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Back in 2009, the movie “Up in the Air” starring George Clooney was released. In the film, he played Ryan Bingham, a man who flew hundreds of thousands of miles a year on American Airlines as a corporate downsizing consultant.
In this one scene, Bingham shows fellow road warrior Alex Goran, played by Vera Farmiga, his titanium American Airlines Concierge Key card and she’s rightly impressed.
You won’t find any information about Concierge Key on the American Airlines website, but it’s a special status conferred on a certain class of loyal customers based on its own internal algorithm. American Airlines is understandably tight-lipped about the program. We can share some details about the program, along with one member’s experience with it — but we can’t tell you how to get accepted.
What is Concierge Key?
“American wanted a program to reward travel managers and flyers who are responsible for every high-dollar volume purchase for them and their companies,” says Chris Lopinto, president of ExpertFlyer.com, a site to help elite flyers manage their airline loyalty programs.
Concierge Key status is given to those who either spend a lot of money with American Airlines or are the key decision-makers for big corporate contracts, Lopinto says.
“For example, it could be given to a travel manager for a consulting company that does high-level, business-class cabin spending,” he said. “They can choose other airlines, so Concierge Key is a way to say thanks for their loyalty and directing business to American.”
No one knows what the spending threshold is for individuals and companies to qualify for Concierge Key status, said Lopinto. “It likely varies, but it’s at least $50,000 per year and possibly more,” he said. “That’s why the program is unpublished, and it’s determined on a case-by-case basis. You can’t just ask for it. It’s a ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’ program.”
The skinny from a Concierge Key member
Jim Smith (who requested to use a pseudonym to protect his Concierge Key status) is an Executive Platinum flyer who spent more than $80,000 on American and its partners in 2018. “I wasn’t informed about [it]. I saw it in the [American Airlines] app,” he recalled. “Then I got a package in the mail several weeks later.”
The package didn’t include the titanium card shown in “Up in the Air,” said Jim. But it did come with a luggage tag made from the skin of a scrapped American Airlines’ McDonnell Douglas Super 80, he added.
His favorite Concierge Key benefits are is pre-boarding the aircraft, receiving on-ground recognition from staff and Flagship Lounge access on domestic flights. Perks offered in the lounge include chef-inspired meals, a premium wine table, a specialty cocktail bar, plenty of comfortable seating, shower suites and personalized service.
“But in-flight recognition [of Concierge Key status] is nil and service remains average to poor,” said Jim. “There is a party with the CEO in Fort Worth that we’re invited to, but of course, we have to fly ourselves [there].”
Concierge Key perks
Concierge Key benefits aren’t officially published, but both Lopinto and Smith confirmed the following benefits:
- Executive Platinum status, which includes four one-way systemwide upgrades; free auto-requested upgrades; a 100-hour upgrade window; 120% elite mileage bonus; free Main Cabin Extra and Preferred Seats; three free checked bags; and additional rewards starting at 150,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (based on a percentage of actual miles flown and the airline and the booking code purchased).
- An Admirals Club airport lounge membership at more than 100 clubs and partner lounges around the world.
- Access to the Flagship Lounge, reserved for American Airlines’ best customers, on all itineraries.
- Two additional systemwide upgrades.
- Co-pays waived on international miles upgrades, which range from $75 to $550, depending on the destination.
- A dedicated phone number and email address with 24/7 support.
- Flagship First check-in at Chicago O’Hare, London Heathrow, Los Angeles, Miami and New York’s JFK airports, all of which include an exclusive check-in area, personalized assistance and expedited security access.
- Automatic rebooking help in case of delays or cancellations.
- Airport escorts via private car (but only about 15% of the time, according to Smith) and pre-boarding the aircraft.
Having Concierge Key status is certainly worthwhile for the perks if you spend that much with American, said Lopinto. “However, unlike normal status tiers, it’s not really something most people can hope to obtain normally,” he said.
Even if you’re lucky enough to get Concierge Key, it doesn’t mean you get to keep it, said Lopinto. “You’re reevaluated to ensure that whatever you did to get it is still applicable since that status is highly valued.”