At the end of last year I shared my dilemma about Selection of Aviation Clubs to 2017 . Well, here we are at the end of the first quarter of 2017 … and only now I made the decision. Hoping that I will not regret it.

 AKAir_MileagePlan_4cp_Med

I greatly appreciate the AAdvantage Club. American maintains him as a leading club – as befits the world's largest airline. The club has faults, perfect is not, but overall I think it is still one of the best clubs for frequent travelers. Even though they were badly damaged a year ago customer service works well and benefits for those with the highest status are quite generous.

But all this is not always enough.

 AAdvantage Executive Platinum Tags

The benefit I value the most is the upgrade vouchers Systemwide Upgrades or "SWU" The executive name Explosive Platinum (abbreviated "EXP"). In the past, eight vouchers were distributed with the acquisition / renewal of status and there was a high availability of seats for pre-upgrade, but today only four vouchers are distributed with attaining / renewing status and almost all of the pre-upgrade availability has disappeared. The current reality is that you should ask for the upgrade and then hope that there will be available seats in the desired class on the day of the flight. In practice there will almost always be vacant seats and the upgrade will pass – but the wonderful possibility of ensuring the upgrade in advance has been passed on the basis of existing availability.

The reasons that made me leave AAdvantage

As stated, the club significantly reduced the value of the upgrade vouchers, which was one of the reasons why I saw a real advantage for this club over the competition. But this is not the only reason for leaving.

Customer service became medium

A few years back, before American acquired US Airways, all of America's top customers were treated by the dedicated center called EXP Desk. This hotline sat in the company's offices near the Dallas International Airport (DFW), where the response was almost immediate and the agents were incredibly professional and courteous. Almost every problem was solved in the moment and there were almost no failures.

 American and US Airways Tails

Then American acquired US Airways, and then US Airways agents became American agents and some reached the Exp center. Then there was a combination of systems between the two companies (an amazing and challenging process in itself) that caused agents Many get confused all the time, the focus of the EXP left its previous seat and became scattered when sometimes agents work from home remotely connected … and more and more. The most senior customer service center of American became a Japanese kindergarten protector.

Today the waiting times at the EXP center are still short but the agents' service has become unprofessional at best and embarrassing at worst. I have already stopped counting how many times in the last year I received the wrong, dangerous answers, I heard agents answer 'I do not know' to very simple questions, requests that were not made, etc.

The accumulation of e-mails for realization became based on publication

There are business travelers who fly in most cases with terribly expensive tickets. Why? Because the employer sends them abroad at the last minute, by nature of many businesses, and that the employer is willing to pay more for a flexible and irrevocable card. For those business travelers the expense-based accrual method, as opposed to the flight-based accrual method, is a great blessing. Exactly those travelers want American more than any other.

I'm not one of those travelers. I do not buy tickets for thousands of dollars, at the last minute and in high ticketing departments. On the contrary. I use opportunities for tickets at very attractive prices, I am flexible on my travel schedule and I usually pay far less than the average passenger. For me, the method of accruing expense-based emails is a real disaster.

So true, foreign companies' tickets still accumulate miles at AAdvantage Club based on the flight distance and not on their price – because American is not exposed to the full information – but if I do not buy American tickets, The upgrade vouchers I will receive upon attaining the status.

 american-77w-business-class-window-seats

The conditions for attaining the status were

As a general statement it is now easier to accumulate points for status, EQM, for flights in American premium departments or not for its partnership. This is an apparent advantage for a particular segment of passengers. At the same time, the accumulation of points for the status of discounted ticketing departments has become more limited.

The larger problem is that there is now a requirement for a minimum annual expenditure estimated in dollars (EQD). This threshold requirement did not exist before 2017 but to American credit it was said to have eliminated it from the big competitors Delta and United, who put a similar threshold requirement even earlier in their clubs. Starting this year, a club member will have to spend at least $ 12,000 on airline tickets, American and its partnership as a condition for achieving the highest status.

 AAdvantage 2017 Elite Requirments

True, there are 'tricks' for accumulating the EQD, and you do not really have to finish the year with airline tickets of $ 12,000 or more (before taxes, by the way), but it's still a threshold requirement that I probably would not have reached .

The reasons why I chose MileagePlan

The Alaska Aviation Club is not nearly as big as American. Moreover, Alaska is not part of any aviation alliance, so its club does not enjoy the obvious benefits enjoyed by its larger competitors.

When it is said, MP is one of the most innovative, creative, interesting and now most generous clubs in the world. This claim even intensified several months ago that the club unexpectedly announced a new line of bonuses for flights in the premium departments of some of the partner companies.

