What Are The Benefits Of American Concierge Key?

Filed Under: American

For whatever reason, there’s a not-insignificant portion of the frequent flyer community that finds invitation only status with US airlines to be sexy. I’ve gotta be honest, I don’t really get it. Is there any other context in which overpaying for the pleasure of indulging in processed cheese cubes and cheap chardonnay is considered appealing?

Arguably the most well known invitation only airline status is American Airlines’ Concierge Key, as it was a key theme of the popular 2009 movie “Up In The Air,” starring George Clooney.

What is Concierge Key status really? How do you earn Concierge Key, and what are the benefits? How many Concierge Key members are there? The truth is that there’s little published information out there about the status, but lots of data points.

So in this post I wanted to attempt to answer some of the most common questions about Concierge Key status to the best of my ability.

What is American Concierge Key status?

On the most basic level, Concierge Key is American’s invitation only status level. There’s no published criteria to earn it, and it has to be renewed every year, so you can earn it one year and lose it the next (though it has been extended this year due to the pandemic, as most airline status has).

In the past, Concierge Key was completely separate from the AAdvantage program, but that’s no longer the case. Nowadays Concierge Key is a formal part of the AAdvantage program, and it’s a tier above Executive Platinum status.

Concierge Key is American’s invitation only status

How do you earn American Concierge Key status?

The criteria to earn Concierge Key is not published, but generally there are a few ways to earn it.

One way is to spend a ton on American Airlines travel. We’re talking $50,000+ of spending per year. That’s not to say that spending $50,001 will get you Concierge Key status, but rather that if you spend less than that, don’t assume you have any chances of being invited. So in theory you can earn Concierge Key purely through your own travel.

We don’t fully know what American looks for in this regard, though. Do they care purely about the dollar amount you spend, the typical fare classes you fly in (consistently full fare first class, for example), or something else? I’d also note that the above numbers are what has historically been thrown around, though perhaps in 2020 and 2021 it’s significantly easier to earn Concierge Key, given how things have changed.

You can also earn Concierge Key through the influence you have over others’ travel. Sometimes American will give Concierge Key nominations as part of a big corporate contract, or to key travel planners who have influence over a lot of others’ travel.

American is even known to comp Concierge Key to some “influencers.” For example, going back a few years, a YouTuber was comped Concierge Key status and was really unhappy when it was taken away.

For avoidance of doubt, I’ve never been offered Concierge Key status. šŸ˜‰

What are the benefits of American Concierge Key status?

Concierge Key has quite a few published benefits, but some would argue the biggest benefit of the status is better “soft” treatment in the event of irregular operations.

The benefits of Concierge Key include the following:

American’s Flagship check-in at JFK, which Concierge Key members have access to

Assistance during irregular operations is probably both potentially the most valuable perk, and also the most inconsistent one. On a good day, Concierge Key members may get proactive rebookings when flights are canceled and delayed.

American even has some Cadillacs with which they provide tarmac transfers, so during a short connection you may be picked up planeside and driven to your connecting flight.

At the same time, there are also instances where you’ll likely be disappointed, because they’re not always going toĀ deliver 100% of the time.

Concierge Key members receive extra systemwide upgrades

How many American Concierge Key members are there?

American understandably hasn’t revealed how many Concierge Key members there are, so the best we can do is speculate. If I had to guess, I’d say there are somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 Concierge Key members. To be more exact, my assumption is that the number is roughly in the middle of that range.

In 2019 there was a clue — American worked with a company to send out chocolate to Concierge Key members, and the company posted that 11,300 packages had been prepared. Now, not all Concierge Key members received this chocolate, suggesting to me that there are more members than that.

If you’re curious how other elite ranks compare, I’d guess the number of Executive Platinum members is maybe 3-4x as high as the number of Concierge Key members.

Concierge Key members can even board before first class

Bottom line

Concierge Key is American Airlines’ invitation only status. It gives you priority over Executive Platinum members for just about everything, lounge access, extra systemwide upgrades, and also (hopefully) proactive help in the event of irregular operations.

Is the status life changing? While I’ve never had it, I’m inclined to say “no.” But others certainly may disagree…

If you’re a Concierge Key member (or have been one in the past), what has been your experience with the status? How does it compare to Executive Platinum status?

  1. I am CK. There are also other perks that not all CKā€™s get like gifting status to someone else. I didnā€™t get that but I know someone who did. The best thing about it for me are the upgrades and the way they treat you. I was always treated well as a Platinum or EXP but CK is different. I actually feel more valued.

