Is American Airlines Creating a New Revenue-Based Top Elite Status Tier?

American Airlines held a dinner in New York for Concierge Key members.

Concierge Key is status has for spend and traveler influencers. When it first started it didn’t confer any elite status in the AAdvantage program, now it comes with Executive Platinum status and Admirals Club membership. I believe Concierge Key members no longer pay cash co-pays if using miles to confirm an upgrade.

If I had to guess, I’d think that there are between 10,000 – 15,000 Concierge Key members but I am not certain of this.

Unlike United’s Global Services, it doesn’t directly put someone at this level higher up on waitlists such as the upgrade queue. (There are reports of inventory management opening up confirmed upgrade space on occasion, but otherwise a Concierge Key member doesn’t generally trump an Executive Platinum on the upgrade list as far as I know.)

Instead, it’s more about special service — access to Flagship Check-in (but not American’s first class Flagship lounges) and assistance during irregular operations. Members may get met by a golf cart to make a tight connection, for instance.

Some Concierge Key members think the level is super special, and others feel like it’s more or less just a card made famous in Up in the Air.

Apparently American plans to improve the Concierge Key experience in the very near-term, perhaps even this week. Some speculation:

  • Tarmac transfers, presumably for tight connections or as a surprise and delight the way Delta has been doing for awhile and United copied with Mercedes.
  • A spouse status benefit.
  • A higher elite tier in the AAdvantage program. This could just be going to a 4-tier program the way United and Delta have, which makes sense since US Airways has four tiers. Or it could be making Concierge Key the 4th tier the way that United treats Global Services as top tier. (Speculation is this would be farther off than an imminent announcement.)

As an Executive Platinum with fairly high, or at least not low, spending but one that hasn’t made (probably even come close to making) the cut for Concierge Key, I’m personally hoping that it isn’t a new top tier.

I want loyalty program goals to be clear, so we have defined benefits with a clear criteria to obtain them and keep them. I’ve loved that I know presently flying 100,000 miles with American gets me that top tier status. I could understand if they followed Delta and made it 125,000 miles. And I could understand if they set a published minimum spend threshold for a true top tier. But they shouldn’t make it an opaque moving target. We’ll know soon, I’d imagine with the start of the 2015 program.

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. I had concierge status for 6 month in 2011, got in mid year, I then put all my travel on them for balance of year so I would get in 2012, well never got it in 2012 so I made inquiry, no explanation on why I did not get even when in 2011 I did about double 2010. I then decided to not travel that much in AA

  2. Gary–would $70k spend a year considered high? Too bad they’re spent on a OW partner since AA is so bad.

  3. People I know that work at AA tell me that Concierge Key is partly about spend, but is also given to people that AA identifies as having influence over other people’s travel. In other words, your miles/spend might only be in the neighborhood of other Executive Platinum member, but if AA identifies that you are also responsible for booking travel for a dozen coworkers, that might get you to CK. That being said, I also dislike the moving target of these “secret” levels. I chased Global Services with UA last year, racking up 244,000 qualifying miles and about $30k in spend. No GS status. Was I close? Who knows. If they gave us targets to shoot for it might influence our booking decisions, especially near the end of the year.

  4. it makes sense for CK to have more concrete benefits than just “ground service”

    It makes no sense that some mileage running EXP gets higher upgrade priority than a PLAT CK who sent $50K at AA

  5. @Doug : the usual cutoff for UA GS is ~$50K, plus or minus a bit depending on your home market

    $30K is very respectable but definitely falls short of the criteria unless you’re a high influencer at your corporation

  6. When you say you have fairly high spend what exactly do you mean? 20K? I only ask as the jump from 1K to GS in most markets is quite large. At 20k you are probably not even half way there.

  7. I really hope AA comes up with a 4th tier status that only people that really spend money can get it. They make it too easy for people that fly cheap routes and mileage runners to get Executive Platinum. If you pay big bucks for first or business international you should be rewarded for that.

  8. I earned Lifetime Platinum many years ago (3 million miles) but now the benefits are almost all gone. The only thing still of any value is a better seat in economy. The best features have been removed. So much for loyalty.

  9. @Frank…. If AA goes to a 4 tier elite status, I’m afraid our Lifetime Platinum is going to be pretty worthless. We will go from 2nd to 3rd tier most likely, and that means almost no upgrades. So, a free checked bag and a better Y seat is gonna be pretty much it.

  10. It shouldn’t be opaque. Why not? The award chart is now opaque with an asterisk category.

    Personally I think they should keep CK mysterious as it is today. It adds a little appeal and probably makes members feel more special.

  11. I’m a Concierge Key member as a result of my AAirpass membership. I have yet to see any benefit from membership and based on my experience wouldnt increase spending to achieve this status. Enjoyed GS with UAL much more than CC with AA.

  12. I know 2 people who are CC. One is ExecVP with a global bank who travels with a team of auditors. The other is project director with an engineering firm, sometimes travels with a team. Banker is a top elite FF with BA,CX,and AA. He says CC is meaningless to him. The engineer just got it, a few months ago. Both fly over 200,000 annually (banker possibly 400,000), most tickets are $2,000 to 10,000. From conversations, both have dedicated travel agents, who book their travel. Mostly by needs and not by FF programs.
    My perception is that CC is more prestige than anything else.

  13. As I see it, if the new AA is smart, they will maintain CK as a separate status, not a tier above EXP, but they will improve day-of-travel benefits to CK and have a real focus on delivering those benefits consistently. If AA does this, I believe they will go a long way towards retaining CKs’ business while not angering EXPs.

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