Would you pay a fee to avoid paying a fee? American Airlines thinks so


Fees on top of fees.

It used to be the kind of hyperbole with which I spiced up my columns. But now, thanks to American Airlines, it’s real.

The airline this morning introduced something called a Boarding and Flexibility Package that allows you to pay a fee and get priority boarding, offers a $75 discount off a change fee, and lets you standby free for an early flight that day.

I’m not making this up, folks. American is allowing you to pay a fee to avoid paying a fee.

And before you say, “Fees gone wild!” let’s get to the fine print.

• 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 PriorityAAccessSM 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.

How much does this cost? The introductory pricing looks pretty affordable, for now.

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

This looks to me like a version of Southwest’s Early Bird program. Call it Early Bird plus.

Dan Garton, American’s executive vice president of marketing, is thrilled by this new ancillary revenue opportunity.

We’re excited to offer customers options to tailor each travel experience to their preferences. Our customers appreciate value and convenience. With American’s Your Choice services, we’re able to further enhance the services we deliver to them. And we are hopeful of adding more Your Choice offerings in the future.

Hopefully not, Dan.

Related story:   Hey American Airlines, here’s your $25 -- I hope you’re happy

This is as bizarre a move as charging for the first bag, which American Airlines pioneered. Any other bright ideas, guys?

(Photo: boeing dreamscape/Flickr Creative Commons)


Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org.

  • You might be thinking that shipping your luggage instead of putting it on the plane will cost a lot more than paying the fees to the airlines. In many cases you’re probably correct but not always. A small box holding enough clothes for a week long trip could cost as little as $8 even if it gets shipped across a country. Take enough clothes with you for the first couple of days and ship the rest to your hotel. They will hold it at the front desk, so you don’t have to worry about the delivery window. Once you do the math, it isn’t as laughable as you would think especially if you have to take a lot of luggage with you.

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