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I have flown United Airlines once in my life, in 1999, Tokyo-Shanghai while in school.
Yet now I am 1K for 90 days. Amazing the things you learn in the miles and points world.
I have been a lifelong Northwest now Delta flyer, and it has generally worked for me. Except for a half-year stint in Miami, I have always lived in markets in the US and China where they and their partners have a strong presence.
Recent changes at Delta hit my travel patterns particularly hard:
- Changes to the domestic Same-Day Confirmed program that added complexity, uncertainty and fees, even for me as a Diamond Medallion.
- Twice devaluing mileage earning on partner airlines outside the Americas and Western Europe, those “other” regions are the bulk of my business and leisure travel.
The sole positive news this year for me is the creative Crossover Rewards with SPG. It is nice to have these points show up but not enough for me to shift travel plans.
I work in international business and whenever I can, I travel internationally for pleasure. All those years studying Mandarin and living in China have paid off at least in some serious mile earning. I currently have 254,542 MQMs so I am set for the next two years. Even if I don’t fly them again, I can get around the Medallion Qualification Dollars with the credit card or ‘moving overseas.’
So I need to heed the advice of everyone more sensible and diversify.
The miles and points cognoscenti favor United, but not actually flying them, rather their partners. I realize that as reluctant as I am to be based in NY and will leave the day I convince my wife to move, while here I should be taking advantage of the huge variety of international carriers and price competition. For one, Turkish consistently has great economy fares to places high on my travel wishlist.
With some surprise July business plans in place, and concern that Status Challenge requirements might follow last year’s pattern and go up July 1, this morning I submitted my request by email and was a 1K within 2 hours. Same offer as others have reported, “To remain a Premier 1K member through 2013, you will need to fly 35,000 Premier qualifying miles (PQM) or 40 Premier qualifying segments (PQS) on flights operated by United®, United Express® or Copa within that 90-day timeframe.”
Coincidentally WSJ’s The Middle Seat today wrote about airline Status Challenges, quoting a Delta flyer in a similar frame of mind:
Status matches also provide a path for travelers to vent anger and leave poor-performing carriers. Keith Lochwood, a longtime Northwest Airlines and then Delta Air Lines DAL +1.52% customer who lives in West Palm Beach, Fla., got fed up with Delta when the airline made it harder to confirm same-day flight changes and when his success at getting upgrades declined. He has Diamond status at Delta—the airline’s highest level, which gets him personal transfers between flights in Atlanta in Porsches driven across the tarmac.
Delta took it in stride, pointing out that bolting is two-way:
Delta said it is aware of customer experiences similar to Mr. Lochwood’s. “We would have just as many stories to tell of people who have had it with American or United or whoever and came to us,” spokesman Paul Skrbec said. “It balances out.”
To protect existing customers, Delta takes in customers through status matches at one level lower than a traveler’s status at a rival. A 1K at United or Executive Platinum at American is offered Platinum at Delta, not the higher Diamond level. “To remain exclusive and special, we make sure Diamond status isn’t given away,” Mr. Skrbec said.
Now it is time for me to regret all the times I have skipped over articles on United. My first flight will be JFK-SFO on something called p.s. and it turns out I need a RPU to even try for an upgrade. Wandering Aramean took pity on my ignorance and even offered one of his. What I know about United comes from his FTU presentation.
It is so tempting to fly to Japan on ANA later this month but, nope, I’ve got to find a way to fly United for the challenge, I hope the only time I make that trade-off.
I am realizing taking up a new airline is a mix of nerves and fun. I was in a rut with Delta. I am salivating at all the new nonstop destinations open to me on United and its partners, I spent the afternoon gazing at the Wikipedia pages for EWR and JFK.
First destination on my list is a dark horse. St. John’s, Newfoundland. I want to go to France, that is Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, and the ferry service is only daily Jul 1-Sep 15.
Here’s to a new dance partner in the skies!