Why I Love American’s New Choice Fares

Jan 25, 2013

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Just over a month ago, American announced the launch of a new set of fare options called Choice Fares that give flyers the option of purchasing fares slightly higher than the lowest non-refundable ones that basically bundle together extra perks you’d normally get as an elite flyer or fees flyers tend to pay for things like checking luggage or changing flights into a lower fare.

American's Choice Fares enable my travel commitment-phobia.
American’s Choice Fares enable my travel commitment-phobia.

Here are the three options:

1. Choice Fares: These are basically the discounted economy fares as they are today – the least expensive way to get from point A to point B with no extras added on. You pay fees to make changes and you accrue miles normally.

2. Choice Essential: For an additional fee of $68 roundtrip, these fares will include 1 checked bag, Group 1 priority boarding and no change fees.

3. Choice Plus: These fares cost $20 above Choice Essential (so $88 above Choice/Regular Fares) and have the same three perks as Choice Essential plus a 50% AAdvantage mileage bonus (not Elite Qualifying Miles), waived same-day confirmed flight changes, same day standby and a premium beverage (including alcohol).

Though I’m an Executive Platinum on American and already get tons of perks like free checked bags, bonus miles and Priority AAcesss (which trumps the Group 1 boarding), I’ve been purchasing Choice Plus fares specifically for the waived change fees ($200) and the same-day confirmed changes ($75), which I would still have to pay on regular baseline Choice fares since even as an Executive Platinum, I don’t get those fees waived. Other  airlines such as  Delta and United will waive these fees for elite members but American doesn’t, which is one of my least favorite aspects of the program, but not enough to be a deal breaker.

Basically American Airlines is betting that I’ll spend more on these “buy ups” than I would on actual change and same day fees. The life of a full-time blogger is more hectic than you’d think and my schedule is constantly changing and my travel plans bear the brunt of it. I need to maintain my top-tier elite status by paying for and flying on American as much as possible, but with these Choice Plus fares it’s nice that I don’t have to pony up hundreds of dollars every time I need to switch my flights.

So far this year, I’ve already bought Choice Plus fares three times.  In fact, I just same-day confirmed change to an earlier flight on my way down to Miami earlier this week, and had to get back to New York earlier than expected for a television interview (it’ll air on the BBC next week, so stay tuned) and ended up changing my return as well, so that $88 I spent on my itinerary ended up saving me $225 – not a bad return on the investment! Not only that, but I earned a 50% mileage bonus to boot.

Another aspect of Choice Fares I love is that you can buy them per-leg for half price.
Another aspect of Choice Fares I love is that you can buy them per-leg for half price like on this JFK-MIA one-way.

Though the Choice fares are priced out based on roundtrip tickets, you can actually purchase them as a per leg add-on, so if only one part of your itinerary (outbound or return) is up in the air (so to speak), you can purchase the flexibility options on just that leg rather than having to spend double the amount for the whole itinerary. You can change your flights online and the system knows not to charge you the $150- kudos for not having to call in.

I’m not saying Choice fares are for everyone – after all, a lot of people like to make travel plans and stick to them and don’t have the flexibility in their schedules that I do. But for people whose plans change all the time like mine do, it’s a godsend being able to avoid outrageously priced refundable fares and one more reason I’ll be putting more and more of of my spend and time on American Airlines (especially as they start to put more of their new planes into service).

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