American Adds Rules To Inflight Credit Card Pitches

Filed Under: American

If you’ve flown with American Airlines in the past few years then you’ve probably heard some of their rather aggressive credit card pitches.

American has credit cards issued by both Barclays and Citi, and the two issuers have different channels through which they’re allowed to market cards. For example, Barclays has exclusive rights to advertising inflight, while Citi has exclusive rights to advertise in Admirals Clubs.

So you should hear a credit card pitch on just about every American flight, because it’s clearly quite successful for them — they have a captive audience that’s likely to be interested. Flight attendants are even paid $50 for each successful application, which is why they’re so motivated to sell credit cards.

How American Flight Attendants Get Creative With Credit Card Pitches

The one thing is that over time credit card pitches have gotten more and more aggressive onboard flights:

  • Many flight attendants go “off script,” and even make claims that are downright inaccurate and misleading
  • Many flight attendants make multiple credit card pitches, even adding in an FAQ after the first announcement, claiming they’ve received questions about the offer
  • Many flight attendants will pass through the cabin multiple times handing out applications, and when passengers deplane will even stand at the door “fanning” the applications
  • Many flight attendants will announce that they have a very limited supply of applications, and after passing through the cabin once, will announce they only have X number of applications left

Anyway, it looks like American’s credit card pitches will soon be changing.

American Management Adds Restrictions On Pitches

Chicago Business Journal reports that American Airlines has issued a memo to flight attendants regarding inflight credit card pitches.

Management has advised employees of the following regarding their credit card pitches:

  • The presentation is to be made during the flight at cruising altitude, prior to the start of descent
  • The presentation is only to be made between 8AM and 9PM, and not on flights with major delays
  • The presentation must be no more than one minute
  • The presentation can only be read directly from the script, and flight attendants can’t add in their own language, and can’t provide false or misleading information
  • Regarding the tone, the announcement should be read in a friendly, confident and enthusiastic tone, and at a pace that all passengers can clearly understand
  • Only one announcement and one trip down the aisle with applications should be made per flight
  • Disinterested passengers shouldn’t be disturbed, and no pressure should be placed on any passengers to fill out an application

Bottom Line

My guess is that this was motivated both by complaints from passengers, and also due to compliance concerns from Barclays. Compliance (and sharing accurate information) is a big concern in the credit card industry, and I can’t count the number of times I heard flight attendants making misleading claims.

It will be interesting to see whether there’s a noticeable change with these pitches…

  1. The US is such a weird country…
    I think these credit card pitches are even worse than the lottery sales on Ryanair.

  2. I try to tune out the obnoxious announcements, but I do notice that they always claim (obviously part of their script) that it’s a limited time best ever offer. Does the in-flight offer ever change? If not, it might be the best ever offer technically, but it’s definitely not a limited time offer.

  3. Record the pitches and report the misleading ones to the CFPB. They’re violating UDAAP and that’s a very costly violation. This is the most likely way to get these pitches stopped altogether.

  4. Thank heavens AA is finally going to start reining in this beast. It is one of the aspects of flying on AA I hate the most. It’s also one of the reasons I fly Delta these days.

  5. Good. I find those pitches to be the most annoying aspect of AA’s inflight service. Some of those FA’s have no chill.

  6. They missed one that’s awful: pitches on very short flights. “Due to the short flight time, there will be no beverage service. We do however, have time to tell you about an amazing limited time opportunity…”

  7. @brandote
    The framers of the US Constitution were well aware of the danger of monopolies, so wished for them always to be “time limited”. When Disney and assorted mega-corporations were last lobbying for an extension of copyright terms, the politicians they’d bought (mostly right-wingers, who previously had implied they worshipped the constitution), argued that “infinity minus one day” was “time limited”, and that therefore that should be the new monopoly term limit for copyright…

    Thank God for noise-cancelling headphones. Never leave home without them.

  8. Thank Jesus; I’ll never forget being woken up by the lights coming on and a blaring announcement at 4:30 AM on a red-eye flight well before we started our initial descent hawking a cobrand card. Nor will I forget the FA who intentionally went around asking each elderly passenger about how often they travel to see their grandkids and how “nice it would be to see them for free” – borderline predatory. As someone who flies frequently I also couldn’t help but chuckle at the number of “exclusive, this flight only!” offers which were the same on every flight…

  9. Thank you!! Flying frequently in AA can get annoying with the constant CC pitch interruptions. I was on a Dallas to Miami flight and wanted to enjoy a movie but the pitch (and I timed it) took over 14 minutes! Not acceptable for those who want a power nap or a movie on a 2 hour flight.

