I’ve been mostly grounded for the past three months since my daughter was born. I made two quick trips to DC, just two nights each, and my wife and I also went to New York. Our infant daughter did wonderfully on the flights in both directions, and it was great to get compliments from other passengers.
With less flying, and spreading my flying out across more airlines more often than ever before, I only just requalified for American’s Executive Platinum status this week.
Ironically for the flight that did it I was in the last row of coach. My connecting flight home to Austin was delayed. But my flight to Dallas Fort-Worth got in early I managed to get on an earlier (delayed) Austin flight that was already midway through boarding. I was grateful for the back of the plane — and I even lucked out with the row to myself.
Yes that’s a stain on my shirt from the gulab jamun I ate for dessert on my inbound flight
American just sent out an email summary of the year, which is a pretty cool idea. It opens,
It’s been said that so much of who we are is where we have been. We hope you’ve enjoyed where we’ve taken you this year and are grateful you’ve chosen to spend so much of your time with us in the skies.
I couldn’t help but think of this scene from Hitch
For me this summary was just a reminder of how much less valuable my status has become. Here’s some of what they shared.
I only flew American domestically in 2018. Living in the middle of the country I don’t find myself on premium transcon flights or even widebodies very often. Instead I slog it out domestically on Boeing 737s. And there are now 18 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in American’s fleet, along with 41 Boeing 737s that have been converted to have the same interior (“Oasis”).
That means less legroom in first class (and a less comfortable seat, with obstructed underseat storage despite not having a seat back screen). It means less legroom in Main Cabin Extra and the rest of coach. The coach seat has less padding than before, which is okay for a short flight but anything three hours and up is painful (and they use these planes on flights over 7 hours).
My 100,000 miles flown earned me just over 62,000 bonus miles.
Before AAdvantage went revenue-based I would have earned 100,000 bonus miles. So I’m 38% worse off than before.
I used to receive upgrades almost every time I flew. There are more elites now since the merger, more passengers with a bigger route network means it’s easier to fly more miles — especially for people on either side of the country. Planes are more full than ever before, and first class is sold less expensively than it used to be. American is selling almost 50% of its domestic first class.
So what did Executive Platinum get me? What was it worth?
There’s a reason that I earned elite status with Southwest Airlines this year, too. They’re the biggest carrier at my home airport and they have the only legally permitted non-stop from Washington National to Austin thanks to the antiquated perimeter rule that United lobbies to keep in place. There are only a limited number of flights permitted to travel more than 1250 miles from that airport, and Austin is 1315 miles away.
I will continue to fly American Airlines. They are the largest full service carrier in my home market, and they have a hub at my most frequent destination where I fly for work every month. I will also fly other airlines too — something I didn’t used to do. There was a time when I needed to go somewhere my first and only stop was aa.com.
When even Executive Platinum status isn’t worth all that much anymore — while ConciergeKey status has gotten better — I think it underscores how much has changed about the idea of airline loyalty in the United States over the past four years.