Skift Take

American has one other trump card that helps it compete while United and Delta scramble to pander to business class clients: The world's largest network of flights.

Business travelers are the new Instagram of the aviation industry. They’re profitable. They’re wanted. And airlines are tripping over each other trying to figure out how to lure in their business.

The trend is most obvious at carriers like Delta and United. Each airline has changed its mileage program over the last year to cater to high-spend business travelers, not only altering the way that passengers earn miles but also how they accrue status.

Delta is even updating its cabins to woo business passengers, skewing benefits towards First Class and Economy Comfort + passengers and pulling perks away from those who booked basic economy fares.

It’s not a bad strategy. Budget travelers have proven over and over again that they will buy the absolute cheapest airfare irrespective of the airline or product, so it makes sense to market to the more selective and lucrative business market.

American Airlines, however, can’t quite follow suit. With their focus on wrapping up their merger with US Airways they’ve elected to not make any large changes to their joint mileage program, so while United and Delta pivot, American’s still dogpaddling through their legacy system.

To compete, however, they’ve cooked up a plan to keep business travelers engaged. Starting next year, the airline is offering lucrative bonus miles on all paid premium cabin travel, with scaling rewards based on elite status. At the low end on short-haul travel, the awards start at 250 miles per segment, but for Executive Platinum members purchasing long haul (including transcontinental) first class tickets, the bonus can get as high as 12,000 miles. This means that some passengers flying in first class between San Francisco or Los Angeles and New York will earn 24,000 miles round trip — almost enough for another free domestic mileage ticket.

The promotion runs the course of next calendar year and is automatically given to all AAdvantage members — no registration is required — but full details are available on American’s hub.

More than anything though, the promotion indicates that American is trying to compete with the other legacy carriers as it rushes to wrap up its merger and forward-looking mileage program. You can bet that their 2016 plan will include a significant incentive for business travelers baked in. In the meantime, the bonuses are a reasonable compromise.

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Tags: american airlines, business travel, delta air lines, loyalty, united airlines

Photo credit: Passengers in the "Relax" area of American Airlines Admirals Club. American Airlines

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