American Airlines has an answer for some frustrated United frequent flyers. American is offering an unadvertised program, which allows United's Premier 1K elite travelers a direct match to American's equivalent top-tier level of "Executive Platinum."
Flyertalk, a definitive forum of hard-core frequent flyers, came alive late last week with news of the offer. Initially, American was offering an outright match of all United's elite levels. But 24 hours later, the promotion was restricted to only those who fly in excess of 100,000 miles annually on United.
Michael Maldonado, spokesman for American, tells CNBC.com, "There is no formal campaign around this offer, but we are encouraging 1K members to reach out to American."
United has no official comment on American's current target of its 1K customers, but spokesman Charlie Hobart tells CNBC.com that it's not uncommon for airlines to offer such matches from time to time.
Meanwhile, United's frequent flyers are continuing to be plagued by the carrier's system conversion on March 3 after merging with Continental Airlines.
United acknowledged the continued issues, and in an e-mail sent to members last Wednesday the airline said, "We are progressing steadily and have already resolved many of the issues. Some will take longer, and we are working hard to fix them as soon as possible."
The issues still troubling many elite United travelers include long call center hold times, problems upgrading flights within 24 hours of departure, upgrades not clearing as they once did, long delays in mileage posting to frequent flyer accounts, and problems redeeming award miles and electronic certificates.
These issues have pushed many road warriors over the edge, and if the posts on Flyertalk are any indication, some long-time United elites are ready to jump ship. American's offer makes such a switch in loyalty a simple process and gives those who qualify immediate access to top-tier elite perks such as upgrades, bonus miles, a dedicated customer service line and preferential seating.
As a Premier 1K myself, I decided to test out American's offer this morning. I called the AAdvantage customer service desk, requested a match to Executive Platinum and was sent an e-mail with further instructions.
Entitled "Earning Your Business," the e-mail simply asked for either a copy of my current Premier 1K card or a screenshot of my most recent account activity on United reflecting my name and status level. I replied with a copy of my card and now await American's validation. Once confirmed, my new status will be valid until February 28, 2013.
I'm not ready to give up on United yet, but was happy for American laying down such a generous "welcome" mat should I change my mind.