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‘Let's go clean it up’: AA revenue chief explains why you’ll like the changes coming to vouchers and credits

September 19 2021
6 min read
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You don't often read about airline revenue managers making passenger-friendly changes.

Yet, here we are. When American Airlines offered TPG exclusive time with the vice president of revenue management, Scott Chandler, we knew that he had something important to share. Turns out, he was bearing good news for what's to come with the airline's credits and vouchers process.

At the beginning of August, American's revenue management team embarked on a multi-step process to make it easier than ever to redeem existing credits.

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The devil is in the details, but essentially American is converting existing “Flight Credit” into “Trip Credit.” Though it’s only a one-word difference on paper, the implications of this change are much more far-reaching, as Chandler explained.

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Vouchers being converted to 'Trip Credits'

“Trip Credits” are transferrable, whereas "Flight Credit" isn't. Better yet, you can combine up to eight “Trip Credits” together towards the purchase of a new reservation. ("Flight Credit" isn't combinable.)

There are several other notable reasons why “Trip Credits” are far more flexible than “Flight Credits.” For one, they can be used to purchase Oneworld and other airline partner itineraries through AA’s reservation team. You can also add multiple passengers onto a single reservation, which could help you share elite benefits, like upgrades, priority boarding and complimentary seat assignments, with your travel companions.

Going forward, all credits will be issued as "Trip Credit," and AA will phase out all of its other stored forms of payment, including eVouchers, flight credits, paper certificates and more. "Let's go clean it up. Let's focus on one kind of credit, 'Trip Credit.' Let's make it easy for people to use, understand what they have, make it accessible in the online wallet, and make it easier for employees to use," Chandler told TPG about this major new initiative.

"We really are trying to make it easier for customers. I know that sounds a little trite. Sometimes people say that, but it's really true," he added.

Asked about any downsides to the conversion process, Chandler couldn't think of any. This really is one of the rare all-around improvements from an airline without any strings attached, he said.

Customer benefit far outweighs the cost

While there are plenty of benefits for the traveler, there's a considerable cost for American Airlines to perform all the back-end work in converting all the existing "Flight Credit" into "Trip Credit." After all, American issued $2.6 billion worth of vouchers by the end of 2020, according to accounting figures published in its annual earnings report.

In addition to the IT work, making vouchers easier to use will likely result in more credits being redeemed. While that's great for flyers, it means that there's less breakage from unused credits that might've otherwise expired.

Even so, Chandler is excited about the investment. In fact, he hopes that making credits easier to redeem will result in more people flying with American. "The bottom line is that we want people to use our product," he said.

"The thing to get across is the willpower is there to go do it, even though it's hard. Hard in the past sometimes meant we went to go do easier stuff, but we have the willpower to go see this through," he added.

The process does come with one (big) benefit for American; it should also help clear up the airline's phone lines. "Trip Credits" can easily be redeemed online, and AA is hoping more travelers will rebook their trips on the website once the conversions happen.

How the conversions are happening

American is converting "Flight Credits" into "Trip Credits" in tranches — right now, only credits that belong to AAdvantage members and were booked on a single-passenger itinerary have been converted.

Redeeming AA vouchers is about to get much easier (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Chandler didn't have a timeline available for when more conversions would happen, but he said that the airline is working "relentlessly" to complete its mission. Customers can't call to "request" a conversion — everyone will need to wait their turn, unfortunately.

"What we're doing now, think of it like a batch process. We've been going back over history and batching some things together. The goal is that there will be an automated process that is relentless and rigorous that will go do that conversion. Until then, the IT and business teams are doing it in batches," he explained about the conversion process.

To date, American has been impressed with the feedback it received about this new initiative. According to spokesperson Andrea Koos, "we've seen a much higher adoption rate of people self-serving and booking new travel via aa.com with their credit versus those that are calling the reservations team to redeem their credit."

A limited-time promo will help bridge the gap

Without a firm timeline for when the conversions will be completed, American will offer a temporary promotion to make it possible to transfer existing "Flight Credits" to other travelers.

The promo will launch within the next few weeks, and we'll be sure to update this story once an official start date has been confirmed.

Once the promotion goes live, you'll need to call AA's reservation desk (800-433-7300) to use a credit for someone else. (Reservations agents are currently being briefed and trained about this limited-time program.)

The two major caveats to participating in this promotion are that both you and the traveler that you’re booking for must be members of AA’s AAdvantage loyalty program. If you aren’t yet a member, you can enroll online or while on the phone during the booking process.

Additionally, this is a “one-time” offer — you can’t gift someone your credit and then decide to give it to somebody else.

All existing "Flight Credits" will qualify for this promotion, including those booked through a travel agency or other third-party vendor. Any unused vouchers issued during the pandemic can be used for travel through March 31, 2022, but only those booked by Jan. 31, 2022, will qualify for this promotion.

And hopefully, once this promo expires at the beginning of 2022, American's "Trip Credit" conversion process will be well underway.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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