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Speculation: Is AA working on a First Class Unbundling Project?

Speculation: Is AA working on a First Class Unbundling Project?

Old Dec 19, 20, 11:27 am
  #1  
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Speculation: Is AA working on a First Class Unbundling Project?

I wonder if AA might have a project in the works to unbundle some first class benefits. If they do, I'm sure it will have some really poorly disguised internal project name; it was always entertaining how obvious AA's internal code names for projects tended to be. But I digress...

Booked a Y ticket the other day because I wanted to turn in a Y receipt for reimbursement before paying for confirmed F out of my own pocket. As soon as it was ticketed, I went to my reservations to rebook into confirmed F. A survey popped up asking me to rank the benefits offered by upgrading to F, both ranking every benefit from 1 to (I think) 7 and then a second page with a totally unimportant to really important type scale.

Doing this from memory but I believe the first class attributes I had to rank were:
  • Extra legroom/space seating
  • "Premium" (their word) food and beverage
  • Free checked bag
  • Early/priority boarding
  • AAdvantage miles/EQM/EQD
  • Seats at front of airplane
  • Lounge access

The second page (important/unimportant) of the survey did offer an option for "I already receive this benefit in another way."

Wonder what further degradations to the domestic F experience might be in the works at AA.
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Old Dec 20, 20, 12:56 pm
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Remember that on most domestic flights it's already labeled BusinessFirst online. So I think AA is trying to figure out where on the Business-to-First line to put that, more than necessarily worrying about what to do for "true" First on the handful of transcon planes that have "true" First.

With just one datapoint, even if you were on a plane that had "true" First, you can't be sure whether this survey was limited to that, or if it's being given to random people upfront on all sort of planes (most of which don't have "true" First).
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Old Dec 20, 20, 12:59 pm
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Originally Posted by sdsearch View Post
Remember that on most domestic flights it's already labeled BusinessFirst online. So I think AA is trying to figure out where on the Business-to-First line to put that, more than necessarily worrying about what to do for "true" First on the handful of transcon planes that have "true" First.

With just one datapoint, even if you were on a plane that had "true" First, you can't be sure whether this survey was limited to that, or if it's being given to random people upfront on all sort of planes (most of which don't have "true" First).
if they were to label their domestic J seats at W, they would be within my travel policy for flights over 1,500 miles iirc. So that would actually be a big win for me.
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Old Dec 20, 20, 4:33 pm
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Originally Posted by donotblink View Post
if they were to label their domestic J seats at W, they would be within my travel policy for flights over 1,500 miles iirc. So that would actually be a big win for me.
I think that's coming at some point for the big 3. The seats are essentially the same, it would streamline the classes, and Delta/United already have names that don't have to mean exactly Premium Economy (Premium Select / Premium Plus).

I do expect that if it happens, that's when any ability for an elite to upgrade Y --> J when W is available will go away (across all 3 airlines). It is also completing that aspect of true int'l F disappearing while J becomes F and W is the new J.
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Old Dec 20, 20, 5:40 pm
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Not to derail too much, but how do you upgrade a Y ticket to F online once youíre ticketed in Y? Donít you have to call and speak with an agent to up-fare?
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Old Dec 20, 20, 6:35 pm
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Originally Posted by MSP_Monopoly View Post
Not to derail too much, but how do you upgrade a Y ticket to F online once youíre ticketed in Y? Donít you have to call and speak with an agent to up-fare?
OP may have done a 24-hour cancellation. I've done this myself more than once.
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Old Dec 20, 20, 7:12 pm
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I mean, if we take todayís domestic F product, whats even left to unbundle? The service is already about as bare-bones as it gets.
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Old Dec 20, 20, 7:28 pm
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Originally Posted by cmd320 View Post
I mean, if we take todayís domestic F product, whats even left to unbundle? The service is already about as bare-bones as it gets.
Since they mentioned lounge access I assume they're referring to Flagship F
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Old Dec 21, 20, 8:01 am
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At least in the short term, it makes a lot of sense to reconsider everything about domestic first. Pre-Covid, it primarily existed to win the loyalty of frequent business travelers through free upgrades. Now and for at least six more months business travel is at tiny percentages of its former levels, and may recover very slowly. At the same time, paid first class is relatively more popular for well-off leisure travelers who want social distance.