    I wonā€™t likely requesting for 2022 and I will miss it immensely.

  2. “Iā€™ve gotta be honest, I donā€™t really get it. Is there any other context in which overpaying for the pleasure of indulging in processed cheese cubes and cheap chardonnay is considered appealing?”

    Many would say that this is why you do what you do Ben.

  3. I earned CK for 2019 due to a lot of flying in 2018 to Australia, Argentina, Chile, Hong Kong, Japan, and Europe. For my flights to SYD, MEL, HKG, all in business class (paid for by work), all segments were on QF or CX, except where I had to fly from JFK to SFO for one of the three trips I took that year to SYD, where, due to space availability, I was booked on the SFO-SYD QF flight. The rest of my travels to Europe and Japan that year were on AA metal. I found the service and attention (not that I really craved it) for being CK quite good. I was treated to a private car air side at LAX and MIA a few times and the perks are definitely worth it. My CK status was not renewed for 2020 and I am now EP and this was extended into 2022 given the pandemic. There are subtle differences between the two and while AA gets bashed here a lot, I’ve found that one of the best attributes to top tier status(es) on AA is the service and the promptness when something does go wrong operationally, similar to what DL has done so well with irregular operations. The AA Flagship Lounges are pretty good and I’ve found AA’s international business class product, in terms of the seat, Zodiac on 77W and Super Diamond on some 772s and all 789s to be excellent in terms of comfort. When travel for business (constant) was a thing, the premium check-in and a few other ground perks made all the difference.

  4. As Mitzi stated, one additional benefit is a CK member being able to gift Exec Platinum to 1 person.

    I got this benefit this year but didnā€™t the past 4 years. Suspect this has something to do with additional tiers of qual AA looks at.

  5. Yes… the airport transfers, preboarding and near automatic upgrades are nice.

    Cheese cubes? CK get flagship lounge access and a couple of flagship dining passes annually.

    But, the best benefit is day of travel support. If there’s any disruption, AA will do anything in their power to get a CK home… proactively. Book you on another airline? Yep. Book you on a flight which is zeroed out? Yep. Double book you to ensure at least one of the options should work? Yep.

  6. I donā€™t fly AA but had for many years the equivalent to CK on Delta called Delta360. I didnā€™t find it useful since being a DM based on a hub airport and flying paid business class for business didnā€™t add anything to my experience other than Delta employees recognizing my loyalty all the time.

  7. I was Global Services on United for one year. I got to Gold one year, the next Platinum and the year after that I made 1K. The following year I was upgraded to Global Services. It was too bad I had done most of my travel the year before, mostly on UA metal. Most of my trips were in business class, but I didn’t spend nearly 50k that year in tickets. Lots of miles, not a lot of $$. The year I was Global Services, we didn’t fly much UA metal living in Germany. We flew to SFO and Hawaii and I was able to use the GS check in desk at SFO. Other than a few IROPS, I got driven to a tight connection in London once, still didn’t make my connection, but got to spend my new layover in the First Class lounge. Most of my time was spent as GS was Star Alliance GOLD status flying back and forth to Manchester. Having the dedicated phone line was really nice though. They always answered the phone within 1 or 2 rings. It came in handy when our return award flight from SYD-MUC initial leg on Air China to Beijing was canceled a few months before departure. She created award space between SYD-LAX and then on to MUC as there was no other options. Yes, it was the wrong way home, but we still got home either way.

  8. With all respect, if you question the value of CK you simply haven’t experienced it. The stress associated with IROPS is primarily gone…they take complete care of you, quickly, typically before you have time to call them. In pre- (and, perhaps, post-) COVID, the preboard for CK’s was nice, so you didn’t have to battle for overhead space. Cadillac transfers between gates at DFW and LAX are a lot of fun. And the Flagship lounges and Flagship Dining were great…actually quite a bit better than the normal AAdmirals Club cheese cubes. Since I live in Miami, Flagship check-in is a fantastic benefit, even these days during the busier hours. Being able to gift Exec Plat status to a family member or friend was a fantastic benefit as well. I could go on and on, but, again, questioning the value is just kind of funny. I only hope this great program continues.

  9. The video clip is my favorite scene from the movie; the game of one-upmanship in so prevalent in the world of business travel.
    But a huge amount of AA product placement in the movie — I wonder how much AA paid for it. Maybe all the producers got CK for a year:-)

  10. As a CK member, the concepts of what you mentioned are accurate but execution is generally inconsistent (as most things are with airlines). Sometimes the gate agents forget to board you, etc. I get it via an Airpass contract where I spend >$60k a year – several Europe and Asia trips and a lot of domestic first class travel.

