Cathleen McCarthy is a journalist whose articles on travel, commerce and consumer topics have appeared in dozens of publications. She writes "Cashing In," a weekly column about credit card rewards programs, for CreditCards.com
Dear Cashing In,
One of the
reasons I have valued my Citi American AAdvantage card is that it got me
priority boarding. Boarding late often means there's no room left in the
overhead bin for my luggage. So I was miffed when I heard from American that my card no longer gets me on the plane first. Is this the beginning of the
end for all those great AAdvantage card perks? -- Dave
got the email American sent out to AAdvantage cardholders stating a
"clarification" of that particular benefit. Apparently, the airline has been in
the habit of boarding cardholders along with elite AAdvantage members and
first- and business-class ticket holders. That's actually quite unusual for a
co-branded airline credit card, as I'm sure you know.
It turns out,
that's not supposed to be a perk of the card, according to American. Apparently
the airline has been issuing tickets to cardholders for Priority AAccess.
Priority AAccess not only means you can board with first class, but also use
their much shorter and faster-moving lines when you go through security -- a
pretty sweet deal for a non-elite passenger flying coach class.
was American Airlines' way of letting you know you're going to see "Group 1" on
tickets you purchase with your AAdvantage card from now on, instead of Priority
AAccess. Any flights booked or charged
after Nov. 14, 2012, show the revised code. I'm guessing that passengers
who pay the big bucks for premium seats or jump through hoops to get
Executive Platinum status started complaining.
Getting poll results. Please wait...
Group 1 will probably get you onboard in enough time to claim space in the
overhead bin, though. You just won't be allowed to jump in front of the elites
to avoid standing in the aisle while first- and business-class passengers stash
their bags. At least for now, you'll still get to enjoy the other benefits of
your card, including first bag checked free and 10 percent refund on mileage
awards every year (up to 10,000 miles).
possible the downgrade in cardholder boarding is connected to the airline's recent
move to bundle travel perks into fare pricing. American announced last month
it's changing the way it structures its paid fares. One of the choices you'll have is whether to purchase extra perks when you book your flight.
Travelers now have three options, which American calls Choice, Choice Essential and
Choice Plus fares. The first is what you'd get now if you booked an economy
fare, except that you can still take advantage of AAdvantage card perks allowing your first bag checked free and Group 1 boarding. Choice Essential fares cost $68
more round-trip and come with benefits matching what you're already entitled to as an AAdvantage
cardholder -- first bag free and Group 1 boarding. As a cardholder
this means you're entitled to an extra bag checked free. Unlike the basic fare,
Choice Essential also allows you to change a flight (as long as it doesn't affect
route or destination) without being charged the usual $150 change fee.
For an extra
$88 -- $20 more than Choice Essential -- Choice Plus fares get you a 50-percent
mileage bonus and the ability to change your flight or fly standby on the day
of the flight without paying fees. It also gets you one premium beverage --
meaning any drink you'd normally pay for -- in each direction.
plans to start displaying these options whenever you book a paid flight (for now, the structure doesn't apply to rewards flights). None of the
Choice fares will get you back your Priority AAccess boarding. Other than
boarding, however, all Choice perks are in addition to what you get as a
cardholder -- so it's your choice.
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