My work travel in the latter half of 2021 has been rather busy. Not as far in terms of distances compared to times in the past, but a unique mix. All domestic travel, except for one trip to Canada. While my own business travel has somewhat recovered to pre-pandemic levels, I don’t think most flight schedules have. At least it seems that way for the flights I need. For that reason, I’ve had a more diverse mix of airlines that I usually do. Besides my usual flights on American, in recent months I’ve flown on Delta, United, Alaska and Air Canada. This post is a discussion of some of my impressions. Of course, while I’ve had various experiences, there are thousands of flights every day, and these are just my own thoughts based on my trips.
Still my primary carrier, and where I hold the highest status, my upgrade rate this year as an Executive Platinum isn’t perfect, but it is somewhere around 90%. I’ve also had several massive irregular operations experiences this year. Sadly twice on leisure flights, but the focus of this post is my business travel. At least once I was stranded overnight due to operational errors…and then weather. Several other trips with issues are very annoying. With full flights, there is little to no buffer, and minimal alternative flights in times when things go awry. This problem is not specifically only with American, but as my primary carrier, I’ve experienced it several times.
I’ve said it before, and I still think it remains the case. As an elite, flying on American is mostly good. I have a club membership, and usually am upgraded, often in advance of travel. Little things like that do make a difference even on short domestic flights. Without the benefits of elite status, even as diminished as they are in the COVID era, I can’t really recommend American to others unless the schedule and price is right.
Delta is a nice airline in flight, but I see little value in their loyalty program. Still, I fly them occasionally for nonstop flights. I typically go to Detroit a few times a year, and if the price of nonstop flights isn’t cost prohibitive, I opt for them. An old A320 with a totally refreshed cabin including large overhead bins and audio and video on demand in every seat. Pretty nice for domestic flights, although food/drink service is nonexistent, which is by no means a deal breaker, does annoy me.
I don’t anticipate flying Delta a lot, but for my needs, they are definitely a second of third choice. For nonstops, I gladly have and will continue to fly Delta.
I have a long history with United. I mostly left years back after a lot of issues, despite a long run of 1K status, but at least I have Million Miler, which means United Gold status for life. I’ve utilized that countless times. I even occasionally get upgraded on the rare occasion I fly with United. I feel that United is on the way up, definitely more so than American is. Is that leading me to change my loyalty? Not really, but United is my main backup when American schedule or price doesn’t work. Being based in Milwaukee, most flights on United connect at O’Hare. Similar to American, but at least I have more and usually better connection options with American and others.
Not being west coast based, or even much travel there, Alaska isn’t a great option for my needs,. Still, I generally enjoy them when I do have the opportunity. Especially now that Alaska has joined Oneworld, hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to fly on Alaska more often. More options for domestic travel are a good thing.
Alaska seems to have ‘returned to normal’ as much as any with regard to COVID related service cuts, at least in my experience. It has been nice. Alaska isn’t flashy, and they don’t have a modern first class, but I find their flights comfortable.
Of course, unless flying to Canada, Air Canada isn’t an option for US travel. And until the US/Canada border opened in late 2021, there wasn’t any non-essential travel. In October, I had some business travel in Canada, and conveniently, there was a status match promotion at that time. Matched from my American status, now I have Aeroplan 75K status through 2022. Not likely going ot change much for me, but I have visited United Clubs during domestic United flights since then, which has been a nice change of scenery.
I was fortunate to use my bump in status an upgrade most flights on Air Canada, so the experience was even better. Some of the flights were on the Airbus 220, a comfortable new plane, which was fun to experience for the first time. Most Air Canada flights have in seat AVOD, and the A220s are quite new and well designed. I don’t go to Canada often, and usually opt for Air Canada when I do. Especially with my status bump, I doubt this will change for a while.
Comparing Airlines in 2021 – Final thoughts
I haven’t flown JetBlue, Southwest or other carriers this year. The above refers to my experiences this year.
Has your travel resumed? Any changes in your travel plans or preferences?