Fact-Checking American Airlines Flight Attendant Claims to Sell You a Credit Card
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If you’ve flown on an American Airlines flight in the last few months, you’ve no doubt heard the credit card pitch. While sometimes this pitch is made shortly after takeoff, many passengers are either woken up or have their in-flight entertainment paused for the announcement mid-flight. And, if your flights have been anything like mine, the announcement will go on for two or three minutes.
The card that they are selling is the Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard. No doubt, it’s a great card. However, the flight attendant pitches almost always reference outdated, incorrect or flat-out wrong benefits.
While we don’t begrudge the flight attendants trying to make their commissions on these sign-ups — AA won’t say how much, but some sources are reporting $60 a pop — it pains us to no end to hear incorrect information being used to sell a credit card. Especially when the flight attendants are using this incorrect information to hard-sell you to fill out the application right away.
So, let’s fact-check some of the claims that we’ve heard so far in 2018.
The card gets you Priority Boarding (“All cardmembers get priority boarding giving you plenty of time to store your bags”; “You’ll receive priority boarding for the primary cardholder and up to four traveling companions”; and “With your card, show it at the gate, you’re moved up to the second boarding which is Group 2”)
This one makes it into most the pitches. “Priority boarding” is close, but incorrect. The card does offer Preferred Boarding in Group 5, but that’s not Priority Boarding — which is defined as Groups 1 through 4. And, you certainly don’t get Group 2 boarding from having this card, as the flight attendant on my January 16 flight claimed.
Double miles on foreign transactions (“And while you’re traveling with your card throughout the world, you will receive double miles on purchases and you’ll have no foreign transaction fees”)
False. While the card doesn’t have any foreign transaction fees, it earns 2x miles only on eligible American Airlines purchases — not all foreign transactions.
This card gets you first class check-in (“With your card, you can check-in at first class check-in. Just show your ticket, even if you’re on a coach ticket, and they will let you check in there”)
False. Priority check-in isn’t a benefit of this card.
Free checked bags for up to four companions (“They will let you check your bag for free and four other people traveling with you, their bags are checked for free too”)
Mostly true, but with important limitations. The four people traveling with you must be on the same reservation and on a domestic itinerary:
…marketed and operated by American Airlines or on American Eagle domestic itineraries marketed by American Airlines and operated by Air Wisconsin Airlines Corporation, Compass Airlines, LLC, Envoy Air Inc., ExpressJet Airlines, Inc., Mesa Airlines, Inc., Piedmont Airlines, Inc., PSA Airlines, Inc., Republic Airline Inc., SkyWest Airlines, Inc., or Trans States Airlines, LLC
The benefit isn’t available on “codeshare flights booked with an American Airlines flight number but operated by another airline.”
Credit card miles are transferable (“It’s important to note that these miles are transferable; you can transfer them to friends of family if you so choose.”)
The flight attendant on my Phoenix (PHX) to Honolulu (HNL) flight threw this one in for good measure at the end of the pitch. And, it’s true that American Airlines miles are indeed transferable, but it’s usually a terrible idea to do so.
American Airlines charges $12.50 per 1,000 miles transferred plus another $15 fee for transferring. To transfer all 50,000 sign-up bonus miles to one person, you’d have to pay $640 to transfer them. And TPG‘s valuation of those miles is only $700.
“MONEY Magazine in October picked this card as the best card for American Airlines miles and that was with 30,000 miles. Now, you get 50,000 miles.”
This was a new one I heard just this week and certainly piqued my interest. First of all, the Aviator Red MasterCard had a 60,000 mile bonus since August, so the 30,000 part is clearly wrong. But, what about the other part? Well, MONEY Magazine did release a list in October choosingthe “Best Airline Mileage Card”, but it wasn’t the Aviator Red MasterCard:
In fact, the list doesn’t mention a single Barclaycard Aviator credit card anywhere. So, this flight attendant claim earns a false rating.
This card offers unique benefits (“There is no credit card in the industry at this time doing these items on our program”)
Mostly false. Yes, this card is unique in that you can earn the sign-up bonus after just one purchase and paying the $95 annual fee. Besides that, the only unique benefit is that you can earn 3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD) by spending $25,000 on this card in a calendar year. But, I’ve never heard this benefit included in the on-board pitch.
All of the benefits listed by the flight attendants generally are also found on the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard: 2x miles on AA purchases, free checked bag for up to four companions on the same domestic itinerary, reduced mileage awards, 10% rebate of redeemed miles, no foreign transaction fees and Group 5 “preferred boarding.”
Response from American Airlines
We reached out to American Airlines to ask about the inaccuracies in the pitches by cabin crew. An American Airlines spokesperson responded that flight attendants are provided with a script to use onboard. The examples we shared with AA of deviations from this script are being taken very seriously and will be “shared with the right teams for review and action.”
If you’re curious about signing up the next time you hear an American Airlines flight attendant pitch the Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard, feel free to do so. But, don’t base your decision off the pitch itself, as almost all of the ones we’ve heard contained inaccurate statements. In fact, during my nine flights so far in 2018 on AA, only the flight attendant on my Miami to LaGuardia flight got all of the details right.
Featured photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images
Based on TPG’s most recent valuations, the 50,000 miles are worth $700. In addition, you can earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) toward elite status after spending $40,000 in a calendar year. As of July 23, 2017 this is the only card that offers Admirals Club lounge access so if you are an AA flyer this card might make sense for you. Aside from lounge access the primary cardholder will receive a Global Entry application fee credit every 5 years, first checked bag free for up to 8 travel companions on domestic itineraries and a 25% discount on eligible in-flight purchases on American Airlines flights.
- Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
- Admirals Club® membership for you and access for guests traveling with you
- Complimentary Admirals Club® lounge access for authorized users
- Earn 10,000 AAdvantage® Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year
- No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases*
- Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
- First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to 8 companions traveling with you on the same reservation
- The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 17.49% - 25.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.