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If you’re interested in the latest, reliable details of what’s coming down the line in the AAdvantage program, there’s no better source than AA insider JonNYC. And over the weekend, he shared details on the carrier’s new Next Flight Guaranteed program for Concierge Key members.
Name not ringing a bell? For years, Concierge Key has been an unpublicized, invitation-only program for top American Airlines spenders/flyers. Only in the last month has American Airlines started formally discussing the program and defining its benefits — like granting higher upgrade priority starting in January.
The Next Flight Guarantee (NFG) seems to be the next benefit to be formalized. According to the leaked details, the perk will be announced in January. Here’s how the new benefit will work:
If a flight is cancelled or delayed more than three hours, we guarantee to accommodate the Concierge Key member and one companion on the next flight.
- The departure time of the next flight must be more than 60 minutes from the time of the reaccommodation request
- Next Flight Guarantee applies to mainline and regional flights for both domestic and international travel
- The guarantee is for the coach cabin only
- It ensures our best customers get out on the next flight in the event of a disruption
According to the leaked info, Concierge Key members “shouldn’t have to ask [AA] to deliver on this benefit.” Instead, American Airlines AAgents are instructed to “proactively offer this to any Concierge Key member and one companion who are affected by a cancelled or delayed (more than three hours) flight.”
Based on reader reports, American has already been saving a seat on the next flight for Concierge Key members facing a tight connection. It’s unclear whether this formalized benefit is a step back or if the airline will continue to provide that unpublicized perk.
A few peculiar items stand out in this procedure. First, the original flight must be delayed 3 hours before the benefit kicks in. In practice, American Airlines rarely officially delays a flight more than 30 minutes at a time — usually more like 10-15 minutes at a time — even through maintenance delays, when air traffic control has halted departures or the aircraft isn’t even at the gate. This means you’re likely going to wait out most of the three hours before the benefit will officially kick in.
Then, you’re going to need a flight that departs at least 60 minutes later. If you’ve had to wait out the three hours, you’re now four hours later than your original flight. And that’s if there’s even a qualifying flight left that day. It would be much more practical to give Concierge Key members the choice of being rebooked on another flight as soon as there’s any sort of delay.
Also, the guarantee is only valid for the “coach cabin.” Considering that Concierge Key members have likely spent more than $45,000 and flown many premium-cabin flights to qualify for this level of membership, it’s safe to assume a good chunk of that is from flying in business or first. So, it seems that American Airlines would often be requiring its most valuable consumers to downgrade in order to get on the next flight.
While the traveler would likely be glad to get to his/her destination sooner rather than later, it seems strange that American Airlines wouldn’t make the policy something more friendly, like: “Every effort will be made to reaccommodate the traveler in the ticketed cabin, but circumstances may require the traveler to be reaccommodated in the coach cabin.”
It’s interesting to see American formalize some of its Concierge Key benefits. In one sense, it sets realistic expectations about what members will and won’t get from the top-tier status. However, it also takes away some of the mystery around the program. The leaked details of the Next Flight Guarantee benefit are a bit disappointing. Hopefully, the carrier will bolster the benefit before officially announcing it.
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