (not surprising) was the final blow and I have come to the conclusion that it no longer makes sense to exclusively fly on American.
A few months ago, filmmaker Casey Neistat published a video about breaking up with American Airlines and I thought he was being dramatic, but I now understand where he was coming from. Choosing an airline is like entering in a long-term relationship and when the relationship no longer works, it’s time to move on.
There’s Still Hope – We’re In Couples Counseling!
I think there are still some benefits to staying loyal to American. Although switching to a revenue based system was a real blow to their loyalty program, there are still a few ways to earn elite status cheaply. It may take years for me to fully commit to American again, but in the meantime I’m going to fly American whenever it makes sense.
I’ve enjoyed staying loyal to American, but by flying other airlines I’ve started to notice there are a ton of things I hate about American and a ton of reasons I still love them. By seeing what other airlines have to offer I will hopefully have more clarity when selecting a primary airline in the future. Overall, I think American still has the best route network for my needs and I wouldn’t count out the possibility of returning to American in the future!