I have to admit, I was pretty pleased with the original announcement that American Airlines was creating bundled pricing that included change fees at a lower apparent cost. Things got a little better when American also announced they were expanding the timeframe you could request a same day change to your flight.
And, then things started to get a bit screwy. It started with just one flight I couldn’t get to price right with Choice Plus as an add-on. But, then I did a bit more digging and found out very few flights were pricing at the originally advertised price points.
Gary of View From The Wing took it upon himself to contact American about the apparent issue. And, since he’s got a smidge more readership than I do he got a response from American on this issue.
The issue is actually a “feature”, in that while you might not know it when you book your round trip ticket from New York to Los Angeles with a connection at DFW American might actually price that as two roundtrips. The pricing is a bit invisible to you as a buyer, but they see it as two fares. So, they charge you two “Choice” add-ons.
It sounds like a straight forward answer from American, but there are a few things I would cry “foul” on here.
First, I found a few anomalies that don’t fit their explanation. At first, I though it was just one. I found one fare where the add-on was $440 for Choice Plus. This a 5x multiple of the $88 fee, so it suggests there were 5 individual fares on an itinerary that was IAD-DFW-DEN-LAX-IAD. Since there are only 4 segments, I find that a bit hard to believe. Not impossible, and I’m surely not a revenue management expert.
Second, one of the other anomalies I found was a Choice Plus fare of $233. I’m not a math major, either. But, there’s no way I can see to divide $88 equally into $233.
So, there’s two examples in an admittedly small sample size that don’t appear to conform. Both could be mistakes, but that second one ($233) shows that American either has some ability to price this option variably built-in or their computer systems really are worse at math than me.
Finally, I’m not a big fan of how American positioned these fares. I’m not saying they were deliberately misleading. But, the general public really isn’t going to understand things like multiple round trips to make up one flight. And, American wasn’t advertising these fares as “Choice Plus starting at $88….”.
As a very frequent traveler, I had no idea there was any variable in the pricing until I discovered what I thought were errors and chose to dig deeper. Not a single agent I spoke with on the Executive Platinum desk could explain why the pricing was different, just that they had been told it could vary based on what cities I was flying to. That’s correct, but again, not entirely forthcoming.
Moral of the story here is that for a frequent traveler, the Choice Essential and Choice Plus fares already include things you’ll get as an elite, like a free checked bag (note, the Choice add-ons give you a 3rd free bag if you already get two by virtue of your elite status). That makes the change fees and same-day change the big values here, IMO.
Paying $176 to have the option to avoid a $150 change fee doesn’t sound like good math to me. Paying $176 to get the same-day change fee of $75 waived is a worse idea. I guess you could argue that some people might change a flight more than once, or that they might incur both the $150 and $76 fees on the same reservation. But, I think that’s a pretty thin argument here.
And, I can’t say that 50% more miles or a premium beverage adds a ton of value to me, either.
I’m seeing less and less of these flights pricing at $88 for Choice Plus the more I look around. If that’s the new normal, then a really good idea has turned into a pointless one for me.