It’s no secret that I’m a Delta guy now. We’ve been through this before. I live in Atlanta. Delta really is a good airline. The Medallion elite program works for me. Where the mileage program falls short, I maintain a stash of other currencies to fill in the gap. Perfectly serviceable.

There are times when I must fly someone else, either for work or play. The trip that I am on right now is personal. It popped up 3 weeks ago, and is taking place over a holiday weekend. I priced Delta from Atlanta to Miami, and the results just weren’t that great. I don’t remember the exact price, but several hundred comes to mind. Enter American Airlines. My first thought was Avios for a short haul on AA. No inventory. AA was pricing slightly more favorable than Delta, but with a current short term focus on maintaining cash and not miles balances, I began to look at other things. The end result – I bought the tickets with a mix of Ultimate Rewards and cash. But the purpose of this post is to share my thoughts on the flight experience, my first with AA in over a year. For the record, I’m a lifetime AAdvantage Gold member.

AA and I have had our ups and downs. I went through a particularly bad spate of delays and cancelations years before I moved to Atlanta that led me to “break up” with AA for a while. It wasn’t personal, I just had to try something else. Now that I’m flying Delta nearly 100 percent of the time, today’s flight was a fun opportunity to compare and contrast. First, back when I booked the tickets, I submitted upgrade requests for our flight. It’s only a 90 minute flight, but I have had four electronic upgrades in my account just sitting there for what seems like a very long time. I had no expectation that the upgrades would clear, but I knew it was a helluva lot more likely than if I’d been flying Delta as a Silver Medallion with MrsMJ….or even Platinum Medallion for that matter. More on that later.

At 24 hours prior to departure, I checked us both in and added us to the upgrade list via Based on Expertflyer, the upgrade chances did not look good. Inventory varied from 3 to 2 to finally 1 available…then none. Even arriving at the airport this morning, all seats in First showed as occupied. That said, I used the AA iPhone app (which I like a lot) to look at the upgrade list. We were #’s 1 and 2 for 1 seat.

After a visit to the Admirals Club, likely my last using the Amex Platinum Card, we went to the gate. They were already boarding the flight. Out of habit, I glimpsed at the upgrade list. Check and check! We were upgraded! I was in 3A, and MrsMJ in 6E, but we were not in coach. The F cabin was mostly boarded, and the throngs were coming on. I dithered with the idea of asking 3B if she would mind switching with MrsMJ as moving from the bulkhead to 6E, an aisle seemed like a good trade to me. As it was, the flight was relatively short, and trading seats seemed like a hassle while boarding. In the end….we survived seated apart for 90 minutes on Valentine’s Day. 🙂

Will my positive experience today lead me to abandon Delta? I’m afraid that’s not in the cards. Like I said, I live in Atlanta, and Delta flies nonstop to just about anywhere I’d ever want to go. And I like flying Delta. However, today served as a reminder that even though I like my primary airline, there are things I miss about American. I have always preferred the electronic “sticker” upgrade system to the complimentary upgrades with everyone and their brother on the list. The fact that you have to “pay” something for an upgrade as anything other than a top tier elite at AA means there is hope for everyone else that really would like to upgrade. Further, the Admirals Club in Atlanta was awfully pleasant and equipped with a lot of power outlets, though I can’t say the same for the D15 club in Miami…ugh. Finally, while this particular flight was not a good example, the facts are that you are more likely to enjoy a meal on American than Delta. If nothing else, warm mixed nuts and a cookie. I can live without chocolate chip cookies….but miss the nut mix.

In the end, today reminded me of what American does well. It was fun….kinda like visiting an old friend. And who knows, I may move to Miami some day.

-MJ, February 14, 2014