American’s New Choice Plus Fares More Of A Choose Your Own Adventure?

I’m a guy who changes his tickets frequently enough that I incur my fair share of change fees (and then some).  Plans change, that’s just the reality of a business traveler.

That’s why I was pretty pumped when American announced their new Choice Plus (and Choice Essential, to a lesser degree) fare options.  Priority boarding isn’t something I need, nor extra checked baggage, but change fees add up quickly.  At $150 to change, plus the possibility of a $75 same-day change on top of that, there was a ton of value for me at a price point of $88, not to mention that you get 50% more miles.

But, now I’m confused, hoping not to be saddened that this new benefit isn’t for me.  I’ve been trying to book a few flights on American over the past 48 hours and I’m getting some interesting results.  Let’s start with what things are supposed to look like.  Below is a standard flight selection, showing $88 extra for Choice Plus.  Interesting note for later is that ticket prices are much cheaper this date of travel as opposed to the following day.

Choice Plus

But, how about the same routes on the next day when the fares are higher?

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This is the one that really got me thinking there was some sort of a glitch, since it’s exactly double what I understood the price was supposed to be ($88).  That seemed like a good excuse to call an agent to confirm my suspicions.  Over a total of 3 agents (one of whom called the rate desk), I got the same answer.  All 3 agents were under the impression that the routing and fare impacted the price for Choice Plus.  I figured 2 calls had to be bad communication, but 3 gave me more pause, especially since I asked the 3rd agent to put me on hold while she tried to confirm from someone an authoritative answer.  She came back with the same.  Still not 100% convinced it wasn’t just a glitch, I decided to poke around some more.  What else did I find?

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The one above shows $88 and $132 gaps for Choice Plus.  How about a basic IAD-LAX flight a few months out?

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Some $88s and a $132.  Note that the $132 is on the higher fare that also has more segments.  So, unclear if one of these things is driving up the price.  Below is another good one, $233 for Choice Plus.

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The best one I found was $440 for Choice Plus.

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What have I learned?  Not much.  Choice Plus fares are all over the board.  I eliminated browser issues by verifying each of the itineraries above with an agent.  Extra segments,higher fares, longer routing all seem to be common enough threads.

This obviously still needs some more research to be a proven theory, just a small amount of data so far.

Have you experienced this?  Have you seen any weirdness with the Choice Essential and Choice Plus pricing?

6 Comments

  1. I was excited about these new choices too but I also have found the prices to be all over the place. I have only booked one ticket so far using the choice plus. But with all these ranges in prices I think I should have just booked the cheaper ticket and then paid $75 for a confirmed flight change at the 24 hour mark. So far it’s a little of a let down.

    1. Perry Platypus, I feel like if they were going to change the pricing it would have been reasonable to notify customers. I don’t recall seeing anything about variable pricing in the original announcement.

  2. OK – I own a retail travel agency and we have access to these fares in S**RE – and it must be a routing issue where the system is breaking the fare. For example, Option 1- IAD-DFW-LAX, pricing the lowest as a through fare and adding one Choice fee. Option 2- same routing – but the lowest fare is two separate fare components, and then adding the Choice fee twice…..

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