Southwest vs American, goodbye American!

With the recent release of the ugly news of the 737 MAX having even less legroom than normal, American is starting its official transformation to becoming Spirit Airlines. I jest of course, but really, 29 inches of pitch? For some reason, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. When comparing Southwest vs American I decided it’s time to stop giving American my hard earned money.

This breakup with American has been somewhat of an evolution. A few years ago I wouldn’t have thought of switching my loyalty.

Step 1: Stop chasing status

Last year I decided to stop chasing status on American. This was for a few reasons:

  • Due to some job changes I was no longer reliably flying 50,000 miles a year
  • Because of this I was Gold on American
  • Being Gold on American is really just occasional free exit row seats 24 hours before check-in and a free bag. That “priority boarding” usually meant about 50 EXP’s and Platinum’s boarding before me anyways.
  • I considered booking some cheap fares to get up to Platinum but when I looked at what I actually would be spending it was clearly a waste of money.
  • I’m a fan of this points game so I don’t have to pay for flights so why was I considering chasing mediocre status by paying for extra flights?
  • Upgrades had started to become virtually impossible. Think #40 on upgrade lists.

So, I decided to stop chasing American status and become a free agent. I’ve still been flying American here and there, mostly out of habit and the hopes my work travel will pick up enough to get meaningful status. But with this recent news about the 737 MAX it just struck me that I’m absolutely wasting my time paying to fly American. Most of my miles come from credit cards, shopping portals, and dining rewards anyways. If I’m going to pay to fly in standard economy, why not do it in the least painful way possible?

Step 2: Deciding to switch to Southwest

Southwest vs American

So, I decided American and I weren’t working out anymore. And, it’s kind of funny because for years I’ve been proclaiming how I was the smart one for moving away from Southwest when everyone else was still flying it. Time to eat my words on that one! But there are a few reasons I decided to actually make the switch:

  1. American’s getting worse:
    • Devalued what miles are worth
    • Domestic award availability has become nonexistent
    • Flying is just a worse and worse experience on American
    • Getting a decent seat can be impossible without paying extra
    • 29 inches of pitch coming to a seat near you!
  2. The Southwest experience is actually pretty good:
    • No change fees
    • No baggage fees
    • Free drinks on holidays <- ok, not a deciding factor but it’s nice!
    • Overall a friendlier airline
    • Decent leg room

An important factor is that living in Phoenix I really had to choose between Southwest or American for the highest number of non-stop flights. Now that I’m a sad status-less kettle there’s no reason to fly American unless I’m using points.

Don’t get me wrong, if I start flying enough paid travel to get back to Platinum I’d go back to American. But I don’t even fly 25,000 miles a year in paid flights right now. All international flights I use points on, and quite a bit of domestic, so there’s no reason to uncomfortably fly American for the 20,000 or so miles a year I fly when paying.

Step 3: Finally cutting the cord

I’m taking the first step with Southwest by booking a positioning flight to LAX before my trip to the Maldives. All of a sudden, it feels pretty refreshing. If award space opens up from PHX-LAX I can easily cancel and get my money back.

Bottom Line

I know I’m not the only one who’s abandoning the “big 3” of American, Delta, and United. When I think about how much more pleasant flying Southwest, or Jet Blue, is these days, it became clear the switch was necessary. Now, keep in mind, if I’m flush with funds at some point, or have a ton of Chase points burning a hole in my pocket, I would absolutely fly American first class domestically. But right now, Southwest will be gaining my business.

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