American Airlines Cabin Crew Have New Incentive To Sign Passengers Up For Credit Cards

American Airlines hasn’t brought full meals back in first class, or full drink service back to coach, ‘because of the virus.’ And flight attendants have been opposed to restoring service. Yet the airline reminded cabin crew early in the pandemic that they should be encouraging signups and handing out applications with their referral code despite social distancing concerned.

The airline generated nearly $3 billion in 2020 – during the pandemic – from its non-airline mileage partners, mostly Citibank and Barclays.

  • Barclays markets their AAdvantage cards inflight and in the airport, but not within 100 feet of an American Airlines club.

  • Citibank markets their credit cards everywhere else, including inside of American Airlines clubs.

Inflight is one of the most effective places to solicit card applications, but during the pandemic fewer people have been flying and there have been fewer flights. That’s a huge reduction in opportunity for Barclays to acquire customers.

Now with vaccinations leading to optimism in travel, and with people thinking more about getting out more in the not too distant future, on board card promotion is back in a big way in fact for March and April they’re incentivizing this with additional cash and donations.

What’s most interesting though is the statistic they’re promoting, that only 14% of passengers on a given flight have an AAdvantage credit card. That’s a huge opportunity to grow the portfolio. And in fact since American has two card issuers, and customers can have both, the pool of potential applicants on board is even greater than American suggests (flight attendants used to regularly point out that even Citi AAdvantage customers could get a Barclays-issued card).

Inflight card pitches shouldn’t be done before 8 a.m., or on redeye flights but otherwise make a lot of sense. The people most likely to get an airline’s co-brand credit card are the people who fly the airline, and once on board you have their focus.

One good reason, by the way, for airline seat back entertainment is that the entertainment can be paused during flight attendant announcements. When people are using their own devices, they’re free to ignore card pitches. American Airlines should work with Barclays to sponsor a return of the screens.

I’ve seen flight attendants set up makeshift tables and displays in the galley to promote the cards, and also share that they need customers to take the application so they can pay their utilities. It’s a great source of extra income for cabin crew.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Not a fan of AA but if you are interested in their miles, these in flight offers (in my experience) can be better than the regularly available offers that you would find online.

    I guess Barclays is sweating their inability to give people 60,000 miles in exchange for the annual fee and the purchase of a pack of gum.

  2. This is a classless disgusting practice.
    FAs are not there to sell but to help with safety and serve.
    I would rather see them use downtime (if there is any) trying to help passengers with short or missed connections due to the flight being late (or putting more tape on the wacko that is tied to a seat).
    The 14% number is probably who “currently” have the card. Most fliers have had it many times or are waiting between cycles or have had the card and deemed it of no value due to devaluations and program deterioration.
    Who in their right mind would jot down their SS number on an application and hand it to a FA that is barely paid minimum wage? Just pay flight crews for for doing their jobs, not demeaning them and forcing them to be become pitchmen.
    Low class and desperation is what this is.

  3. I probably had 3 AA and US-branded CC over the years but cancelled them all after the merger was completed for obvious reasons.

  4. @Frequent Flyin’ Fool – their inflight offers are exactly what can be found online, except for an extra 500 miles for using a referral code

  5. Let me give my ssn and dob to a flight attendant……sure…
    Is this safe for corona by the way? We know that food and beverage isn’t but how about credit card applications?….I don’t want to kill anyone’s grandma by filling one out.

  6. A flight attendant could get a lot of takers if they just offer “fill out and application right now and as a bonus you can remove your mask for the rest of the flight”.

  7. Gary, The reason No meal service or beverage serviced is offered, is to keep masks on passengers faces.
    If every passenger removed their mask to consume a meal or beverage the risk of transmission increases.

  8. Paul’s comments are right on. I do not pay, an often exorbitant ticket price, to be locked in a stainless steel tube compelled to wear a mask and seat belt while force feed more obnoxious self-serving propoganda. Speaking of masks why are people like mark so ill informed yet insist on spewing their opinion and wagging their finger like morons. There is absolutely no scientific evidence that masks, for that matter social distancing works. In fact the few authentic studies performed show statistically no difference in catching COVID-19 with or without a mask. Dr. Facui the highest paid federal worker in America (more than the President) has publicly admitted this fact and says it just feels like the right thing to do. If mark and his ilk are so scared they should not leave their basement so adults may conduct their lives without more petty annoyances.

  9. @Mark Maciuba – meals are offered in first class, they just aren’t hot meals, beverages are offered too…. Delta offers beer and wine but no liquor, because vodka spreads covid faster or something.

  10. This is yet another annoying practice AA has in place. It’s ridiculous to be held captive and forced to listen to their spiel. The phrase “Thank you for your attention” is often used and that is what even more annoying as we simply don’t have any choice. I’m a fan of setback entertainment however I won’t be sad as when it goes away so will the ads.
    As a longtime EP member it’s pathetic how AA continues its death spiral…FA’s will offer card but not even acknowledgement or greeting.

  11. @Ted. Right on bro’. And you can add to that there is zero, I mean zero, evidence the moon isn’t made of green cheese. The secret Neil Armstrong diaries strongly suggest it is.

  12. Bring back normal first class service and I’m happy to hear whatever spiel they want to give. Until then they should shut up and sit in the galley or in their jump seats all flight long like they’ve decided to do under the cover of COVID contamination threat

Comments are closed.