Stay at LH or not?Back to Forum
Anonymous12 Aug 2013
I’m currently living in Vienna and have SEN status with LH. Soon I will relocate to US (New York) and my question to all you experienced FT’s is; should I stay with LH when living in US and flying extensively within North America or should I switch to one of the Star Alliance airlines in US? I.e. Through a status match challenge?
Thank you in advance for your advice – greatly appreciated!
SwedSen12 Aug 2013
SwedSen, thanks for asking this question, I was going to post a similar one.
I too will relocate soon from London to the US – I hold M&M Senator, BAEC Gold and FB Gold. I am debating if I should switch to accumulating on United, American and Delta when based in the US – are there advantages? And crucially, does anybody know if any of these airlines will match the level I enjoy with their European counterparts?
Thank you all in advance!12 Aug 2013
If you are going to do a US domestic travel on UA then it is better for you to switch to UA MP. If your flying patter remain the same (crossing the Atlantic without doing US domestic travel) then M&M would be sufficient for you.12 Aug 2013
It’s pretty rare for airlines to match within their own alliances. It’s much more likely that you would get a cross-match. Look on the Loyalty Lobby site to see which carrier is doing what. It looks as if all of them will give you a 90-day challenge to keep your tier. Here’s their article on Delta. http://bit.ly/1cGLg0N12 Aug 2013
Thanks, FirstTraveller. I will be travelling extensively nationwide in both US and Canada – and occasionally crossing the Atlantic. Why would you recommend to switch to UA MP? What is it I get with MP that I do not get with my LH SEN card?
Thanks in advance!12 Aug 2013
SwedSen, United used to give automatic upgrade to Economy Plus seating for LH senators, but they then withdrew it and you now get no discernable perks on United other than additional baggage on int’l flights and sometimes priority in security. I think you need to pay for all baggage on internal UA flights as well (when not part of an int’l ticket). The same status on UA gives you free economy plus and baggage, which is quite a nice perk. Plus you can get automatic upgrades to F. The big disadvantage to the US programmes is they do not offer free lounge access, although you won’t get that for internal US flights anyway with star alliance gold.
Air Canada used to allow LH Senators to book all exit row seats in economy; they now curiously allow some bulkhead seats. I have no idea of the rationale and once again if you try calling AC and get some explanation you get very polite people who don’t know why. (On the other hand, American seems to be recognising my BAEC Gold and letting me book all privileged seats on AA flights, so it does vary from airline to airline and alliance to alliance, clearly).
I have already listed elsewhere the possibility of getting automatic upgrades on Delta for Flying Blue elite plus members is possible, but it is hit and miss and not available to companions. Northwest used to do this automatically back in the good ol’ days. Delta, along with every other airline, treats its own members better than others even in the same alliance. I can’t count the number of times I received a blank face when showing either my LH Senator or Flying Blue Gold card to US airlines.
The other big difference is how you achieve status on each airline. The US airlines are starting to include cash spend into their calculations, and in general I think it is esier to achieve status on European airlines, in particular when you are outside the home country (LH is harder in Germany, Flying Blue in France, etc).
If I were you, I’d try to get a status match (likely temporarily, but that’s fine) on the N American carrier you will use the most. You will then get the perks immediately, and will be able to try it out yourself and if it doesn’t work out, you can go back to LH. Given the consoidation in the market, for Star your only option is UA and AC, so it would depend on in which country most of your travel is. I have done status matches within alliances, but it was a while ago. It did not take more than explaining a move to a new region and the intention to fly X airline more. Good luck.
.12 Aug 2013
flydrive, excellent post – exactly the reply that I was looking for. I think I will try to match my status to another airline outside Star. I expect to fly out of JFK or LaGuardia – which airline would you choose in that case? Delta? American? Thanks in advance!12 Aug 2013
You may have more trouble matching outside the alliance, but always worth a shot. If you are not flying out lf EWR, UA’s hub, then I agree it may be best to switch to DL or AA. I think most flyers’ views of the big US airlines (and their ff programmes) are similar (for better or worse), so I’d think about where you will fly most often and which airline offers the better connections. Note that each airline has a variety of hubs that you will end up flying to or through.
