An American Airlines 777-300ER (N720AN) bound for SYD on the inaugural flight pushes back from Gate 41 at LAX.
Less than a week after coveringÂ American Airlines’ launch of their new Los Angeles-Sydney service, I found myself onboardÂ Flight 73 on a last-minute holiday down under. The route featured American’s flagship Boeing 777-300ER, withÂ my personal-favorite business class seat. In spite of holding status on both American and Alaska, whichÂ would entitle me to at least a little bit more legÂ and elbow room in coach, I willingly (!) chose to sit in a regular economy seat for a 15-hour flight… and managed to survive. Â A feat made even more impressive (or harrowing, depending on your point-of-view) by the fact that I was accompanied by my wife.
Now, I’d like to claim credit for taking one for the AirlineReporter team and be able to gloatÂ for makingÂ the trip, but I’m not as magnanimous as my colleague JL, who flew a Spirit Airlines Bare Fare “for science.” There were very strategic, practical, and self-serving reasons forÂ booking seats behind the curtain instead of in front of it.
I’m splitting my experience into two parts:Â first, about why I chose economy (this time), followed up withÂ my actual flight review of American’s economy service to Sydney.
Delta Sky Priority Check In just one of the perks given to their Elite Medallion members – Photo: Delta
This is a second leg (part) in a multi- leg series. Make sure to read LEG 1 first.Â
Previously, I mentioned that you can get some pretty sweet benefits being an elite frequent flier and hope to expand on the idea a bit more on this part, Â which deserves a whole article on itâ€™s own.
Unlike earning points, the benefits come once you have achieved that elite status and each airline has different benefits they will give their elites. Â Most of the airlines though tend to give the big three:
1)Â Â Priority Boarding – This means you get to board before the general economy passengers, obtaining not only that precious overhead bin space, but a few extra minutes to get yourself settled without being crowded and holding up the queue behind you.
2)Â Priority Check In – Being able to check in without having to wait in long lines, going to the “front of the queue” almost can be worth its “wait” in gold. Â Getting checked in and on your way to security fast and efficiently makes any frequent flier happy.
3)Â Priority Security – Avoiding that long security line behind that family with 8 children and 25 bags is always a good thing. Â Speedily getting up to that security check point and getting through in the least amount of time possible means you can be on your way to the gate (or lounge) faster. Â If you are lucky enough you may even qualify for TSA Pre Check (but that’s a whole different story).
In some cases these benefits can be worth it on their own. Â But there are other, less common benefits, that some airlines give that really make it worth the effort:
- Bonus Points
- Seating Upgrades
- Change Fee Waivers
- Lounge Access
- Free/Extra Baggage Allowance
American Airlines & other oneworld airline elite fliers (Emerald status) allow access to the First Class lounges in their network, even if you are flying on an economy ticket. Â Star Alliance gives all of their Gold members lounge access as well (for a full run down on Star Alliance Gold benefits watch this snazzy YouTube video).
United Airlines Premier 1K fliers are able to make same day changes to their flights without fees and Delta gives complimentary domestic upgrades to most of its Elites (though you still have to fight the other elites for those First Class seats).
No matter what program you choose, they all offer something to their VIP customers to make them smile.
Getting an upgrade to a First Class Seat on Delta could land you in a seat like this on some routes – Photo: Mal Muir | AirlineReporter.com
I am a Star Alliance Gold and a Virgin Australia Velocity Gold. These two programs probably mean nothing to the average American flier and most airline employees around the world barely know about the airline I hold Star Gold status with (and the less that know, the better). They both give some pretty great benefits to me that other programs donâ€™t. Â Just because I live in the USA (but from Australia) doesn’t mean that I need to credit all of my flying to a US based program. Â Virgin Australia allows me to earn status on them, while I Â fly on Delta, Virgin America or Hawaiian.
Some times the benefits can be a little confusing. Â For instance if I was flying on United, I would get lounge access thanks to being Star Gold with a non us based airline. However, If I was Star Gold with only United, I would be in the Starbucks queue like everyone else for my morning coffee and not have lounge access.Â So doing the research on theÂ privilegesÂ that differentÂ programsÂ give is important.
Mileage running is just a way to get all the things you want with a travel experience as quickly, cheaply and easily as possible. Sure mileage running is not for everyone, but if itâ€™s for you… it can be well worth it!
|This story written by…Malcolm Muir, Lead Correspondent. |
Mal is an Australian Avgeek now living and working in Seattle. With a passion for aircraft photography, traveling and the fun that combining the two can bring. Insights into the aviation world with a bit of a perspective thanks to working in the travel industry.
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