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.