    The one benefit that stands above others is travel disruption assistance. Only CK members can have conflicting locators in the AA system (e.g. booked on two flights that are scheduled to be in the air at the same time), so being “protected” is a big benefit. The CK agents also can typically access seats that are held for airport control early so when traveling with family it can be easier to get a row together in coach on a busy flight.

    Connection assistance has gotten worse over time. With recent cuts I’ve found myself having to connect more and I’d say AA offers it about 30-40% of the time. It’s quote terrible in Phoenix, but better in Charlotte and Dallas. Just depends on the market.

    The other items are all case by case – I’ve never been offered a gift of status to someone else.

  11. Well I might be EXP (and a low spend one at that) but I doubt I’ll ever be CK. I usually don’t need a lot of personal attention. In the case of irregular ops I find my own alternatives and say to the TA, AC lounge staff, GA could you route me…… I generally prefer to walk between gates (unless I’m rushing to a late connection) and even have turned down the cart at DFW that had my name on it. (Yep could feel like a CK for the day).

    The expanded upgrade window and being at the top of upgrade que would be the most beneficial to me. But again it’s all moot for me.

  12. So…am I right in saying that the best benefit of getting a CK is so that you can get upgraded and also get treated better on flights where you’re not flying on AA? Because as someone who predominately travels on CX, JAL and ANA – I can’t see any reason why I would ever want any status with AA when the quality is so-so relatively.

  13. I was invited last December for the first time. I had a few trips earlier this year before the pandemic hit but did not enjoy Flagship lounges because I flew through PHL which didnā€™t have one at the time. In the past few months, Iā€™ve flown through DFW on three additional trips but nothing open there either. No travel disruptions during my six trips and 24 segments this year so I havenā€™t tested that benefit although Iā€™m sure itā€™s solid. Overall, Iā€™m delighted to have been invited but this year has been a bust for the obvious reasons. Fortunately, things are looking up for next year.

    As for other perks, I was shipped a couple bottles of very good Napa Valley wine several months ago and received the luggage tags made from the body of a retired AA 767 which are really special but too nice to use. The 24 hour phone number works great for me. This year, six international trips were cancelled due to the pandemic and my refunds were handled very quickly. Additionally, Iā€™ve been able to piece together some complicated itineraries for travel in 2021 with their assistance which I couldnā€™t have done online. Iā€™ve always been treated well by AA people, even before CK, so I donā€™t really notice a lot of difference there. Iā€™ve not received a status gift for someone else, not sure if being single is the reason or perhaps just being a newbie.

  14. I am a many year EXP, 4 million miler on AA with several MM on other airlines. A year ago I was scheduled to fly from JFK to PHX and woke to find that thanks to an inch of snow my flight was late, then cancelled, then I was rebooked on a flight from EWR to PHX at the same time my original flight was now back on schedule. I called the EXP line, had to wait 45 minutes for an agent who was unable to get me back on my original flight. $100 Uber ride to EWR and I am still pissed about how poorly I was treated.

    I find it amusing that most of the IROPS comments from CKs describe how I was routinely treated when I flew Delta as a Gold and even better as a Platinum in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. I was ALWAYS protected and always had a human being calling or leaving a VM. I was stopped before leaving my house or hotel for the airport numerous times and rebooked on the next most convenient flights. I was often protected on multiple alternate flights. I could change to whatever flights I wanted at no additional charge. Those were truly the good old days.

    Sadly Delta changed and AA seemed a better choice. It was a better choice until Doug Parker destroyed AA. With COVID serving as a hard stop, I think my days as an EXP may be numbered. I’ll never make CK, but then again, I am not that big a fan of cheap wine and cheese cubes.

  15. Those who have it see it as care, assistance and protection.

    Those who don’t have it see it as useless, wasteful and pretentious.

  16. It is funny how widely experiences vary. After flying the big three booking the best connections and best value flights on Expedia and consistently being treated best on American. I have gone to only booking American and have enjoyed consistent great service from them ever since as plan platinum. A colleague of mine feels the same about Delta that I wouldn’t fly with again. Only fly 2 to 4 times a month paying for my own flights though fly 1st class most of the time, doubt I’ll see CK, just glad they take care of the little guy.

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