American to Sell Fee Discounts, Other Perks

American announced a new set of options for customers today. Called Your Choice, the program consists of flight perks and packages of perks, such as priority boarding, available for purchase. In American's words, "Your Choice provides key services intended to make the customer travel experience even more personalized, convenient, cost-effective, and flexible than ever before."

Savvy travelers know that when a major airline puts pen to paper and comes up with a sentence like that, it usually means the customer's wallet is about to take a hit. So let's take a look at Your Choice and see what it's really made of.

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The program is debuting with a single package, the Boarding and Flexibility Package. Here are the details:

  • Places you in Group 1 of General Boarding, which allows you to be one of the first groups to board the plane for your flight. (Group 1 boards immediately following PriorityAAccess (SM) customers)
  • Provides a $75 flight change discount, which means that if you need to change your itinerary, you'll save $75 off the regular service charge when applicable
  • Allows you to standby for an earlier flight on your day of departure at no charge
  • Applies to all travelers in your reservation per-person charge

That's not a bad batch of perks, really. The package cuts the $150 change fee in half (though American's inclusion of "when applicable" makes me nervous), and boarding first is a must for passengers who would like their carry-on to actually be stowed near their seat. The standby option is good for business travelers in particular, who appreciate a little flexibility. Adding this perk might sting a little bit though, considering the airline recently eliminated free standby.

Still, useful perks for the most part. Later this summer, American will offer the priority boarding on its own for $10 each-way, and more packages will follow.

But the big question is: what does it cost?

This is where things get a little tricky. Pricing varies by route, with longer routes being more expensive. American says introductory prices for the Boarding and Flexibility Package start at $9. Here are some prices:

  • $9 for Dallas/Fort Worth to Kansas City
  • $14 for Chicago O'Hare to Boston
  • $14 for Dallas/Fort Worth to Orlando
  • $14 for Miami to Washington, D.C.
  • $19 for New York JFK to Los Angeles

Remember that American is calling these introductory prices, so the package prices may increase down the line. But the prices compare favorably to other airline perk packages, including Southwest's $10 EarlyBird check-in or United's Premier Line (which starts at $19 but, in my opinion, offers more useful perks). On longer routes, through, the cost of American's package seems a tad high, and perhaps not worth it unless you really expect to need some flexibility. If not, you're paying nearly $20 to board earlier than most—a nice perk, but is it $20 nice?

Readers, do you think you'd purchase the Boarding and Flexibility Package? How do you feel about add-on perks in general?

Read comments or add your own insight!
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