Around the time of their recent investor conference, United announced that they were cutting their service from Seattle to Tokyo as well as Tokyo to Bangkok (HT to Tanaka07 and O Sora on FlyerTalk). This means a Seattleite can no longer get to Asia via United Airlines unless connecting through another U.S. city and that United won’t serve Bangkok at all.
Why do I care about flying on United? ANA will still have its own service from Seattle to Tokyo as well as other routes beyond Tokyo, but that won’t earn me any Premier Qualifying Dollars. Lots of miles without corresponding PQDs makes it likely I would be stuck without status. United’s claim that ANA “will provide the appropriate amount of beyond-Tokyo connectivity” doesn’t mean much if customers who use it are treated as second-rate.
There’s also no Economy Plus, the number one benefit of elite status that got me to join United Airlines and obtain Silver status so many years go. I’ve flown in coach on ANA’s SEA-NRT route and I won’t do it again.
United Abandons Routes and Other Carriers Step In
Every time I say that I won’t leave United, there’s usually some element of “Alaska Airlines has no international routes” and “American Airlines has no presence on the West Coast.” It certainly helps that United has a network that expands throughout the U.S. as well as to Europe and Asia. Even if I were to combine Alaska and American to get around the West Coast, I would still be missing a lot of flights to Asia.
It seems fortuitous that Delta has just recently been expanding its network into Seattle with flights to Tokyo (both the more international-focused Narita and the domestic-focused Haneda closer to Tokyo), as well as Beijing and Shanghai. With elite status I can get Economy Comfort seats that offer the extra legroom I was used to getting from United. (It won’t be free, but Alaska’s MVP and MVP Gold members get 25 and 50% discounts, respectively. At least it’s an option, while on ANA I’m stuck.) And Delta’s growing Seattle presence isn’t just in the international market.
United and American offer a premium service with lie-flat business class seats on domestic routes from SFO and LAX to JFK. Delta does the same, but they have added Seattle to JFK as a third alternative. I recently flew United’s p.s. service for the first time and was left unimpressed (review forthcoming). It was certainly better, but not good enough to merit connecting in SFO. I would be more interested in Delta’s offer.
Delta is also adding lots of routes to destinations along the West Coast including Anchorage, San Diego, and Portland. It’s in competition with Alaska, but it means more flights that I can credit to Alaska’s Mileage Plan.
Replacing United with the Three Musketeers
Switching to Delta’s loyalty program is out of the question due to their SkyPesos (other than that, I actually think it’s a well run airline). Thus, most of my discussions about switching involve moving to American, Alaska, or some combination of status on both.
I have been speaking of Alaska as a kind of extension of American, to fill in American’s West Coast gaps, but I have neglected to think of Delta as an extension of Alaska to fill in Alaska’s international gaps. The combination of all three carriers can easily replace United, and may even be better for those of us in the Pacific Northwest.
Seattle used to be a focus city for United back in the day, but as quoted by Wandering Aramean at their investor day conference, that attitude is clearly changing: “Seattle is not a hub for us. Competition in the market has grown.” As they leave us, it makes sense to leave them.
I still hesitate because it seems so much more complicated than relying on a single carrier, so I sat down to sketch out what my travel might look like. Keep in mind I can credit Delta, American, and Alaska to Alaska’s Mileage Plan. I can credit Alaska and American to American’s AAdvantage program. For the sake of this analysis, I’m ignoring the existence of US Airways. They won’t be leaving Star Alliance until March 1, 2014, but I haven’t flown with them in years and don’t think I’m likely to until the two carriers begin to integrate their network.
Trips to Amarillo (gotta visit the in-laws)
Fly Alaska or American via DFW
Fly Alaska to DEN or LAS and connect on United or Southwest
Trips to Santa Rosa (gotta visit my family)
Fly Alaska nonstop since I’m tired of the three-hour drive from SFO
Trips to Colorado Springs, Los Angeles, DC, Austin, Las Vegas, etc.
Alaska has nonstop flights to all these destinations. While mileage runs normally require connections and detours, visiting places with Megan is a lot easier with nonstop travel.
Tokyo, Shanghai, and Beijing (I’m a little tired of Bangkok and Singapore right now)
Delta has nonstop flights to all these cities from Seattle
Europe (in general, there are tons of flights)
Fly Delta or American. Connections are available, but Delta has nonstop service from Seattle to London, Paris, and Amsterdam.
Latin America (haven’t been here yet, and really want to go)
American Airlines has a better network here than any other U.S. carrier