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If you get a call from American Airlines, you might want to pick it up. Effective immediately, American Airlines is contacting select customers with the opportunity to change their connecting flight to a direct flight for a non-refundable fee of $75 per person.

Although we originally heard of this offer from Twitter user JonNYC, we’ve confirmed the information with an American Airlines spokesperson.

Here are some things you should know about the new test program:

  • American Airlines revenue management is selecting the customers to whom this offer will be made. We’ve confirmed that customers can’t request this offer; it must be offered to them.
  • Offers are currently only being made to main cabin passengers
  • The $75 fee is not waived, even for American’s top Concierge Key elite members
  • The offer is only available over the phone
  • The program is a test, so it may evolve over time
  • While direct flights can technically have stops, it appears passengers who pay will only be switched to nonstop flights (and rightfully so).

An American Airlines spokesperson said “it is something we used to offer to customers and are testing it again. As we test it, we hope the customers who receive the offer find it beneficial.” Certainly, some customers will find it beneficial to pay $75 to change from a connecting flight to a direct flight.

But there are also obvious revenue benefits, as well as potential operational benefits, to be gained by American Airlines from this program. Consider the situation where AA has overbooked a flight from Austin to Dallas, but has ample space on a direct flight from Austin to Miami. Previously, AA might have called some passengers traveling on the overbooked flight and continuing onto Miami to offer a complimentary switch. Now, AA will likely call these same passengers but offer the opportunity to change to the direct flight for a $75 fee.

Many passengers, happy to shorten their travel time, will certainly take AA up on the offer. But, in doing so they’re paying AA to make a schedule change that:

  • Potentially helps AA solve an overbooked flight — one that they potentially could have been bumped from
  • Reduces the Elite Qualifying Miles and Elite Qualifying Segments that they earn
  • Removes the opportunity to visit lounges during a layover

If you get a call from American Airlines, would you pay $75 to switch from your connecting flight to a direct flight?

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