American Airlines Eliminating AAirpass Program

American Airlines is phasing out the AAirpass program, which allowed customers to prepay for travel at flat rates and receive extra benefits – like no changes or cancel fees; premium seating; Admirals Club access; and even ConciergeKey status with larger purchases.

  • They will no longer sell new AAirpasses
  • They won’t renew any, either
  • Existing customers can spend down their balances or request refunds

American Airlines tells me,

Beginning November 30, the AirPass program will no longer accept any new or renewal contracts or any additional fund deposits. All customers with current contracts will be able to use their remaining funds or request a refund between now and the end of their contract period. American will continue to honor its commitments to Lifetime AirPass members.

Lifetime AAirpasses, which were sold between 1981 and 1993, are unaffected by this change. Those who purchased a lifetime AAirpass – like Mark Cuban and Michael Dell – get to keep them. (Pass like Steve Rothstein’s don’t get reinstated, however.)

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. Given the nature of the AirPass program, it might be fair to label it as a premium-type service. And, given the elimination of Flagship First and suspension/elimination of certain Five Star Services, perhaps this is just another step in AA’s plan to “reorient” itself towards less premium services.

    Alternatively, I might be wrong about this, there were not all that many AirPass contracts issued (less than 2000 at any given time) and it might well be that the staffing costs outweighed any value-add to AA.

  2. Wow wonder why – seemed to encourage above lowest fare behavior

    Also some corporate accounts got Aairpass benefits for all their employees

  3. @Lee I think it’s less about premium vs. non and more about what airlines and hotels think of as their main profit drivers. The paradigm has shifted from the historical model of business travelers and big accounts being big drivers of profit due to huge volumes and / or high fares (Airpass – with one “A” – fares, by the way, are often cheaper than even a company’s own negotiated fares, which is what made them attractive). However, now that there has been so much capacity rationalization and the appetite for leisure travel is so high, business travelers are low-margin. Airlines and hotels would rather sell the last seat / room to someone off the street who is willing to pay retail. We’ll see if this persists with any upcoming cooling of the macroeconomy.

  4. As a CK/AAirpass user, this is awful news. For many, this was the only part of AA that worked seamlessly and made booking travel flexible and efficient without having to worry about credit cards, fees or upgrades. Even when AA eliminated many of the benefits this year (and ignored the feedback of its users) it continued to be a way of saving time and avoid the juvenile website. Oh…and we still haven’t been officially notified that the program is ending. Way to go, AA…classy.

  5. CW, the profitability of the Airpass program was my second point. I think we’re saying the same thing. And . . . this just in: after talking with someone at AA, profitability is indeed the reason. AA goes through each offering or business unit, assesses them, ranks them, and draws a line. In the most recent assessment, Airpass did not make the cut and there is no planned replacement. AA wants to migrate Airpass customers to published fares (CW, as you suggest). To sweeten the transition, everyone with tier status under an Airpass contract will have their tier status extended to 3/31/2024.

    In other news, when speaking with someone in the Executive Liaison Office, I suggested that AA adopt a system of rollover Loyalty Points that would work like Delta’s rollover of MQMs. If readers find that attractive, I’d recommend writing AA and offering such feedback.

  6. Fatetta, according to someone at AA, emails are being sent out. Based on my conversation, I get the sense that a decision had been made but it was “no notice” to the Airpass program itself and implementation of its shutdown is somewhat hurried. There are loose ends that management (as we speak) is ironing out. A week or so to do. My sense is that the Airpass staff (other than someone to answer accounting questions) will be gone by the end of the year. Boom.

  7. Strange that they decided to end the 20 year old program rather than try to adjust the pricing to make more money on renewals.. But it wouldn’t be the first time that this company has surprised me with poorly planned and communicated decisions

  8. Yeah, @Lee I read your comment again and we’re saying the same thing. Short story – airlines used to wish every traveler was a business traveler. Now they wish every traveler is a leisure traveler!

    Pretty much everything we grew to know about travel and loyalty was borne out of a world of oversupply, where volume mattered. Now, we’re in a supply-constrained world where it is about extracting maximum value out of each trip. The paradigm has fundamentally shifted, at least at the current moment.

  9. One of the best things I have ever bought,
    A lifetime of flying, all a business expense,
    32 years of simplified flights anytime I needed.

  10. @Gary at al: I have had an AAirpass for several years. I am known as the person who pimps for AAirpass at the CK mixers. That said I am not in the least surprised and indeed, I have even mooted lobbying for the elimination of AAirpass. Bit late now.
    IMO, the thing that killed AAirpass is the same thing that dooms so many AA ventures — their IT department. The “old” AAirpass, going back about a year was wonderful. The “new and improved” AAirpass was awful. At the beginning of the new program you could not use Global upgrades with AAirpass, not even manually. The biggest benefit of the old was, in the way I travel, if you had to cancel and book anew the funds were there right away. Now refunds take a week to ten days. Just doesn’t work. How to kill a golden goose — something AA is very good at.
    But… the FB group for CK and EP lambasted the program when I complained about the refund delay — just perceived as expensive and elitist.
    It’s by no means cheaper than other fares so pushing folk to published fares is not a valid reason for closing the program. In fact Instant Upgrade gave me what used to be flexible tickets Internationally at a *similar* cost to buy ahead.
    All that said don’t hold your breath for a refund. AA allowed me to cancel my AAirpass contract in October although they didn’t have to. I’m still waiting for my money although it was supposed to be a 7-10 wait. But it’s AA, isn’t it……………….?

  11. Gary I know you’re the American Airlines guy, but they’re just completely surrendering to United at this point.

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