American Introducing Cadillac Tarmac Transfers… and 7500 Miles for a Test Drive!

There’s a brand new announcement today of an American Airlines Cadillac partnership. It brings tarmac transfers for high value customers making tight connections at certain airports, and a new promotion to earn miles for test drives, with possibly more to come.

Make Tight Connections By Driving Across the Tarmac in a Cadillac

American launched tarmac transfers at LAX last week for Concierge Key members making tight connections. And they’re rolling the service out to Dallas Fort-Worth and both New York JFK and LaGuardia airports by the end of the year.

They’re partnering with Cadillac in this offer, as part of a larger brand partnership.

The plan is for 2 cars per airport at this point, and transfers will be in a Cadillac CTS, SRX or Escalade. They’ll evaluate how many cars they ultimately need for the transfer volume they plan to offer as the service rolls out.

The tarmac transfers aren’t a service you can reserve or pay for, so not something most customers will experience. But they do have a big offer that any member can take advantage of.

7500 AAdvantage Miles for Test Driving a Cadillac

Later in the month they’ll be launching a limited-time promotion of 7500 miles for a Cadillac test drive.

They don’t have promotion start or end dates yet, but I spoke with AAdvantagae President Suzanne Rubin and Cadillac’s Chief Marketing Officer Uwe Ellinghaus about the partnership.

Suzanne said that the offer would last about two months, but both she and Ellinghaus said they were going to evaluate how the promotion worked in deciding when it might end and whether to continue it.

I don’t see the tarmac transfers growing beyond Concierge Key members in a limited set of circumstances, as Suzanne told me “At the moment the audience is exactly right.” But with the test drive offer there’s a win in the American-Cadillac partnership for members across the board.

We’ll see full promotion details later in the month, but the idea will be that you register for an appointment online and then become eligible for the miles when you complete the test drive. Cadillac shared that there will also be a concierge service offering as part of this — they recognize their potential customers may not know where the nearest Cadillac dealer is, or want to make the trip, so they’ll have a delivery service option available in lieu of a dealership visit. They want to get people to try their cars.

We’ll Start to See Cadillacs in Airports

Ellinghaus explains that car buying decisions are influenced long before people are ready to go to the dealer. And they don’t feel like there are enough of their cars on the road for people to see and want them. By partnering with American, putting cars in airports, and making it easier for American’s customers to see and drive their cars, they see that as a win.

Cadillac makes sense to me as American’s partner, if American Airlines is going to partner with an American brand. American has gone through its rebranding as it emerged from bankruptcy, and Cadillac has transitioned as well — sportier and younger, although to me detached from its legacy as a large luxury car.

Planes and Automobiles are a Natural Partnership

They aren’t just two forms of transportation, their marketing has long been linked including through frequent flyer programs.

We’ve seen 1000 Delta miles for test driving a Mercedes (limited dealerships).

And 2000 Starwood Starpoints for test driving an Acura, in fact, more than once.

In early 2003 British Airways offered 10,000 miles for test driving a Jaguar. The amazing thing was, with British Airways family accounts, you just needed 3 other people to test drive Jaguars to have miles for an economy roundtrip to Europe.

American is Late to the Party With Tarmac Transfers

Last summer United started rolling out Mercedes tarmac transfers… something Delta started doing with Porsche in November 2011.

United has a broader Miles for Mercedes tie-in as well. And United offers the service at Chicago O’Hare, an American hub that isn’t part of this initial announcement. (Interestingly, Miami isn’t either — and neither are US Airways hubs Phoenix, Charlotte, or Philadelphia — though I’d think Phoenix would be a good sales market for Cadillac.)

Of course this all follows on Lufthansa’s innovation, not just at their First Class Terminal in Frankfurt (since first class passengers wait in a different terminal from everyone else, there must be some way to get to the plane!) but also for passengers whose plane departs from a non-gate position and are waiting in one of the first class lounges in Frankfurt with the capability and also from the first class lounge in Munich under similar circumstance.

It’s All About the Incentives

Most of us won’t experience the tarmac transfers – from American, Delta, or United.

The American-Cadillac test drive offer is the richest benefit that we’ve seen in a long time from an airline-car partnership, and that’s what matters most to members. I’m sure a large number of blog readers will be introducing themselves to Cadillac in the coming month. And introducing their family (and family’s accounts), too. And trying to figure out whether any teenage children are legally permitted to do a test drive.

As one expects at the beginning of any partnership like this, there’s talk about expanding and growing the offering although they’re short on specifics of what that could look like. At some margin, because to me within a certain category a car is just a car, I could probably be influenced to choose Cadillac over, say, an Acura if there were elite qualifying miles at play. And some might be influenced by “Buy a Cadillac, Become AAdvantage Gold” or “Buy a Cadillac, Pre-Reserve a Tarmac Transfer.” So who knows?

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. Any idea how many times we can do this? Maybe once for each model. Possibly extra test drives in different colors. 🙂

  2. In April I did the Cadillac test-drive for a $100 gift card, but got nothing. I even complained to CEO, but got a standard letter blah-blah we appreciate your business. They “apologized”, but didn’t even try to send me that $100.

  3. We got to experience the Lufthansa Mercedes transfer on Sunday when our plane to Munich arrived midfield before our first class flight from Munich. It was great and let us spend a little more time in the lounge before our flight.

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