American Airlines Cracks Down On Inflight Credit Card Pitches

Update: American says this is simply the training they’ve been given, that there’s no change,.
That’s unfortunate – we can expect flight attendants to continue current practice.

According to a spokesperson,

To be clear, there is no new memo to flight attendants. When flight attendants come in for recurrent training, those who have chosen to participate in the program will receive training about the program. Customers and flight attendants value the offering and there has been no change to the program or the training.

American Airlines has two credit card issuers, Citibank and Barclays. Barclays gets to acquire customers inflight and in airport (but not within 100 feet of an American Airlines lounge). Citibank gets every other channel.

Inflight credit card announcements are the most effective way to acquire new customers, as United President Scott Kirby has reported. He brought inflight card offers to United Airlines, even insisting that they become mandatory.

  • Customers flying the airline are people who choose the airline and who fly, a natural market for the cards
  • Passengers skew high income
  • They may be bored and a captive audience
  • And for Barclays it’s the only way they’re adding customers, since they don’t pitch from tables in airports and merely advertise

In other words, inflight card announcements aren’t going away. But they should be done better, as I’ve written they certainly shouldn’t be done before 8 a.m. when passengers are trying to sleep.

However American Airlines issued a memo to flight attendants on improving the inflight Barclays card announcement experience for customers. It shouldn’t be made early morning or late night, it should only be made once, and it should be read verbatim from the script.

“Now AA management is trying to rein in the sales pitches from especially aggressive flight attendants. And there have been some, as some frequent travelers on AA have noted.

“The presentation also states that the credit card inflight announcement should take ‘no more than 1 minute.’ Additionally, the ‘the announcement MUST (sic) be read verbatim’ and also advises FAs that they ‘must not deviate from the scripted announcement provided or provide false or misleading information to passengers.’

“And the training presentation specifically asks that flight attendants ‘be considerate’ in making the credit card pitch and adds ‘make only one announcement and one trip up and down the aisle per (flight) segment.’

“The company further advised flight attendants not to disturb ‘disinterested passengers or pressure any passengers to fill out an application.’

“In the small print, the company also suggests the card pitch only happen between the hours of 8 a.m and 9 p.m, and that the pitch be suspended during extremely turbulent flights, as well on flights experiencing emergency situations or a significant delay.

I have to think that the insistence on reading the card announcement verbatim is in some measure driven by a desire to say that’s what flight attendants have been told so that any future accusations of misleading messaging can be blamed on a rogue employee rather than a concerted effort on the part of the carrier to at least turn a blind eye to misleading messaging that supports new cardmember acquisition.

I still think the best approach to inflight card applications would be for American Airlines to offer bigger lavatories, and use the walls to advertise their cards. The larger footprint would make sense because it’s monetized, and as Dana Carvey reminded us in Opportunity Knocks the big decisions in life aren’t made in the board room, they’re made in the bathroom.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This is a step in the right direction. I’ve had these stupid sales pitches given at 1am more than once, and some FAs go on and on and on and on about your dream vacation to Hawaii… It is probably a pipe dream, but one day I’d love for these to be gone.

  2. The memo actually suggested not disturbing “disinterested” passengers? Hmm, I wonder how the flight attendants are supposed to able to tell the difference between passengers who have a bias and those who don’t.

    Well, either way, I’m curious if the script they are supposed to follow will continue to offer me 50k “Dividend Miles,” as I have been offered on more than one occasion in the past year.

  3. I’m curious, and might be oblivious, but do the F/A’s receive some sort of commission on applications that come in? I ask this as if they did their standard job with the same vigor and enthusiasm as they pitch credit cards service might just go up a notch.

  4. Maybe flight attendants should also receive a commission for every snack box or can of Pringles potato chips they sell on board.

  5. @Stuart: Yes, about $50, same as bloggers and other commissioned agents. (Actually, I don’t know if the rate is the same for bloggers and flight attendants).

    The last AA flight I was on, the FA had “8 reasons to get the Aviator card” which I thought was bordering on plagiarism. . .

  6. The offers in flight are sometimes a better bonus than the ones generally available online, so it isn’t really a bad thing if they don’t overdo it, and I think this memo will help curb the over-aggressive ones.

  7. @DaveS – Despite what the FAs say, the in-flight offers are not “special” and are often worse than offers available elsewhere.

  8. @DaveS – the inflight offer is the same as what’s available online, the difference is an extra mileage boost for first time applicants as an incentive for listing the flight attendant’s code for tracking purposes.

    I think the concerns are loud interruptions when passengers want to rest, and inaccurate claims.

  9. I made Life Time Platinum, some of them miles were from CC pitches on airplanes, and Mint purchases,

    Yes dream vacations are possible.

  10. I don’t believe I have ever heard a 1-minute Aviator pitch, which I would not mind. The long pitches are very annoying and unnecessary.

  11. @Ken A FAs at American receive a measly commission SPLIT between the main cabin crew members for everything sold EXCEPT for alcohol(beer, wine and liquor) So they DO get commission on any fresh food, snack boxes or Pringles.

    There are a handful of FAs making 5 digits off of those inflight pitches!!

  12. @Gary. Thanks for the info on the Ryanair sales quotas.
    I think American Airlines should hire John Moschitta Jr. to improve the inflight Barclays card announcement. Road warriors will remember he is the guy that did the award winning Federal Express commercial.. He could get the American Airlines Barclays credit card sales pitch completed in about 15 seconds.

  13. Do you have permission from that FA to post her image? The airplane is private property, taking pictures or video of crewmembers is not allowed.

  14. Hello, my name is Anna and I am a American Airlines flight attendant and I am one of the top sellers for the Barclay credit card on board the aircraft. I totally understand the concerns of our customers especially our corporate flyers and so forth. So I came up with kind of a new PA that is much shorter, funnier, and right to the point. In the past year it has generated many many sales. Many of the flight attendants have asked for my PA to use on their flights. I went to the higher ups at Barkley and expressed my ideas for a new PA due to the fact that a lot of my first class customers are so annoyed and frustrated with that long corporate announcement. Unfortunately it fell upon deaf ears. And yes I know we are supposed to do that Announcement verbatim but I just feel that I can introduce this product in a professional yet down to earth and kind of comical way. . If anyone knows anyone that knows anyone that would assist me in changing this please contact me

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