I have already booked my flights home for the holidays.

I missed Christmas in St. Louis for the first time in my life in 2020 and I was so excited to see my parents for the first time in a year.

Being able to travel home more often is one of the reasons why I moved to Chicago. Southwest Airlines has a consistent presence at the airport.

Southwest has doubled its presence at the airport in the past 10 years.

I can always count on being able to find a Southwest flight home when there are 45 nonstop flights between the two airports.

Southwest's flexible fares, which allow you to modify your flight for free up to 10 minutes before boarding, make me feel confident booking a Southwest fare.

If you use Southwest Rapid rewards points to book your flight, you'll be credited those points back, and if you use cash, you'll get a flight credit for use on a future flight.

The Southwest Rapid rewards program has a redemption procedure.

I love the fact that the airline's fare types are often more affordable than competitors, so I often spend less to fly with Southwest for routes like this one.

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There are times when I need to fly other airlines. Even though I have a lot of love for Southwest, I have found myself flying American Airlines more often this year.

I've used American for every domestic flight I've taken in the last two years, even though I prefer Southwest.

I was gifted 30,000 American Airlines AAdvantage Loyalty Points in early 2021. Automatic AAdvantage Gold status was the result of those Loyalty Points.

It was a big deal to me as I hadn't held airline status before. I shifted my flying strategy to maximize my time in the air with American in order to get to AAdvantage Platinum by March of 2023.

Is it possible to chase American Airlines elite status? There are many ways to earn loyalty points.

When it came time to book flights for the holidays, I was a bit uneasy. Should I fly home with Southwest, as I have done for every holiday season so far, or should I consider American for the sake of loyalty points?

I decided to stick with tradition and book Southwest. The carrier swayed me to stick with my usual itinerary rather than fly with American.

Price of the flights in cash and points

I used the websites of both airlines to compare prices for Thanksgiving and Christmas flights. I preferred to travel on Nov. 18 and 30.

When I looked at American flights, the cheapest option was in the main cabin and it cost $300 round-trip or 13,000 miles.

If I paid in cash, I could get a nonstop flight on Southwest for $240.

The prices for flights were the same for Christmas. It would cost me $340 or 15,000 miles to fly in American's main cabin on my travel dates in December and January.

The cheapest airfare for a nonstop route would cost me $240 in cash or 16,272 Rapid rewards points, with taxes and fees.

Southwest seemed to be my best option since I would save a total of $170 by flying them. I wanted to take the value of flying American into account.

Southwest points are taking me home for the holiday season.

Value of flying American for achieving status

The effect of a missed earning opportunity was calculated.

You need to fly with American or one of its many partners to earn A LoyaltyPoints.

When on American flights, you will always earn the same amount of Loyalty Points as you do when you redeem them. On Oneworld partner flights, the distance of a flight is irrelevant.

It was easy to calculate my earnings for these flights. To get to a final total of 3,773 Loyalty Points, I used the fare price of both American itineraries before taxes and fees, as well as the 40% elite mileage bonus I get as a Gold member.

I took the earning rate for Southwest fares and added it to the two itineraries to get a total of 2,355 Rapid Rewards points.

The value of all the flights was determined by using the current valuations for AAdvantage Loyalty Points and Rapid Rewards points. My Rapid rewards points would net me $35.34 in value, while my loyalty points would be worth $66.78.

The Loyalty Points would be worth more than the savings Southwest was offering. Southwest was the best way to go since I wanted to save money.

Bottom line

I couldn't ignore the low cost of the Southwest flights I found. If I had decided to use cash, I wouldn't have paid extra to fly American if I'd earned more Loyalty Points.

I had enough points in my loyalty account to cover both flights. This was an added bonus to my decision to fly Southwest, as I only had a small amount of American miles to cover my Thanksgiving and Christmas flights.

I would have considered paying more for the American flights if my gold status was at stake.

I plan to fly a Oneworld partner to Asia before the qualification period ends so I'm confident I'll get Platinum status by March. I will be able to reach my American elite status goals later this fall, thanks to that flight.