American Airlines has made sweeping changes to its flight search and booking tools on AA.com that aim to show travelers the true cost of all potential flight options at the beginning of the search process.
American has branded its new options as Choice, Choice Essential, Choice Plus, Fully Flexible and Business/First branded fares. Each category has a specific description that helps passengers understand exactly what services they’ll receive — free checked bags, a beer, a window seat, and other once-complimentary things that airlines like American now charge fees for in many instances.
The changes have the potential to shake up the fare lineup of competitors such as Delta, United, and US Airways, and could take some of the pain out of the ancillary (additional) fees controversy as passengers would know exactly what they are getting up-front when they book their flights.
When you select one of the fare choices, you can immediately look to the column at right to see the full roundtrip fare, taxes and fees included. The first thing you notice: There are many different prices you can pay for the same flight.
Breaking down the choices
For example, if you are seeking to fly from Newark to Los Angeles on January 9, for example, you can choose the airline’s lowest Choice fare for $378; a Choice Essential fare for $446 with no change fee, 1 checked bag and group 1 boarding included; or a Choice Plus fare for $466 with everything included in the Choice Essential Fare along with 50% AAdvantage bonus miles, same-day flight change, same-day standby, and a premium beverage.
And, for $1,076, you can choose a Business/First fare for the Newark to Los Angeles flight. In additiion to your confirmed seat in Business/First Class, you would get three checked bags, priority access, AAdvantage bonus miles, and additional inflight amenities.
Each fare type has options to make them refundable or fully flexible. The latter choice, for example, is fully refundable and comes with the ability to bring two checked bags, Main Cabin Extra/Preferred Seats, Priority AAccess, same-day flight change, same-day standby, and 500-mile upgrade eligibility.
Thus, American moves to a branded fare system, in some respects similar to what Air Canada, Air New Zealand and Qantas launched a handful of years ago.
The new fare choices at American initially are good for travel in the continguous 48 U.S. states, and are only available online at AA.com.
The introduction of these new fares on AA.com ups the ante in the airline’s battle with global distribution systems such as Sabre, Travelport and Amadeus, as they undoubtedly will have a difficult time in doing the required development work to make these fares more widely available.
And, for some consumers, this will make booking on AA.com a much more attractive option than buying their flights elsewhere.
One of the stipulations on roundtrip flights is that you must book a fare for the return flight at the same level or higher than your initial depature.
Here’s an AA video outlining its new fare choices: