How do you choose your loyality?
I have always wondered how people choose to be loyal to one airline or another? Ever since I started flying I was loyal to Northwest Airlines and their partners. The reason wasn’t because I liked NWA over the other airlines, but it was actually because of my partner at the time. Since then, I’ve tried to leave NWA (now Delta) for other airlines and I’ve consistently failed to do so. Do you choose your airline loyality by route structure, alliance, brand recognition, service, or something else?
I’ll never forget, it was Freshman year of college. I was 18 years old and my partner and I at the time had decided to spend spring break in Costa Rica. It was my first international vacation (other than mexico) and it was the first time ever that I was going to need a passport. We looked up flight prices and the cheapest ticket was on Continental. Realizing that I would be flying ~10K air miles, I decided it was time to sign up for a frequent flyer account. At the time, my gut was to go with Continental. However, my partner family was from the Philippines and the only US carrier who served the Philippines at the time was NWA. So naturally he had a NWA WorldPerks account. Continental was a SkyTeam member at the time, and offered WorldPerks members with all the benefits that NWA offered, including Elite upgrades. He convinced me to open a NWA account instead of a Continental account, and my loyalty to NWA began. From that point on, every flight I took was on a SkyTeam member, because if I wasn’t earning miles towards status, it wasn’t worth it.
By the time I was 19 I was NWA Worldperk Silver and had traveled to Central America multiple times and South East Asia, all on SkyTeam carriers. I enjoyed my upgrade about 65% number of time (something a silver would almost never see in today’s world) on both NWA and Continental on flights in North/Central America. I was in heaven! I was 19 and flying like the rich and famous (or so I thought)! As time progressed I started traveling more. By 20 I was gold, and by 22 I was Platinum! Each time I’d take to the sky I found myself earning points towards my NWA status. A few times I tried to turn my back and I failed!
I failed at leaving NWA (now Delta) not because they had the best service or the best airplanes in the sky. But I could never leave NWA because the majority of my flights were to Asia, Central America, and up and down the West Coast. Growing up and going to college in Seattle, the SkyTeam offered the best options for the cheapest flight. When I was in college, NWA, Korean, AeroMexico, AirFrance, offered nonstop service to Tokyo, Amsterdam, Seoul, Mexico City, and Paris, meanwhile, NWA had a very close partnership with Alaska, and Alaska offered Nonstop service from Seattle to a number of destinations on my list of places to visit while in college (including my partner’s hometown of San Fran) and offered Elite upgrades to NWA World perk members! So with a strong hold on the city, SkyTeam and NWA was the way to go.
However, now I’m 25, my life has changed and I’m up in the air with who to throw my loyalty behind. I’ve had status with NWA (now Delta) for 7 years. United and AA both will offer me a status match, but I don’t know if I want to throw myself behind either airline. I tend to travel to Asia the most and earning EQM on AA partners (especially CX) is difficult due to fare class requirements. United has been far from accommodating to their Elite members since the merger, and despite my good experience with them recently, I’m worried about what may come. Furthermore, my initial interaction to even get a United Status Match was far from pleasant and my first flight with United was far from anything exciting.
So, I’m asking your advice. How do you choose an airline to be loyal to? Delta Skymiles aka Pesos are hard to use and recently they have started adding fuel surcharges to their partners like China Southern and Korean. United Miles are fuel surcharge free and easier to use, but United hasn’t treated their most loyal customers very well since the merger and United CFO went as far as basically calling their elite flyers spoiled/over-entitled. AA defiantly treats their Elites the best, but one must fly 100K a year to really reap the benefit/upgrades and their route structure is the smallest when looking for international options.
Keeping all this in mind, know that I am now living in San Diego. So no matter what airline I choose my flight options are truly limited due to the shorter than normal SINGLE runway at SAN and the lack of nonstop destinations. I am always going ot have to connect via a hub (for the most part). My loyalty this year has been all over the place (or really no where) and as it’s already August. it looks like I’m only going to qualify to United Silver and Delta Silver next year—both basically useless because all the same perks come from credit cards these days. So 2013 will be a new year where I start fresh with my airline of my choice. Who would you choose and why?