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American Airlines: The Five Star Service (option)

Airplane side pick up in a Cadillac is just one part of American Airlines' new 5 Star Service

Airplane side pick up in a Cadillac is just one part of American Airlines’ new 5 Star Service

Let’s face it – airlines from the United States aren’t known for their premium service nor their ‘soft product’, as in their catering and their crew interactions and services. The so called US big 3 – as in United, American and Delta – pale in comparison to the ‘Middle East Big 3’ (Etihad, Emirates and Qatar Airways) or the big hitters in Asia that are Singapore Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, Thai, Korean Air and Thai Airways.

In fact, they almost take pride in the fact that they know they’ll never be like them nor do they strive to be. It’s about efficiency and safety (which it seems like every American flight crew likes to remind you about what their primarily there for, at the expense of customer service).

There are steps being taken in the right direction though, premium service wise. Take American Airlines (AA) for instance – since the merger with US Airways and the new management under the guidance of new CEO Doug Parker the airline has gone through a fleet revitalization process and ordered new 777-300 aircraft with the reverse herringbone product that’s one of the best in the industry. They’ve cozied up with Qantas and as a result to be able the QF code on their flights have had to upgrade their catering and start offering things like caviar in international First Class, something no other US based airline offers. They’ve also expanded into South East Asia, a market astoundingly not previously served by AA – the same can be said for their new (read: profitable) flights to Australia.

In the domestic market they’ve also gotten factory fresh Airbus A321 aircraft and kitted them out to the tee. An aircraft that was designed to seat about 250 passengers seats only 99 in AA’s very premium configuration that they use for their ‘Flagship Service’ from JFK to San Francisco and Los Angeles. In First class you have suited in a 1-1 configuration, Business has a 2-2 layout of flatbeds, the same ones that Qatar Airways uses, and coach has added legroom of 34 inches. It blows their main competitor in the market, United’s ‘Premium Service (ps)’ flights out of the water and also offer First Class which UA no longer does.  

Yes, there have been some downgrades in things like the frequent flier program and reciprocal benefits but it’s been an overall net positive for both the hard and soft products in the air.

Now it’s the ground services turn to get jazzed up post merger. American has introduced what they call ‘5 Star Service’ and it looks to match some of the best ground service out in the market, attempting to emulate the likes of Thai, Emirates, Qatar, Cathay, Lufthansa who go out of their way to provide a premium experience on the ground (Singapore Airlines is surprisingly lackluster in this respect).

To begin with, full disclosure: these new premium ground services options are not cheap. Here’s what the pricing chart looks like: 

Prices and reservations

Prices

Each service option is priced separately.

Within the U.S.

$250 per adult, per option

Outside the U.S.

$300 per adult, per option,
plus local taxes where applicable
(See terms and conditions)

Additional travelers

$75 each additional adult
$50 each child (17 years and under)

Reservations

Reservations must be made at least 24 hours in advance for U.S. locations and 48 hours for international. Representatives are available 24/7.

And it’s not available throughout American’s extensive route network…if you notice it’s basically only out of AA’s high yielding routes and hubs: 

Locations

U.S.

  • Boston (BOS)
  • Charlotte (CLT)
  • Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
  • Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Miami (MIA)
  • New York Kennedy (JFK)
  • New York LaGuardia (LGA)
  • Philadelphia (PHL)
  • Phoenix (PHX)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • Washington D.C. Reagan (DCA)

Outside the U.S.

  • Buenos Aires, Argentina (EZE)
  • London Heathrow, United Kingdom (LHR)
  • Milan, Italy (MXP)
  • Tokyo Narita, Japan (NRT)
  • Sao Paulo, Brazil (GRU)

Have to say though, Milan and Buenos Aires are interesting choices but hey, choice is always great.

 

 

 

 

So there are several categories of premium service options, starting with pre-departure:

Departure assistance

Customized help with your departure check-in and security.

Includes:

  • FlagshipSM Check-In (where available)
  • Car service coordination
  • Curbside meet and greet
  • Expedited security screening (where available)
  • Admirals Club® lounge access
  • Priority re-accommodation during delays
  • Gate escort
  • Early boarding
  • In-flight special request coordination

Then there’s connecting premium services, which can come in handy in some of their massive hubs in Dallas, Miami, Chicago, New York where sometimes, especially on a tight connection things can get a bit stressful. What AA offers seems decent enough: 

Connection assistance

You’ll be greeted upon arrival and escorted to your next flight. If you have time, we’ll accompany you to the Admirals Club lounge (where available).

Includes:

  • Arrival gate meet and greet
  • Admirals Club lounge access
  • Priority re-accommodation during delays
  • Gate escort
  • Assistance with connections on other airlines
  • Early boarding

Finally, arrivals. Yep, the plane might have landed and you might be at your destination, but the service doesn’t stop there: 

Arrival assistance

Upon arrival, we’ll meet you at the gate and escort you through Customs and Immigration and/or baggage claim.

Includes:

  • Arrival gate meet and greet
  • Car service coordination
  • Escort through Customs and Immigration for international arrivals
  • Admirals Club lounge access**
  • Escort to Baggage Claim
  • Luggage retrieval
  • Escort to car service

Would we do it? Well honestly probably not, given the extra cost to the bottom line and the fact that we’re good with the perks we would already get if we’re flying Business or First on American Airlines. If we were flying coach, it would seem a bit weird to get such service on the ground only to board and be crammed into a middle seat on a 777 for 12 hours. 

But hey, we’re not everyone and it’s good to know that this service is out there. It’s also good to know that US based carriers are finally taking steps to improve their soft product to be more competitive with international carriers. Given this new service and United introducing their Polaris product, as we reported earlier, it’s nice that consumers are finally being given the option to upgrade their travel experience. Even if this is mostly a game of catch up, at least the big 3 of the US are gaining some ground.

Here’s the number to call if you want more details:

Make a reservation

877-578-2702 (877-5STAR-02)

Would you spend the extra dollars to avail of AA’s 5 Star Service? 

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