As a frequent business traveler out of Denver, I choose weekly between multiple air carriers; usually choosing on schedule and price. In the past few years the experiences I’ve had with United and American have been very different, resulting in more of my business going to American. Let me compare and contrast the two:
I fly to Dallas a lot so American is one of my primary airlines. Because Denver is a United hub, I also fly United frequently. I have status with both airlines. As United went through their merger with Continental, United added tiers to their frequent flyer program. Whether perceived or real, I felt demoted when I received my new status. It resulted in shifting from group one to group three in plane boarding order, among other things. I was also given the option to buy status in a higher tier.
American, on the other hand, has analytics folks looking at my behavior and sees an opportunity for more frequent usage. Without any prompting from me, they offered me “Lifetime Gold” status and “Priority Access” seating without officially qualifying. I qualify for aisle seats, exit rows, and early boarding without extra cost and no annual miles commitment. They email me and provide me a special telephone number to talk to a rep quickly. At times they pull me aside and offer me first class seats and first choice of meals when they are available.
Another executive in our company has had a similar experience – and I have to admit I’m jealous of his situation. He got a better upgrade - to “Platinum” - timed soon after