I’m in a reflective mood tonight.  Don’t know why, but I hope you’ll indulge me while I….well….reflect.

It’s been a good travel year for me.  Certainly nothing like the few hundred thousand miles type of year I used to have in my slightly younger days, but definitely the best I’ve had in the last 5 years.  It could’ve been better if I could exercise complete control over my airline choices.  If that were the case, I’d be Executive Platinum on AA now, but likely drop to Platinum next year.  As it is, I’m Platinum on AA, and Silver Medallion on Delta.  I will likely hit Gold Medallion with Delta by year’s end, but I will drop to Gold with AA.  I’ll earn Gold, but already have lifetime Gold with AA by virtue of passing the 1 million mile mark this year, which was a big deal to me.

Perhaps that’s why I’m a bit reflective tonight.  If you haven’t picked up on it through my posts (I’m not sure I’ve ever clearly stated it), I spent the first several years of my post college working life with American Airlines.  First at American Eagle, then American itself.  Since leaving the company for more sedate pasture in 2004, I have with little exception gone out of my way to fly American, even if it meant connecting when a more convenient nonstop flight was available.  I had my reasons.  I’m comfortable with American since I “know” it, I like the AAdvantage program, and I have a certain sense of allegiance to my former coworkers.  Frankly, it’s nice to see someone you know when you go to the airport.

All that said, I really find myself wondering if going out of my way to fly American is worth the trouble.  I live in Washington, DC.  I can fly nonstop to just about anywhere in the world, and certainly anywhere I need to go in the USA. This summer, I spent some hard-earned miles on 2 pretty important European trips.  On each, I experienced some kind of operational issue or issues that resulted in missed flights, lost opportunity, and interruption of much needed holiday time. Certainly, American isn’t the only airline to have operational issues, and in the end, they got us where we were going.  But in both instances, the root of the problem was that I was connecting to get to my destination.

I shouldn’t have to plan a 4 hour layover in Chicago to ensure I make a connection, but in both of these instances, that’s what it would’ve taken for the rest of my travel to go as planned.  All of this I could tolerate, but delaying MrsMJonTravel’s arrival in Italy and England comes with consequences.  😉  OK, I’m kidding a little.  I certainly won’t be avoiding American. I’ll just fly them when it makes the most sense from a scheduling and convenience perspective.  Having lifetime AAdvantage Gold status will make my AA flights a little better than they would be otherwise.  And the upcoming joint venture with BA opens up even more options for AAdvantage miles.

So…where do I go from here?  Delta could be an option.  I’ve made no secret of my fondness for flying Delta.  They have a fairly significant (and expanding) operation at nearby DCA, and right now, I’m making relatively frequent trips to Atlanta, which makes focusing on Delta somewhat attractive.  Then there’s SkyMiles.  While I’ve noted some distinct improvement in the SkyMiles program of late, I’m still not convinced you can actually get an award seat on Delta for a reasonable amount of miles.  In fact, the 2 award trips I took to Europe this summer were simply not available on Delta…..yes, I checked just for curiosity.  Well, they were available, but for twice as many miles.  While I will keep my eye on Delta and SkyMiles, I’m just not convinced that Delta is the answer to what I’m looking for right now.

The seemingly easy answer is United.  They hub at Dulles, which is admittedly a bit of a hike from my Northwest DC home.  But when I factor in their Star Alliance partnership with US Airways, which has something of a hub of its own at nearby DCA, things begin to clear up.  US Airways Dividend Miles would be attractive to me as a frequent flier program, but I don’t trust them not to toy with their program in ways that are detrimental to me.  As it stands now, when US Airways offers a convenient flight from DCA, I can bank the miles to United.  First Class upgrades would be nice, but I can live without them on the short flights up and down the east coast from DCA.  When I’m heading to the west coast or Europe, I could make the drive to Dulles and fly nonstop.

After thinking (probably too much) about it, I believe the time has come to reengineer my mileage scheme strategy, and shift my focus to an airline and a program that I don’t have to go out of my way to use.  I think that airline and program are United and Mileage Plus.  What do you think?  Have you ever found yourself rethinking your frequent flier strategy?  I’d love to hear from you, and I’m sure other readers would too.  And thank you for your tolerance of this reflective post.  🙂