American Airlines Aims to Save Flyers Bundles with Fee-Packages

by  Maryrose Mullen | Dec 21, 2012
American Airlines plane
American Airlines plane / Santiago Rodriguez Fonto/iStock

Around this time of the year, people throw around the word “bundle” a lot. (“It’s nippy, bundle up to the point you can’t put your arms down!”) As the holiday season winds down, some companies are putting together “gift baskets” for customers. Some corporations have begun combining services in the name of costs-savings, and the travel industry is no exception. American Airlines is launching a new program to “bundle” some of its fees intended to save customers, well, bundles.

The airline’s program offers two options – Choice Essential and Choice Plus – but both allow customers to book ancillary fees as a package. There are a few catches, however: the packages are only eligible for flights within the U.S., excluding Alaska and Hawaii. Not to mention, depending on whether or not you expect to make a last-minute flight change, the savings may not be as much as it seems. Though designed as a cost-saving measure, the initiative mostly benefits travelers who anticipate that their itineraries will shift.

Choice Essential grants users one checked bag, priority Group 1 boarding, plus no change fee for $68 on a round-trip fare. But a breakdown of specifics shows the package mainly assists a limited group. On most flights, the first checked bag costs about $50, and priority boarding costs about $18 – equivalent to the price of the bundle (without a change fee, of course). The change fee rakes in the biggest chunk of change at $150, so this bundle would be a great asset to someone worried about making a switch at the last moment.

Choice Plus follows similar lines, but ups the ante with a five percent AAdvantage mileage bonus, same-day flight change, same-day standby, and a “premium” (alcoholic) beverage for $88 on a round-trip itinerary. Accounting for the same amount of fees you would accrue with Choice Essential, a $14 premium beverage brings the total cost to $82 – a $6 savings. The mileage bonus is difficult to calculate, as it depends on the flight, and there isn’t a definitive standard for the monetary cost of same-day standby. But a same-day flight change, paired with the initial change fee of $150, can cost upwards of $300. For someone whose plans may require some last-minute audibles, Choice Plus can bring in some big savings.

So before booking, it may be worthwhile to check your math. If your plans are rock-solid, it’s best to skip the bundle. But, if you make your travel plans flying by the seat of your pants, the program could be a saving grace.

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