I’m a noted critic of the way American Airlines chooses to push their credit cards.  At the same time, though, I understand why it’s a slam dunk for the airline, namely: their flight attendants make more money and American doesn’t have to pay it.  I mean, sure the only people left out of that mindset are the actual customers who paid to fly on your airline but nevertheless I can see why it makes business sense.

Recently I published a video on the YouTube channel (to which you should subscribe) that accepts the credit card pitch isn’t going away but proposes a way of fixing it to make it as logical as possible for the customer.

I received a comment the other day on the video which I thought was incredibly insightful (I’ve edited it for readability).

That is why when I do the pitch I ALWAYS do it on climb out. Just before the level off video plays. I try to always get my fellow Flight Attendants to do this. Nobody wants to be woke up or disturbed inflight. Ever.

Yes we do make lots of money off of this program. I almost double my annual income off of this program. LOTS of customers do sign up. I absolutely agree with you it should be at the beginning. Period. That is how I ALWAYS do it.

I am sorry if it gets on your nerves but what you have to understand is that this is a hefty chunk of our annual income. It is not forced upon us. It is strictly voluntary. I do it because it helps me to not have to work so many hours and be away from my family so much. If you were in our shoes…. wouldnt you do it? If it meant spending more time at home with your family? Keep in mind we give up our holidays, weekends, time with our kids, etc to get you to where you are going and despite what many think, the career is not the best paying one but most of us stay in it for the love of the career because we love to fly, and we love to meet new people like you every day. It is really nothing personal were just trying to make a living just like the rest of the world.

Just think of it that way and maybe you will see it in a different light. And there are MANY passengers that take advantage of the offer every day, just because you are not interested does not mean every passenger on the plane is not interested.

I will continue to encourage my fellow flight attendants to do this at the beginning of the flight on climb out before the level off video plays/announcement is made.

Let’s analyze.

First of all, bravo to this flight attendant for the timing of their pitch

The current recommended time for the pitch is 40 minutes before landing, usually just before the pilot announces initial descent.  This is one of the most invasive and distracting times for actual customers, who are either sleeping, watching movies, or working.  As I said in the video above, that time should be for the customers to do as they please.  I love that this flight attendant does the pitch on climb out and encourages others to do the same.

To me that makes more sense anyway: why would you not have credit card applications on the food/beverage carts?  It’s already expected that you’ll be coming through the cabin.  It’s also already expected that you’ll be interacting with passengers and asking them if they’d like something to eat or drink.  That is the perfect time to ask if they’d like a credit card application as well.

Second, omg they’re making a ton of money from this

Taking the quote above at face value, doubling their income from credit card pitches is pretty incredible.  Granted, flight attendants do not make very much money, but it’s still impressive.  It also explains why the credit card pitch isn’t going away: the flight attendants are making more money and American isn’t having to pay it (Barclaycard US probably pays it).

Is this sustainable for American?

At what point does the credit card pitch begin to lose its effectiveness?  Granted, 88% of American customers only fly them once a year so that’s a lot of people to hear a credit card pitch but the effectiveness of the pitch will almost certainly decline over time.  Once it does all of a sudden you have a bunch of flight attendants frustrated that they’re not making as much “as they used to”.  The amount American paid them didn’t change but they were still making more money.  If that opportunity goes away I can’t imagine flight attendants will be happy about it come collective bargaining time.

Here’s the thing

I don’t think using credit cards to earn miles is a bad thing.  Used responsibly they can lead to huge mileage balances you can use to take some of the very same trips I’ve taken in all manner of First and Suites Classes, so I’m not anti-credit card by any means.  I’m frustrated that the customer isn’t placed higher in the value chain for American.  They’re making very expensive investments in new jets and then ruining them by cramming them with seats and removing seatback screens.  They’re renovating and building new lounges, which is great for business passengers but those same passengers are frustrated when they leave the lounge to walk to the gate at the boarding time on their boarding pass to find out the plane is already boarding group 7.

The only time it seems that American is focused on the customer is when they sense there’s an opportunity to extract more money from them.  All of the basic economy garbage, the cramped aircraft, it’s all intricately designed to funnel the customer further into a Fleecing Zone…after they already bought a ticket to fly on your airline.  The credit card pitch is the culmination of this.  It makes customers just feel like a wallet, nothing more.  Maybe they could get away with treating their customers like wallets with oil at $24 but $75+ oil is a different story and their stock is currently down 40% since January.

In summary

American is creating income expectations for its flight attendants which are not sustainable by pushing the credit card pitch so hard.  The commenter above made a good point: just because I hear it all the time doesn’t mean everyone else does.  But that simply means the customers being most annoyed by the credit card pitch are American’s frequent flyers!  What a weird operating model, since those are the flyers you’ll need to help you out of your next bankruptcy.

One-time passengers are great for short-term revenue but they’re not going to save American.


What do you think?  Tell me in the comments below!

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