American Airlines has introduced new bundled fare options that include additional benefits, such as a checked bag, bonus miles and priority boarding, for a fixed fee on roundtrip travel within the United States. Choice fares are the basic economy fares you are accustomed to seeing that require a $150 change fee if you change your flight. There is no additional fee to book a Choice fare and the 100 percent mileage accrual remains the same.
Choice Essential fares will cost an additional $68 roundtrip and include no change fee, one checked bag (or one extra checked bag for members who already receive complimentary checked bags) and Group 1 boarding.
Choice Plus fares are available for an extra $88 roundtrip and include all of the Choice Essential benefits plus a 50 percent AAdvantage mileage bonus, same-day flight change, same-day standby and a premium beverage.
Customers who select one of the new fare options on one leg of their trip will need to select the same fare option or a premium cabin fare for the return trip. You can’t, for example, book a Choice fare one way and a Choice Essential for the return trip.
Bottom line: Frontier Airlines introduced a similar tiered fare model in December 2008 when it began offering Basic, Economy, Classic and Classic Plus fare options where customers could choose to pay more for waived or discounted fees, checked bags, seat upgrades and other amenities. Air Canada introduced its Tango fare structure in 2006. Other airlines allow members to purchase additional benefits and services, but American Airlines is one of the few airlines to bundle fee-based options into the fare.
Members will need to do the math to see if the higher cost of the Choice Essential and Choice Plus fares are worth the benefits. If you are an elite member and already receive a checked bag and priority boarding, the $68 fee for a Choice Essential fare probably isn’t worth it, unless you think you may have to change your flight and pay the $150 fee. For a non-elite member without complimentary checked bags, the fee to check one bag roundtrip is $50 so it may be worth the extra $18 to get Group 1 boarding and the change fee waiver. And for members flying long distances, the 50 percent mileage bonus and other benefits of Choice Plus fares may be worth the $88. On a roundtrip flight between Los Angeles and New York City, a Choice Plus traveler would receive an additional 2,460 miles.