To read a detailed post I wrote about the club –

I do not know if the new bonuses will last, and maybe it's a passing benefit, but even without them the Alaska club is a relatively generous club. This is true mainly for flights in the premium departments, but also for flights in the economy class. Thus, for example, we will compare the two miles of the two clubs above the recent Cathay Pacific flights:

 AAdvantage Earn Flying Cathay
AAdvantage – Earn Miles Flying Cathay Pacific
 MileagePlan Earn Flying Cathay
MileagePlan – Earn Miles Flying Cathay Pacific

The differences are clear.

But on the merits, here are some reasons that are right for me to choose from the Alaska Club:

Interesting list of partnership companies

Part of my professional interest is to test as many airlines as possible in as many service departments as possible. In recent years I have flown mainly with the OneWorld Alliance and have indeed tried countless products within Alliance membership – from Iberia's tourism department to Cathay Pacific's first class. Some of these products, such as American and Cathay Pacific's business classes, are too intimate to translate into boredom at times.

 mileageplan-partners-1

 mileageplan-partners-2

Choosing a club in Alaska will allow me to broaden my horizons in a professional sense. I will have an excellent incentive to try products from companies I have not yet met in depth, such as Corian, Air France and Emerts. Luckily I will not have to neglect the Cathay Pacific because it is also a partner of Alaska . For the full list of the partner companies Click here

High status with pampering benefits

The highest status of American is translated into the highest status of the OneWorld Alliance. That is, when I fly with any member of the alliance – even the cheapest economy class ticket – I get a fantastic basket of fantastic benefits that includes entry to first class lounges, preferred seats, casual upgrades and so on. The Alaska club can not offer me a parallel benefit and that's a big drawback. But this downside is really relevant when flying in the tourist class – which I have been doing little in recent years.

 Cathay Pacific The Pier FC Lounge 2

The highest status in the Alaska Club, with the name MVP Gold 75K, promises two other interesting benefits: (1) a generous 125% bonus for collecting emails. (2) A bonus of 50,000 miles with attaining the testos each year.

 mileageplan-status-bonus

That is, the same pattern of activity is likely to yield tens of thousands more miles in the Alaska club each year than the American club. For a traveler like me, grossly, the difference will be 50,000 to 100,000 miles each year. That's a lot. And I did not even mention that Alaska's miles are worth more, in general, than American miles – considering the two clubs' exercise tables.

Miles worth more

Alaska's exercise tables are better and more interesting than American ones. For example, a round-trip ticket from Tel Aviv to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific flights costs 80,000 miles of American or 60,000 miles of Alaska. At the same price it is possible to continue to other destinations in Asia – but the American club will not allow a stop in Hong Kong on the way while the Alaska club is the same.

Alaska's miles can also be used to purchase bonus tickets with companies I have not flown with. As noted, the club has an interesting and varied list of partner companies.

The Difficult Separation

My status at the American Club will remain in effect until 31 January 2018. I still have tens of thousands of emails and a few tens of thousands of bonus cards in my account (I can cancel at any time, no cost, and the emails will come back to my account). In addition, I still have two upgrade vouchers that I can use for flights in the coming year or I can give them as a gift. That is to say, my relationship with the AAdvantage club is definitely not over … It just moved from high gear to neutral.

I still think that American is a leader and still believes that its club is one of the best in the industry. It just does not fit me right now.

One thing I will miss is The possibility of using miles for bonus tickets on the flights of the Jihad . And in particular first class on the A380 . Unfortunately, I am not a partner of Alaska. But hey, if I need to, I can buy American emails as part of sales campaigns So the price drops even below $ 18 per 1,000 miles – and use them to order those bonus tickets. But in the absence of status I can not cancel those tickets without a fine – a significant but passive drawback.

At the same time, with the move to the club of Alaska, I was forced to start climbing the ladder, and it was the first time that I had to climb the ladder. The status from the first stage. MileagePlan offers a comparison of status, but only to American customers. It is a strange feeling to accumulate emails in an account and not to receive any bonus on them. But hey, one year and it goes …

In summary

This was a deep and difficult dilemma but in the end it was decided. To be honest, it had been decided during the last month I had flown quite a bit with American and experienced a number of 'mishaps'. Nothing tragic, of course, but these events reminded me in what direction the American club has been going in the past two years and how much I do not like that direction. Perhaps I will write later on one of those cases from the last month.

So I started to register flights to the Alaska Club. When all of them are updated, in the next few days, I assume I will almost reach the first status of the club. A good start but just a start. May 2017 end with the highest status of the club so that 2018 could be a much more interesting year.