This means the price difference between first and economy matters much more than it used to do, and accordingly taking some things from included to available at an additional charge can really help. AA also no longer has the incentive it used to have to keep domestic first prices high in order to maintain some free upgrade capacity for CKs and high EQD EPs who earned their status on paid international business class tickets. (I don't think AA did much to maintain upgrade capacity for low EQD EPs or lower tiers.)

Free bags, early boarding, priority check-in and security, and lounge access are all things that elites have by way of status (or at least for EPs and CKs, very high uptake of Admiral's Club memberships), but for non-elites are things AA needs to understand demand among non-frequent fliers.

Long-term, it also probably makes sense for AA to reconsider its strategy around domestic first in many respects. There are a lot of long-haul routes where lie-flat would make sense; JetBlue's on that. It would make a lot of sense to have a reward tier or even separate program for wealthy people and senior executives who always buy first, and get no benefit from PP's and EP's emphasis on free upgrades (domestic, SWU).
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Old Dec 21, 20, 8:20 am
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Originally Posted by redtop43 View Post
OP may have done a 24-hour cancellation. I've done this myself more than once.
So, basically you are saying OP submitted the receipt for a ticket that had been canceled. That's enough to bring tears to Sarbanes and Oxley.
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Old Dec 21, 20, 8:56 am
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I don't see how they can unbundle it any more. For domestic narrowbody F, it's basically a bigger seat at the front of the plane.

Are they thinking of a European model where the aircraft is all identical seats and they just adjust where the middle seat block and slightly enhanced food/bev stops? I don't think that would be popular in the U.S., where we have a huge number of 3-4 hour routes that won't ever get a full premium transcon service. On those flights, basically everything out of the ORD and DFW hubs plus lots of flights out of other hubs, people are going to want the bigger seats. Intra-Europe has a bigger mix of 1-2 hour flights where seat comfort probably ranks a little lower on the list.
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Old Dec 21, 20, 12:08 pm
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The survey queries also could have been used solely to determine which elements of F are motivational to pax that are considering an upgrade add-on. Helpful in crafting the post purchase marketing pitches.
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Old Dec 21, 20, 12:31 pm
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In principle, unbundling could help elites to avoid paying for FC features (special check in and TSA airport security lines, for instance) that they receive automatically due to status. The same holds for those who have lounge access through membership, credit cards, or status. In practice, I suspect bare bones FC will sell for the same price, with all of the added optional junk fees tacked on top.
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Old Dec 21, 20, 5:57 pm
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Originally Posted by MSP_Monopoly View Post
Not to derail too much, but how do you upgrade a Y ticket to F online once you’re ticketed in Y? Don’t you have to call and speak with an agent to up-fare?
I've done that in the past (i.e. called in and spoke to an agent) where it was necessary to avoid the change fee, but I'd assume with the current climate you can just log into your booking on AA and then choose change and then choose the new cabin as part of the change.

I certainly wouldn't be doing a 24-hour cancellation and then rebooking. That would have all sorts of potential issues, especially where your accounting / expense system has feeds from your credit card company or travel management software. In this situation it's fairly reasonable to show / argue that it's an upgrade and you're paying the difference. Imagine the situation where you book a full fare, refundable ticket in Y, claim that on expenses and then put that in for a refund before booking a basic economy ticket instead. That's not quite so easy to explain
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Old Dec 22, 20, 11:20 am
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So, basically you are saying OP submitted the receipt for a ticket that had been canceled. That's enough to bring tears to Sarbanes and Oxley.
No, OP submitted a receipt for a ticket that he was considering cancelling. Still potentially problematic but not quite the same as submitting one that had already been cancelled.
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