  10. Prior to my first American flight, I had only ever flown Delta. So I was completely shocked at how many times the flight attendants interrupted passengers to discuss the credit card offer and how persistent they were. Gave them another shot since I’m living in Miami now but the annoying offers, ridiculously long delays I experienced, plus the awful Miami International Airport have completely turned me away from flying American. As I’ve posted on these comments before, I will gladly deal with the traffic and drive up to FLL to fly Delta or even Southwest.

  11. I’m a FA with AA and have personally witnessed passengers being harassed with these damn things. Once even had a FA call for the police because an EP passenger let him know that the pitch was entirely too long and inconsistent from flight to flight, didn’t swear or threaten anyone. Caused a delay on the outbound flight as well due to a “security incident” end the madness!

  12. If they want to sell more, they can remove the line preventing from applying when you have / have had an existing acount… haha

  13. “the announcement should be read in a friendly, confident and enthusiastic tone”

    That should mean the end of announcements on most flights. Well, maybe they could get a few pilots to mumble through them.

  14. My last AA flight was so obnoxious. 3.5 hours in the air, just two drink services in First class but plenty of time for a credit card pitch before landing! The pitch was aggressive and had to have lasted at least 3 minutes.

  15. I’ve been contacted on social media by “friends” and acquaintances who are AA FAs asking if I’d be interested in 50,000 miles “because [they] know how much [I] love to travel…” They then launch into the same general pitch as heard on the plane.That this hocking of CCs has leaked from the planes and airports out into the real world is a testament (one of many) to how poor the culture and climate is at AA.

  16. Yeah, I really hate hanging out anywhere that I’m subject to constant pitching of credit cards. . .

    Now, if only they could get the FAs to be aware of the difference between “uninterested” and “disinterested” things would be perfect!

  17. Flying home from Thanksgiving DFW-LGA, I was experiencing terrible allergies/sinus infection that affected my hearing and, in combination with various meds+decongestants, left me a bit warped and woozy. It wasn’t until after we landed and I realized that I was so out of it I hadn’t even noticed if any credit cards were pitched, that I understood that this is the perfect way to fly AA…

  18. I’m an American flight attendant. I’m embarrassed to tell anybody that I work for AA because of how sad the culture and company are right now. In order to be able to advertise the Barclay’s card in the plane we have to do an online training and pass a test. All of these rules regarding the CC have ALWAYS been in place but the company does not enforce them because CCs make a good amount of profit for AA. I actually recieved an award the last time I did an announcement regarding the CC because I did it exactly as we are supposed to. Literally I’m embarrassed 90% of the time that other flight attendants make the announcement regarding the CC. I’d like to work for a company that cares about its employees and that the public respects, unfortunately that is not the case at AA anymore. Thanks for our current company culture Doug Parker.

  19. Next stop.

    Time shAAre.
    Why stop the journey once we land. Why not extended the journey to this beautiful resort full of amenities.

    AAdvantage vAAcation time shAAre. Limited time offer.

  20. Not all AA FA’s participate in hawking the Barclays card. I refuse to do it because it was not in my job description when I was hired, and it annoys passengers. I really hate it.

  21. If you look at it from a lighthearted approach, the pitches are kind of funny to listen to. “Disney World, Hawaii, the Caribbean.” These are clearly marketed to families and infrequent travelers. What’s funny is just how inaccurate the FAs generally are in their pitch, not that they should really have any reason to understand the Aadvantage program anyway.

    “Securely expedited and processed once we land”

    “Unlike those other cards that make you spend thousands, you only need to make a purchase as small as a pack of gum or a cup of coffee”

  22. I signed up for the Barclays card o line after receiving the flight offer and have been fighting nonstop for almost two months to get them to honor the offer. They I correctly billed me for the annual fee and will not remove it.

  23. As an AA FA, all I have to say is………..THANK YOU! Now please enforce this. I’m one of the FA’s that want no part of this program, if I wanted to hawk credit cards and other financial standards…I would’ve worked for a bank. I’m onboard to take care of customer needs, and assure safety and security standards are kept.

  24. Nothing was better than the time they did the pitch 10 minutes after take-off……..after our full 772 MIA-DFW was delayed 2.5 hours causing over half the aircraft to miss-connect. People literally yelled and booed at the announcement, it was the perfect reaction.

  25. Ben,
    I’m Canadian (don’t judge me), AA is my preferred airline and while the sales pitch is a tad annoying, I usually manage to stop them in their tracks by stating I’m a canuck. I respond by telling them I would love to apply but for some reason, AA doesn’t mind taking our money for plane tickets, but won’t let us apply for their credit card.

    I fairness to AA, no other American carrier will allow applications from Canadian residents although, many moons ago I did have a Delta (amex) sky miles credit card but let it expire.

