Since the summer I’ve had American Airlines ConciergeKey status, the ‘top secret’ status with the airline that they rarely talk about, meant for their highest spending customers and top corporate travel influencers. It was an unintended extra benefit of earning 7 million miles from American’s way-too-generous year-end SimplyMiles promotion. Here’s the welcome kit I received.
My first use of ConciergeKey benefits was redeeming 15,000 miles for a confirmed domestic upgrade without cash co-pay. Waiving the cash portion saved me $75 and probably tipped me over the edge for confirming the upgrade. I might have cleared anyway but it was a four hour flight on a plane with just 12 first class seats traveling on a Thursday. It was nice not to have to worry about it. My upgrades have certainly gone better than as an Executive Platinum, such as receiving the only upgrade on a recent Dallas – Fort Worth to Washington Dulles flight at the gate.
On my first trip as a ConciergeKey I was traveling with my wife and daughter and connecting from a B gate in Dallas – Fort Worth to one of the new stinger gates at the very end of D. I was met on arrival by a staff member with a golf cart, though it was a long enough connection I had them drop us off at the Flagship Lounge in D rather than heading all the way to the gate. (In fact, as Flagship Lounge staff agree, the Capital One lounge immediately next door is nicer and that’s where we spent the layover – but I didn’t ask to be taken to the Capital One lounge, I kept that part my little secret.)
When my flights have delayed I’ve generally gotten text messages or voicemails. I’ve sometimes gotten text messages in advance of flights that were on time. And I’ve occasionally been met at my departure gate. That’s usually been when there are other ConciergeKey members traveling on the flight, too. The only exception – met at the gate as the only “CK” or “Key” on the flight was earlier in the month departing Washington National. It was an especially slow Saturday morning, and fortunate because I’d hurt my foot (aggravated an old injury and made the mistake of working out on it). They noticed, and proactively had me met by a golf cart for my connection in Dallas.
But I just had my first opportunity to experience ConciergeKey in action during irregular operations, where I needed rebooking assistance, so I thought I’d pass along what that looked like.
On Thursday I was flying Austin – Miami. The flight had just begun boarding, and I was standing on the jet bridge about to get on the aircraft when we were cancelled. Miami was a mess with storms, and flights were delaying and cancelling right and left on all airlines, regardless of where they were coming from.
However something odd happened. No one contacted me. I wasn’t rebooked. Instead I received an email as though I had voluntarily cancelled my trip.
I walked straight back to the Admirals Club. The staff there do incredible things. My cancelled flight had been completely sold out, and so was every other option. So I called the ConciergeKey line.
Perhaps the ConciergeKey benefit that appeals to me most is the Next Flight Guarantee where they’re supposed to overbook a flight to get you where you’re going if your flight is cancelled or delayed by three hours. That, to me, is the single best benefit – knowing that you are going to get where you are going nearly every single time. This is something that they do better than United’s Global Services.
- I actually wanted to take a connecting flight through Dallas. With everything delaying or cancelling I figured I’d have more flight options – to Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or West Palm Beach – than staying in Austin and taking the next available flight.
- In other words, I was looking to heed Tiffany Funk‘s advice to treat irregular options like the zombie apocalypse: you keep moving or die. It would be better to get to Dallas than sit tight for the next flight in Austin.
- But they weren’t able to oversell flights from Dallas to Florida, and could only overbook me onto the next Austin – Miami flight. That’s what I accepted, knowing also that there was an additional Austin – Miami after that one if needed.
- In the end, shortly before departure, one seat opened up for sale on the flight. No one had to be bumped to accommodate me. But it was nice to get the flight booked five hours earlier and go on with my day rather than scrambling.
I believe that I was the only one who made it off of my cancelled Austin – Miami flight onto the next one. ConciergeKey came through. It meant sitting in the back row of a legacy American Airlines Airbus A319, but I got where I was going on the same day. That’s huge.
The flight attendant in the back galley immediately recognized me as a ConciergeKey in the last row of coach. He offered me a bottle of water, which I accepted. During the flight he went to first class, and brought me back a ramekin of nuts. And the first class flight attendant came back to offer me an extra meal that they had up front, if I’d come enjoy it discretely in the forward galley. I declined, since I was heading straight to a dinner when I landed in Miami.
This was actually the first time I was recognized on board as a ConciergeKey. It may have helped that I was smiling and happy to be in the last row of coach, and that I actually switched seats with someone in the row to accommodate two passengers who wanted to sit together (it just meant moving from my aisle seat to the aisle seat across the row). But it made the flight even better.
On the way back I took the opportunity to use Flagship Check-in for the first time as a ConciergeKey. I’d used it in Los Angeles a couple of times years ago. In Miami though there’s no designated terminal entrance into a private room, it’s just a cordoned off check-in area. And you’re escorted to the front of regular security (where they’ll give you an expedited screening card if Pre-Check eligible) and not TSA PreCheck.
Then I headed to the Miami Flagship lounge before my flight – it was busy but never felt crowded during my visit, and far superior to waiting in line to get into the Centurion lounge that was located farther away from my gate.
I absolutely love ConciergeKey. I’m hoping that since it was granted over the summer, expiring March 2023, that it will be renewed for one more year – that when granted it’s for a ‘minimum of 12 months’ – because I can’t imagine I’ll ever be able to qualify again. I’ll never be in the league of those spending $50,000 – $60,000 on high yield tickets, and without a twice in a lifetime type of promotion like last December’s deal was I’m unlikely to ever generate 5 million AAdvantage miles in a year again either. I never thought I’d have this status, and I’ll miss it once it’s gone.