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All three major US airlines offer an invite-only program, available exclusively to their highest-revenue customers. Today, TPG Points & Miles Editor Sarah Silbert takes a look at American’s Concierge Key.
Holding elite status with an airline offers plenty of benefits, from complimentary upgrades to enhanced customer service. Qualifying for top-tier status with American, Delta and United is relatively straightforward — you have to meet the published flight, segment and/or spending requirements — but each carrier also offers a more mysterious, invite-only level of membership.
TPG Contributor Vikram Birring explored the details of United’s Global Services last month, and today we’ll take a look at American Airline’s version of this ultra-elite membership level: Concierge Key. While American doesn’t publish details about this program, we’ve gathered some information about the perks (and what it takes to qualify) from some TPG readers who are currently Concierge Key members.
HOW TO EARN IT
As with United’s Global Services, there are no concrete requirements for getting invited to Concierge Key. One thing’s clear, though: You have to be a big spender. Rumor has it that it’s awarded to those who spend at least $45,000 in a year, and one Concierge Key member reported earning this status after exceeding this spending amount and racking up more than 200,000 EQPs (elite-qualifying points, which were eliminated with this year’s AAdvantage devaluation).
1. Dedicated phone line and email address — One of the biggest benefits of being an elite airline member (apart from complimentary upgrades, which we’ll get to in a minute) is access to dedicated phone lines with shorter wait times and more accommodating agents. Unsurprisingly, Concierge Key members enjoy this perk, along with an exclusive email address they can contact for assistance with reservations.
According to a Concierge Key member, agents respond quickly and knowledgeably, and even proactively monitor travel and book alternative flights if there’s a chance of missing a connection due to weather or other delays. A member also reported being squeezed onto overbooked flights at the last minute, though it doesn’t appear there’s a hard-and-fast policy for guaranteeing members a seat.
2. Flagship Check-In — Avoid the lines by heading to a Flagship Check-In area at participating airports, where you’ll enjoy expedited security access — sometimes even with an agent walking you to the front of the line. You’ll find these at Chicago O’Hare (ORD), London Heathrow (LHR), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA) and New York-JFK.
3. Meet and greet at the tarmac — At London-Heathrow (LHR) and other American Airlines hubs, Concierge Key members with tight connections get a ride to the terminal in a private vehicle.
4. Free Admirals Club membership — While it’s hard to assign a cash value to some of the Concierge Key perks, complimentary membership to American Airlines’ lounges is worth about $500, based on the cost for a new individual member. Having a place to relax, grab a bite and get some work done before a flight is always nice, and you don’t even need to be flying AA to access an Admirals Club. Of course you don’t need to be a big spender to enjoy this perk — You can also get Admirals Club access with the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard or Citi Prestige (when flying AA).
5. Top-priority pre-boarding — Concierge Key members are entitled to pre-boarding ahead of all other passengers, though in reality this doesn’t always play out. One member reports that if a “Premium Services” representative is at the gate, he or she will call Concierge Keys by name and invite them to pre-board; but other agents rarely offer this perk.
6. Exclusive event invites — Past events include dinners at Michelin-starred restaurants, a meet and greet with American Airlines’ CEO, a launch party for the airline’s new amenity kit and more.
7. High upgrade priority — Unlike United Global Services, which prioritizes these top-tier members above all other elites including Premier 1Ks, Concierge Key members don’t enjoy higher upgrade priority than Executive Platinum members (the highest tier that American publicizes).
That said, they do enjoy the same upgrade priority as Executive Platinums, with complimentary upgrades clearing up to 100 hours in advance, plus some “soft benefits.” For example, a Concierge Key member will likely have better luck than other non-CK elite members when requesting award space that isn’t currently available. Essentially, in situations where AA agents have discretion, Concierge Key members are in the best position to get what they need.
Compared to United Airlines, which tends to run its Global Services program like an extra-exclusive status level, American’s Concierge Key feels more like a “premium services” offering made available to the carrier’s highest-spending customers. It doesn’t confer higher upgrade priority or the ability to create award space when certain fare classes are available, but it does offer some excellent perks including full Admirals Club membership and a dedicated customer service team.
As one Concierge Key member puts it, “The program is practically invisible to the outside world, yet its agents are empowered with outsized discretion to go above and beyond traditional restrictions to deliver an end-to-end travel experience that is as frictionless as possible for the passenger.”
Are you a Concierge Key member? Please share your experience in the comments below!