    Do you think there will ever come a time when US airlines will change their policy?

  26. rcyc,

    Alaska Airlines has a Canadian equivalent of its card, and they sometimes mention this during their pitches.

  27. YEAH! The flight attendants are not bankers! Stop selling credit cards and not understanding what you are selling! (From a former banker.)

  28. One of the reasons, Delays, food, bed bugs, service or lack there of I cancelled my Barclays and Citi cards. Too many other reason why I don’t fly American any more. Delta and United are superior in my mind over American.

  29. Because new hires are barely getting by and this helps. Don’t get one if you don’t want it. Sorry, but AA scrapped pensions and then built brand new office buildings and just paid millions in severance pay to watch one of the board jump ship to United. Keep it clean and real, but for some, this is extra income they can use.

  30. With over thirty-five years of flying, there is no mistaking credit card hawking is out of hand. I will never forget flying with this woman who was ill most of the flight and spent a lot of time in the lavatory. When she heard the credit card announcement that lavatory door flew open and she was ready to sling those applications!
    I apologize for my co-workers. The greed is obnoxious.

  31. @Lope

    “just paid millions in severance pay to watch one of the board jump ship to United.”

    Not as bad as Tom Horton. His $20 million parachute is still stuck at 30,000 feet somewhere since his first class flight benefit lasts a lifetime. All he did was to be BFF with unions and window dress AA for his old ratpack buddy Doug (and WallStreet of course).

  32. I always got a kick out of the “25,000 bonus miles which guarantee you two tickets to anywhere in the U.S. on American”.

    Oh really? Because I’ve been seeing short haul Chicago to St. Louis pricing out at 40k miles one way.

    These pitches are borderline, if not completely, fraudulent and deceptive in most cases.

  33. So? American doesn’t enforce service standards they way McDonald’s does.

    It’s the rare FA that does not chat loudly in the galley instead of working, even though that’s not what they’re supposed to do. I fully expect the off-script pitches to resume after a few weeks of calm — because there are exactly ZERO consequences, only upside of more commissions.

  34. I fly AA quite frequently (PLT) and am tired of hearing these CC cards hawked on almost every flight. Some of these FAs are obnoxious and aggressive with their announcements and parading up and down the aisle like they’re selling lottery tickets.
    Additionally, what they fail to tell you is “Good luck with redeeming those miles once earned especially with getting 2 roundtrips for 50,000 miles.” With changes (and not for the better) to the advantage program, it’s extremely difficult to find ‘low miles redemptions’ or to redeem miles to upgrade (not referring to 500 mile sticker upgrades) on paid tickets.
    If Parker and company want more revenue, perhaps they should focus on creating a friendlier, more professional employee culture and improving operational performance.

  35. AA is making changes because of customer response. There isn’t a survey I complete where I don’t complain about the infomercials on the plane. And every time that application is shoved at me I react the same way – That card is complete sh$t get it away from me. I cancelled mine the minute they dropped the EQDs.

  36. While I don’t fly as often as a lot of people on this site (Delta Gold Medallion), I chose to fly an AA leg from MIA-TPA and I thought it was a lot worse than my experiences with Delta. From the CC push, to the video ad on the screen that seemingly took for ever and couldn’t be fast forwarded to the AA system changing me out my my aisle seat and giving me a window (I’m 6’8″/203 cm, so the aisle is a must) I’d highly consider just renting a one-way rental car and driving that trip if I had to do it again.

  37. Flying AA since the late 60’s EP for 10 years. I guess AA could get worse, but not sure how. The barrage of selling the CC is just one more irritation. Doug Parker doesn’t care about anything but his bottom line. Delta flights are a pleasure in comparison even without status. If not for the connections I would have to make every flight I would have switched 5 years ago.

  38. This by far is the most annoying aspect of flying AA. As a frequent flyer, based out of Miami, the majority of my travel is AA. Honestly I feel bad for the FA’s, I don’t think they enjoy pitching the CC, but it’s part of the job.

  39. Traveled DCA-LAX this past Monday and, mercifully, no credit card pitch.
    When these onboard offers started, I wondered what would prevent some unscrupulous F/As from stealing personal and financial info from these applications.
    Eventually, I noticed that they began to add that a person could also mail in the request.

  40. Just flew DEN-CLT red-eye on AA this morning. Credit card pitch occurred at 5:57am after the “initial descent” announcement. That 2.5hr flight is truly a red eye, not sure why someone thinks it’s a good idea at that hour. Everyone on the flight was sleeping.

  41. A change AA is making for the better, sounds like they’re going for great even!

    I never could stand being woken up to hear a pitch about something i’ve already had and cancelled (I use the Citi one now)

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