Flying business class on American Airlines has some new perks. But there’s an extra fee, of course.
The carrier this month began selling its new Flagship Business Plus fare category on “aircraft with lie-flat seats” flying from the US mainland to Asia, Australia, Europe, New Zealand and South America, and select flights to Hawaii (Flagship Business International − Travel information − American Airlines (aa.com)).
For about $400 extra on a one-way ticket, Flagship Business Plus customers can use dedicated lanes for security and at the gate; the arrivals lounge at London Heathrow, Flagship First Dining Lounges at select airports (including JFK, MIA and DFW) and Admirals Clubs worldwide; priority boarding; re-accommodation in case of flight cancellations; and a third checked bag.
While the upgrade is not cheap, it’s cheaper than first class, and every benefit has value in today’s hassle-prone world.
Declining an interview, American Airlines offered up the following statement:
“We are pleased to offer customers a new way to access American’s Flagship premium travel experience. With Flagship Business Plus, customers can enjoy Flagship First Check-In, receive a taste of our Flagship First Dining and relax in our Flagship Lounge prior to their departure. Flagship Business Plus also provides a third complimentary checked bag and access to the Arrivals Lounge at LHR. Today, Flagship Business Plus is broadly available on aa.com and in third-party channels. We plan to enhance the offering in the future to provide additional value to customers, which would require NDC technology to access and book Flagship Business Plus.”
Feedback from the Trade
Travel advisors with whom we spoke were split over the value of the new offering. Many were unimpressed, saying many already have these perks or something close to them. But others said it has real value, especially for travelers who are not regular AA customers, infrequent flyers since Covid, or traveling on summer vacation with grown children, for example.
“The perks are something already offered to a ‘business traveler,’ assuming he is a frequent traveler; they get lounge access, free bags, priority boarding, most frequent travelers will have Pre-TSA and maybe Clear,” says Roy Gal of Memories Forever Travel in Fair Lawn, NJ. “A savvy client that has status and/or an affiliated airline credit card should already have all or most of these benefits anyway, so I fail to understand the value you would get by paying $400 per person.”
Indeed, says Mitch Krayton, owner of Krayton Travel and host at Worldwide Travelcast,“business lounges already provide sit down meal and drink services. And five times the cost of coach should already give you priority boarding. This is just another fee for what they should give already.”
And yet, says Trapper Martin, owner-operator at Dream Vacations by Trapper Martin, Shane Smartt & Associates, it’s all a question of priorities.
“I am executive platinum on AA and also Emerald on Finnair. The access to Flagship First check in from Finnair on domestic AA flights is worth its weight in gold in Miami., and some people state that Flagship First Dining (only available for those flying in first and not business) is easily worth $100 per person. And if they don’t have status with AA, adding another bag might be worth it.
“At that price point I imagine on ticketed J tickets AA might have some folks go for this.”
Absolutely, says Gerrilyn Grant of M&E Unlimited Travel. “I enjoyed perks like this AA Plus while flying on Emirates and other non-US airlines and loved every minute,” she told TRO. “Since I rarely fly AA, I would not mind paying an extra fee on occasion for a better flying experience. And my higher end clients would do this too.”
Then there were some on the fence.
“I believe it’s a great idea if well executed, same as Basic Business Class, says Daniel Santiago Diaz, director of travel industry sales at Regal Wings. “This can also be a good way for them to try out a new pricing scheme for some flyers that are willing to pay the extra buck on top of a higher fare.”
But still, he added, “segmenting the fares even more can be tricky on the loyalty side. Having too many options on business class dilutes the interest of the travelers. Part of what they are offering is already included on the airline’s loyalty scheme, and/or is unnecessary (three luggage pieces). It also feels like AA will ultimately push ALL premium cabin travelers to pay for those in-ground services in the not-so-far future.
And some who have just plain given up on AA for now no matter what service they offer.
Says Dream Vacations franchisee Patty Godfrey Moss, “I am a 2 million+ mile flyer with AA and I am trying to totally avoid them until they get their act together! I wouldn’t pay AA extra for anything right now. So many horror stories with lack of pilots and crew, aircraft changes resulting in losing first or business class totally and having trouble getting the refunds, cancelled flights with no rebooking for a week or more available, etc., etc. All airlines seem to be struggling but the most complaints lately seem to consistently be AA.”