American Airlines just launched something guaranteed to get on your nerves

Someone thought this was clever. Or is this, perhaps, a clever way of motivating employees?
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

Give them credit for their ingenuity?

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Airlines don't have it easy.

Principally, you might snort, because when the business environment is tough, they try to make it easy on themselves.

Take government money, shed a lot of people, and you survive quite happily.

This doesn't mean to say that airlines didn't spend the COVID-19 pandemic thinking about how to make their customers' experience better.

I wonder, though, whether American Airlines fully thought through its latest little idea.

This month, some of your friendly American Airlines airport agents may be doing something you've never seen them do before -- pitch you the American Airlines credit card.

Yes, while you're desperately trying to buy a last-minute ticket or beg the airline to get you on a flight sometime in the next week.

As revealed by View From The Wing, American is now inviting airport agents for "mainline and wholly owned regional carriers" to offer the same sorts of pitches you're always delighted to hear on flights, just as you're trying to get some sleep.

"I need to get to New York for a funeral on Friday."

"Yes, but first, let me tell you about the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard."

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I sense the reaction of customers may not be universally favorable. You don't need this. And you certainly don't need it at that moment. 

Some might speculate whether this incentivization to pitch plastic may also be extended to gate agents. What a lovely blast that would be. Or, perhaps, it is.

One AA flyer -- and commenter at One Mile At A Time -- claims they were pitched only last week: "The gate agent was hocking the card when she was mentioning that our 'regional jet' could only hold about 25 roll-aboards."

The commenter claims they heard the gate agent say: "If you're in Groups 7-9 and you'd like to avoid the hassle of gate checking your bag in the future, apply for the American Airlines Aviator card and receive a complimentary checked bag every time you fly with us."

I begin to dream of ultimate scenarios. For example: "I'm sorry to announce that AA Flight 725 has been delayed by three hours. While you're waiting, perhaps you might consider getting the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard."

I fear some customers would suffer the aviator red mist.

Some analysts believe that airlines make far more money from credit cards than they do from, say, flying planes. One can understand, then, the commercial impulse.

Perhaps there's a further motivation.

Currently, airlines are finding it hard to hire anyone, let alone airport agents. This is a way of slipping a further incentive into their wallets.

Also: United, Delta and American Airlines customers may soon have a scary dilemma

Merely to qualify for this program -- a little reading, followed by a 10-question test -- gets the airport agent $25. For every application form that a customer fills in, the agent gets a commission, perhaps $50-$100. (Each application form has a code that ties it to the particular agent.)

Some might think, too, that customers who know the agent will be pitching a credit card might use it as leverage.

"Yeah, I know my bag is 20 lbs over. But what if I apply for one of your fine credit cards?"

"Oh, well, seeing as you put it like that..."

Still, how painful this might be for customers.

It may well be that -- sooner or later -- you'll hear a credit card pitch at check-in, another one at the gate and yet another from the flight attendant in the sky. (Agent participation in this program is voluntary, but everyone needs to make a dollar or two more.)

It'll be like watching your local sports channel, and the same ad appears in every commercial break.

Then again, airline customers have become used to indignities. They insert their AirPods and hope it'll all be over soon. Or soonish.

And really, getting one more credit card is like a large company giving you a big, fat loan, right?

Perhaps I didn't mention -- and perhaps your airport agent won't mention it either -- but the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard costs $99 a year.

Isn't that worth paying for "preferred boarding"?

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