Is it possible to be with more than one … airline?


I never realized that when we met, it would last so long.

I remember it well. It was 2001, and I was on my way to Burning Man. I was terribly late in getting to the airport, too late, an employee at the curb told me, to be able to check my bag. Before I had a chance to think about it, I tipped the guy a $20, a preposterous sum for me in those days. and he said he’d see what he could do.

And that was the beginning of my relationship with you, US Airways.

Our beginnings

I can’t say there was any intention on my part. At that point in my life, I didn’t expect to be flying very much, or even at all. That trip was an extravagance, and one that wouldn’t be repeated for a long time.

We had a pretty casual relationship at the beginning, and that was fine. When I was flying to and from an area that you didn’t serve, we just didn’t talk about it. I knew you knew, but if you weren’t okay with it, you never said.

And I know that you weren’t totally faithful as well. I knew about your codeshare relationships, your reciprocal benefits. You joined the Star Alliance, and I knew what was going on there. But we had an understanding, you know? How could I get jealous when I knew the situation was working for you?

Getting serious

Little by little, as my financial situation improved, I began to fly more frequently. And when I did, it was with you.

Yes, you weren’t extravagant, but I always appreciated that. Also, I knew that there were more popular airlines, but I’ve learned not to chase popularity. You weren’t for everyone, but that meant that you were all the more right for me.

The other one

And then American Airlines came along.

I knew that American was in trouble; I had watched this from the sidelines for a while. And so when I found out that you agreed to purchase American, I think I understood your heart in a way that I hadn’t before. I knew that you wanted to be bigger, more prestigious, more global. Your hubs in Philly, Charlotte, and Phoenix just weren’t enough. You had larger dreams.

But I admit, when you agreed to take American’s name, that it hurt. I felt almost betrayed—how could you do this to me? I know you said you’d keep your hubs at the same place for a few years, but how could I be sure? How could I be sure of anything?

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American’s upgrade policy was so different from yours. Whereas I got unlimited complimentary upgrades (based on capacity) on yours, that wasn’t going to be an option on American.

Coming to terms with the new relationship

I nursed my hurts for a short period. But little by little, I began to think differently. I realized that since I knew your heart, I knew that you were doing what made you happy. You were growing, becoming the world’s largest airline. I think that was your ambition all along. And I know the two of you are a good match; “American and US,” how perfect is that?

And in time, I developed a kind of compersion about your upcoming merger. Because I knew it was making you happy, it made me happy. I didn’t need to feel jealousy; I wasn’t losing anything, just because you were in the management company of another and had taken another name. It didn’t mean we couldn’t still be together, and just as close.

New possibilities

It was around this time, reeling from all the intense feelings that I had been having, that I spied Alaska Airlines.

Alaska had been in my neighborhood for a long time. Well regarded, Alaska went pretty much everywhere I wanted to go. For those places where Alaska didn’t go, instead of a traditional alliance, I found a loose tribe of airlines from all over the world! This one was different, intriguing, unique.

Plus, with elite status, I would get my complimentary upgrades, the ones I would lose with the US merger with American. This relationship had promise.

It’s not that I liked Alaska more than US, or American. They were different, each special in their own way. After all, you can’t compare relationships any more easily than you can compare children.

And so, I made my move. I contacted Alaska, explained that I was a Dividend Miles Gold member, but was interested in exploring loyalty with Alaska. I tried to be charming, self-deprecating, and witty. As always, I hoped for the best, but didn’t expect anything.

Within 48 hours, Alaska responded, and the response was better than I could have imagined: I had been elected MVP Gold, Alaska’s second highest elite tier. Wow!

Not goodbye, but another hello

So, is this goodbye to US, er, American?

No, of course not. First of all, I’ve been collecting miles on US Airways for years, and could live off of these miles for a long time. All of those will transfer over to American shortly.

But more than that, I found uncovered something interesting when I learned about Alaska. One of Alaska’s partners is…American Airlines.

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So my relationship with what will now be called American will not end, just change a bit. I’ll still be flying American, and now have the choice on whether to earn miles on American (to be redeemed on oneworld carriers) or on Alaska (to be redeemed on its tribe of partners). I think this suits me quite well.

So, on balance, I have learned that it is possible to be with more than one airline. It doesn’t make things easy, of course, but it’s always the more difficult journeys that cause one to grow.

But enough about me. How are you affected by the merger of US Airways and American Airlines?

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