When American Airlines announced the end of the ‘Shuttle’ product in November they shared that they would turn over New York LaGuardia – Boston flying to JetBlue and introduce Shuttle-like fares to several markets.
New “Main Select” fares would be refundable, bundling priority boarding and check-in, free seat assignments for any coach seat (including extra legroom) and free same-day confirmed changes. According to a spokesperson these fares are now available on several routes:
- New York LaGuardia – Washington National
- Boston – Washington National
- New York LaGuardia – Chicago O’Hare
- Dallas – Fort Worth – Chicago O’Hare
- New York JFK – Los Angeles
American is reimagining travel for business customers with the launch of Main Select, a new fare product available in select high-frequency markets and offered only on aa.com and through NDC-enabled travel agencies.
Announced last fall, Main Select takes the stress out of business travel with refundable fares, same-day flight changes, priority boarding, priority check-in, and the choice of all seats in Main Cabin at the time of booking, including Main Cabin Extra.
This new fare is available on American-operated flights on BOS-DCA, DFW-ORD, JFK-LAX, LGA-DCA and LGA-ORD routes starting today [June 21] with plans to expand to additional markets later this year.
At an employee town hall in the fall, a recording of which was reviewed by View From The Wing, Chief Revenue Officer Vasu Raja explained the rationale for replacing the shutttle product with these fares and expanding the fares to other business routes.
On the Shuttle, he said, the product was no longer relevant,
When the shuttle was created, there were a few things we would differentiate. Rear door deplaning, free alcohol on board, newspapers at the gate. Many of those things don’t simply apply anymore.
The reality is business customers stopped day drinking about 25 or 30 years ago. People don’t really take newspapers anymore. And in the pandemic we’ve more or less gotten away from it because most people get that on their phone.
In fact Raja misrepresents the core elements of the Shuttle, perhaps because those are mostly long gone – hourly schedules ‘show up and go’ with shorter check-in times and guaranteed availability.
One remnant American had retained was closer-in bag check-in cutoffs for shuttle flights. And free alcohol? Still a nice perk on 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. flights, but a pale reflection of what New York Air brought to the market 40 years ago (‘nosh bags’) with bagels in the morning and sandwiches in the afternoon.
Nonetheless, Shuttle was all but dead in name only anyway. There was no longer a dedicated fleet of aircraft. What’s new is the way American is bundling perks with fares and aiming those at business customers. Raja explained,
Main Cabin Select is a lot less about how we go and differentiate the airport, or figure out how we rear door deplane in markets like Boston or LaGuardia, where in the new construction idea we won’t be able to do that in the same way. As our customers evolve we’ve got to evolve too.
For customers willing to pay more money – and the airline sees those as business customers on business routes – they can get:
- refundable fares
- same-day flight changes (more valuable if American eliminates free standby for non-elite customers)
- priority boarding
- priority check-in
- extra legroom seating, which comes with alcohol (so much for ‘business travelers no longer day drink’)
Business travelers buying these fares become mid-tier elite for a day, in essence, without the bonus points when they buy up to refundable tickets.
After several cursory searches I’ve yet to find these fares for sale on the American Airlines website, so it’s unclear what the upcharge will be. My guess is it will be pricier than the cheapest refundable fare (“Main Cabin Flexible”) but potentially lower than full fare (“Main Cabin Fully Flexible”).
Update: these fares do not appear on the initial comparison screen during search at AA.com. Instead they’re offered as a buy up after you’ve selected flights. A spokesperson explains,
To see the Main Select fare offered, you need to go further down the booking path. If you choose a Main Cabin fare on one of those routes and then choose flights, it will then offer you the option to purchase Main Select or the Main Cabin fare that was initially selected.