I love American Airlines, I really do. And I am addicted to frequent flier miles, I really am. But it’s not a bad thing every once in a while to take a peak at the competition.

Here was the scoop. A friend with a $181 round-trip ticket American Airlines from New York to Miami and back around Thanksgiving (the power of planning ahead) needed to come back unexpectedly early — Monday instead of Tuesday. The best he could do on American was use the $181 round-trip to come down, but then buy a one-way full-fare coach ticket to return — and that ticket cost $622. Oops, no, when we went to reserve it the computer gave a $528 price. But still: $528 for a flight at some ungodly hour of the morning.

On a whim, unaccustomed as my fingers are to doing it, I dialed Pan Am’s 800-359-7262 number. No frequent flier miles there. Maybe I was able to do this because I was making arrangements for my friend, so there’d be no frequent flier miles in it for me anyway. Even so, my fingers felt oddly wooden — and I expected the worst. A long wait on hold, a reservationist about whom I’d have instant reservations, and then the news that everything was already booked, you idiot — we’re talking about the day after Thanksgiving weekend!

Instead the phone was answered (by a human) on the first ring and we got a First Class aisle seat, coach being sold out, for $231. And at a civilized time of day.

Now you’re thinking that as between coach for $528 at dawn’s early light on American, and First Class for $231 at noon on Pan Am, you’d go with American to get the miles. I probably would, too. But because I was doing all this for a friend, the frequent-flier spell seemed to have been lifted, if only momentarily, and I took the leap. I booked Pan Am. (And, no, it’s not a DC-3, it’s an Airbus 300.)

Tomorrow: Thanksgiving Thoughts: What Do You Want?


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