Analysis of Benefits: United

Background

The “big three” airlines in the US (United, American, and Delta) are similar in many ways, but that is not to say they are all the same. There have been many changes to United over the past year, as well as some that I never knew about, that have given me hope for these airlines to break out of the rut they are in.

Upgrades

Let’s face it – the real reason we want frequent flier status, other than faster accrual rates, is to fly first class for free. Similar to Delta and American, you are given global and regional upgrade certificates upon reaching various tiers. You are also given the same option to upgrade to a higher class of service using miles – again akin to Delta and American.

The real way that United stands out from the pack is that upgrades clear based on the highest status on the reservation, not the lowest. This is huge when you travel with friends and family. Though Delta does not offer Diamond Medallion flyers premium drinks and snacks in coach, both American and United offer this to their top-tier fliers. Better yet, United now has an actual food menu.

Other Changes

United has recently brought back family boarding, as noted by MommyPoints, which is a wonderful change from a customer experience front. Forbes pointed out five other ways that they have improved over the past year as an airline, as well, and combined with the upgrade benefits versus other airlines, it is going to get very interesting going forward when comparing airlines.

Lounge and Alliance Benefits

Unlike Delta, United does not give complimentary lounge access to top-tier members. American Airlines does not offer this, either, but both United and American offer discounts based on your frequent flier status. It is far more economical to acquire a credit card to attain lounge access, however, as it is considerably cheaper.

United Club Card (not an affiliate link): $450 annual fee versus $550 if you buy the subscription outright

AAdvantage Executive Card (not an affiliate link): $450 annual fee versus $500+ if you buy the subscription outright, more for a family

As you can see, there are ways around this limitation, but it largely depends on how much time in an airport. The wireless and free alcohol are wonderful when it comes to spending hours in airports, as is a dedicated service line, but you can just as easily get access to a Priority Pass lounge using the Citi Prestige card (not an affiliate link), which also gives AAdvantage lounge access when flying on American.

Conclusion

All the changes to United are giving me hopes, to be honest. Their mileage earning rates are on-par with American and Delta, and their upgrade policy is far more generous. If nothing else, competition is always good for the consumer! What do you think?

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