American Airlines Adds Perks For AAdvantage ‘Elites’……just a few years behind all of their competitors

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24/09/2008 – American Airlines Adds Perks For AAdvantage ‘Elites’……just a few years behind all of their competitors

Yesterday afternoon American Airlines made a bold announcement to the ‘elite’ members of their AAdvantage frequent flyer program and those who fly on full-fare and in premium cabin seats. The ‘bold’ announcement is called PriorityAAccess. What PriorityAAccess offers these flyers is a set of perks that have been enjoyed by ‘elite’ frequent flyers of more than 1/2 of a dozen other North American airlines for quite a few years now.

American Airlines’ PriorityAAccess promises to make cruising through the airport easier and faster for ‘elite’ flyers and premium passengers. How does it plan on making the airport experience more streamlined? American Airlines will be opening up ‘priority security lanes’ for shorter lines at the TSA screening checkpoints at a number of airports. These lanes are generally available to all elite flyers of the airline and their OneWorld alliance partners.

American will be adding priority security screening at a number of airports including Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), San Francisco International Airport (SFO), New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA) and Chicago O’Hare (ORD). It should be noted that American Airline’s primary competitor, United Airlines (with whom they share their primary hub, ORD) has offered priority screening lanes at all of these airports for many years.

Another perk of PriorityAAccess is that ‘elite’ flyers and premium fare passengers will now be allowed priority when boarding flights. This means that they will be called separately, ahead of general boarding. This is a nice perk, and one that has been in place for many years with nearly every other ‘legacy’ airline in the United States……and one that seems to already be in place with American Airlines.

What confuses me about the new PriorityAAccess’ boarding structure is that flights are generally already boarded in this order:
A) First//Business Class passengers
B) Executive Platinum / Platinum passengers
C) Gold passengers

Does this new lane just group all of these passengers into a single group of “PriorityAAccess?” if everyone is grouped together, won’t certain routes, such as New York’s LaGuardia (LGA) to Chicago O’Hare (ORD) may end up with 65% of the plane boarding at the same time with PriorityAAccess?

PriorityAAccess appears to create a while new boarding lane at the gate. This new separate lane as a perk follows the lead of other airlines such as Northwest Airlines, United Airlines and Continental Airlines, who even go so far as to have a separate boarding lane at the gate with a red carpet (actual Continental’s is blue) welcoming these passengers on-board.

A few years ago American Airlines spent millions of dollars building an outstanding, state of the art and beautiful Admirals Club at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport (NRT). This lounge while wonderful was constructed to service American Airlines’ five flights per day from NRT (you read that correctly, only 5 flights per day).

Since American Airlines has always claimed to be focused on the business traveler, and proven so in some respects, such as in-seat power on all ‘mainline aircraft’ and reintroducing in-flight WiFi (as I had written about earlier this month here : 2/09/2008 – American Airlines Puts WiFi In The Sky), why did they think that building an Admiral’s Club for five flights, when their passengers have access to the JAL Sakura Lounge at Narita, rather than offering more incentives to their ‘elite’ flyers? An airlines most frequent flyers, those who fly 50,000+ miles per year, those who purchase full-fare economy seats (Y-fare seats) and those who purchase business class and first class seats should see significant benefits from an airline. These ‘premium passengers’ are the ones putting the money in American Airlines’ coffers.

Looking at PriorityAAccess vs Narita’s Admiral’s Club, it is much less expensive to offset the costs of maintaining priority security lanes at a handful of airports than it was to construct a redundant OneWorld lounge at NRT, especially with all the OneWorld Airlines residing in Terminal 2. How did American Airlines not view the perk of elite and premium passengers boarding flights first? Priority boarding costs the American Airlines NOTHING when compared to the operational costs of maintaining a lounge that services only five flights per day (and generally less than 500 passengers per day, with only 265 premium class seats departing from NRT daily if all the first and business seats are occupied).

I’d like to commend American Airlines for offering its elite and premium passenger’s added perks for their loyalty. Many airlines are stripping out the perks offered to their best flyers. I’m just curious why American Airlines is touting these new perks when they are nearly a decade behind their competition (if not longer in some cases).

Happy Flying!

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