Frequent travelers are usually very loyal to their primary airline. We all have different reasons, whether it’s the strength of the network or the reliability of upgrades to First Class. American Airlines is my primary carrier, though I also have 1K status with United. I enjoy a new benefit just as much as anyone else and American has added/expanded a couple recently to make things a bit more pleasant in the sky:
American is now allowing passengers to pre-select their choice of entree in First/Business Class for flights they operate in North America. American has been focusing on technology lately including making Samsung Galaxy tablets available to customers and flight attendants. This move forward is another way for them to leverage technology to bring a better customer experience.
My basic knowledge of the IT systems of the legacy airlines strongly suggest that none of them are on the cutting edge, American included. Each has their own specific issues. American’s iPhone app pales in comparison to United’s.
I don’t fly a lot of transcontinental flights where the meal choice is more critical. But, this is a nifty little change that seems to tie together multiple systems in an intelligent way. And that means I can hope for more technological improvements, maybe even significant ones.
American also expanded their Same Day Change policy. This is a feature I avail myself of quite frequently. The Same Day Change is not to be confused with stand-by. If you are a premium customer or other exempt passenger (such as active military, see a full list of exempt passengers here) you can stand by on a different flight for free, but it’s subject to availability. So, if the plane goes out full or you’re not high enough on the standby list you don’t get on the flight.
Same Day Change allows you to confirm a seat for a different flight ahead of time for a $75 fee. Previously, you had to call American 12 hours before the flight you wanted to switch to was scheduled to depart. That sometimes lead to awkward situations. If you wanted to switch to a 3pm departure in the time zone you were traveling from, that meant being up at 3am to call for availability. And, since the bucket for Same Day Changes was first-come, first served it behooved you to call in right at the 12-hour mark.
Now, American has expanded this window to 24 hours, though you can still only make changes to flights on the same day you were originally scheduled to depart. This is a big benefit to me for two reasons. First, I don’t have to wake up in the middle of the night to switch flights (or, more likely wake up normal time and potentially miss the chance to change). Second, by confirming your change using this procedure, you’re immediately added to the upgrade wait list.
American has always done a great job of holding back First Class seats so Executive Platinum members get their upgrades. I don’t necessarily think this is their intended benefit, they’re trying to sell that First Class seat. But, if it goes unsold, it’s generally going to an Executive Platinum (a highly valued customer) or a Platinum or Gold member who may have purchased upgrade certificates (500-mile stickers) from American, also generating them revenue. Platinum and Gold members do get complimentary upgrade certificates, but nowhere near enough to upgrade all their flights for free.
I’m sure I’ve missed an upgrade on a flight I did a Same Day Change in the past, but I can’t recall when. I’ve cleared almost 100% of my upgrades with American over the last few years, a significantly greater percentage than my United flights.
Some elites complain that American doesn’t give this benefit away free to top-tier Executive Platinum members like United and Delta does for its top 3 tiers. For me, though, I think the fee dissuades a decent number of elites from using the Same Day Change, which means I’m more likely to get an upgrade when I want one.
When taken along with the introduction of new fare bundles that American released last year, this makes Choice Plus even more valuable. Choice Plus includes free Same Day Changes which means that package now includes a 24-hour change.
All in all, small pluses for American, which keeps stringing together smaller wins in bankruptcy.