Also, note that if you are intending to fly back to Europe, consider that if you go for AA, you will want to be using BA or IB, and if DL, then you’d want to stick to KL or AF. I’d factor that in to my decision as well. Certainly if you are going to central/eastern Europe, you’d find the star alliance the strongest, and probably sky team next best.12 Aug 2013
My own experience with US vs. European frequent flyer programs is that the US ones generally give you access to free upgrades and premium economy seating on the US carrier more seamlessly than you would get by sticking with the European plan. US carriers have far more tiers however and you may only feel you are really getting recognized if you fly 75000 or 100000 miles per year. On UA, even at the highest level you will find many invitation only members — the “Global Services” members — ahead of you and UA does not publish the requirements for reaching the invitation only status.
Having said all that, if you do decide on a status match at a different alliance, DL has the most flights out of LGA and JFK. But if you mostly fly routes where OneWorld would be most helpful, AA still has a good selection of flights out of the NY area.12 Aug 2013
I think you need to balance various factors here, including:
* Is it more important to you to get upgrades (US carrier programmes) or lounge access (as non-US elite status will generally get you lounge access for your domestic flights but US elite status will not)
* If the latter, are you prepared to pay an annual fee for the lounge access so you can get the best of both worlds?
* Which carrier/alliance best serves your likely routes?
* if you choose a US programme, does it give comparable benefits at the status level you are likely to achieve? Bear in mind different carriers have different qualification levels (eg – oneworld emerald status with RJ is 55,000 miles a year, equivalent with CX is 120,000)
* How important to you is it to have benefits on partner airlines, especially when flying internationally? As someone else mentioned, you will probably get better benefits with your home carrier, does this come at the cost of lower benefits when flying with alliance partners?
* Do the benefits offered by a particular alliance appeal to you more? For example, as a oneworld top-tier I get access to first class lounges (where available) on any oneworld flight – the equivalent status in Star Alliance only gives me access to Gold lounges, which as far as I can tell are equivalent to business class lounges. I like the lounge experience, so am happier with the oneworld approach
Too many of these are subjective to be able to give you a definitive answer to your question… So basically, you have to do some research and work out which is best for you!13 Aug 2013
I just wanted to give you an update since my last post. I went ahead and signed up for a status match challenge with Delta. All I needed to do was to rack up 16.000 miles within a 3-month period. That was easy and I’m now a Gold Medallion until February 2015. i have to say that I’m so far impressed by Delta and the Skyteam programme in general. Within my challenge period I received 4 complimentary upgrades – including one for AMS-MSP on Business Elite. During my 3 years as a LH Senator I NEVER received a complimentary on an intercontinental flight – at the most I received 2 upgrades in a year on short European flights. Hats off to Delta and Skyteam – you have won my loyalty!!4 Dec 2013
flying_cookie I had the same dilemma and initially used my BAEC Gold which gave me tier points, avios points and automatic access to all AA lounges throughout their domestic network, but what it did not give me was access to upgrades on the day as this is only for their own Advantage programme.
I therefore transferred to their programme and with my status got immediate AAdvantage Gold and have now arrived at their Platinum level.
Using Miami as my “home airport” AA is the best choice for me and destinations such as JFK and LAX the same. Obviously when travelling home I can use OW Emerald for all BA “luxuries”
Some of my colleagues swear by UA as the best all round benefits but I really believe its user chooser.4 Dec 2013
SwedSen, I do hope your luck continues with Delta. But I agree with you on LH: I’ve been a Senator for 10 years or so, and I have NEVER been given an upgrade (other than the upgrade e voucher you get every two years when requalifying). The one time it was offered was on a LHR – FRA trip, and it was only offered to me, and my partner would have to travel in the back! I declined (after a moment’s hesitation and looks that could kill).
That is one reason (among many) I switched alliances to BA/OW last year. I’ve since been upgraded twice on longhaul flights. Maybe just bad luck for me, but LH and star seem to be the most stingy in this respect.
I also agree with Kingston, if you are flying mostly in the US with just occasional trips to Europe, it probably makes sense to match to the US airline in the alliance and reap the benefits only offered to its members on the majority of your flights.4 Dec 2013