Ancillary agenda: American Airlines rolls out new pricing structure and booking path
Fort Worth-based American Airlines has rolled out a new pricing structure in a tweaked booking path on their direct booking website aa.com.
In a video, the company announces “Enhancements to AA.com” which amount to quite the shift in the airline’s ancillary offering. In fact, it’s more like ancillary is becoming core, as these are fees bundled into different perk packages. The new pricing allows fliers to customize the type of ticket according to features beyond date, time, price and seat.
The company announced the changes on their website, touting the benfits of the new pricing structure and booking path.
Today American Airlines introduces…a new booking experience on AA.com that displays additional travel options that provide better flexibility, value and convenience. Customers can select from new options that include a competitive, round-trip fare, as well as more ways to add new combinations of products and services they value most.
Available on aa.com, in addition to any OTAs and GDS that choose to show them, the new prices are valid for travel within the 48 contiguous US states and cost up to $88 per round-trip flight.
The airline calls these new options “Choice,” “Choice Essential,” and “Choice Plus” with the following benefits:
- Choice: This is essentially the same as a normal Economy fare ticket, with charges for any changes, checked bags and any other add-on features.
- Choice Essential:At $68 per round-trip, this option gives customers the ability to change flights without fees and includes one checked bag and Group 1 boarding. For
AAdvantage/oneworld® elite members this would be 3 complimentary checked bags.
- Choice Plus: At $88 per round-trip, the Plus offers the same advantages of Essentials, along with a 50% AAdvantage mileage bonus, same-day flight change, same-day standby and a premium beverage such as an alcoholic beverage during the flight.
Other new options are Fully Refundable and Fully Flexible fares across Economy and Business/First cabins.
Each of these new fare categories will be showcased within the booking process, allowing travelers to see what they are getting for what price.
The new booking experience includes all taxes and fees, which will certainly please many travelers frustrated with opaque fee information throughout the booking experience.
These new options are most likely going to win over customers looking for more flexibility and service in their fare; however, the interface could use a little tweaking, as the array of options causes even more information overload than normal during the average flight booking process.
Will the average traveler care enough to want to see all of these options to go directly to aa.com, will they understand that “Choice” is essentially the same thing as a lowest fare option, and will this all just confuse them to the point where they go with another airline instead?
Or will these fee bundles clarify options for travelers, push them to book directly on aa.com and encourage more seamless up-sells on relatively low-cost options for the airline, thus delivering a much needed boost to AA’s bottom line?
An AA spokesperson suggest that customers are eager for these new options:
For years, American has been gathering customer feedback on what products they value most and the best way to deliver a new and improved product line for our customers. These new travel options were designed to provide the greatest benefits at the best price for our customers. This design was intended to give customers visibility into how they can purchase products – like never before – with reasonable amounts that afford much greater flexibility and predictability.
When asked about the recent settlement with Sabre, the spokesperson says these new booking options have nothing to do with it – although the limited availability of the option inventory is clearly aimed at getting more customers to book directly with AA.
This has nothing to do with the recent settlement with Sabre. American is introducing compelling new fare options that we think many customers will want to purchase, and we want to make them available to as many customers as possible. This design was intended to give customers visibility into how they can purchase products – like never before – with reasonable amounts that afford much greater flexibility and predictability.
American Airlines parent company AMR reported $2.6 billion in “other revenues” last year in its annual report, and while AMR considers revenue from things like the Admirals Club in this column, this is still a sizable chunk of change that could easily be boosted by moving more customers beyond the base fare.
Nick Vivion is a writer and strategist. He was a Tnooz reporter and global events lead between August 2012 and July 2015. He was the launch co-founder of Booty's, a global street food restaurant in New Orleans and was recently AVP Operations, North America, at Zomato.