Ah, here are two programs most of us will never have to worry about, for better or for worse. But what’s the fun in life without a bit of comparing of two products that are outside of our reach (for most of us, of course there are plenty of exceptions)? While I’m pretty knowledgeable about United Global Services, the “Up in the Air” trailer prompted me to look into American Concierge Key, which I hadn’t previously researched. Here’s the clip (for the 132nd time):
See how George Clooney impresses the lady at the bar with the Concierge Key card? Yeah, that’s right before she tells him that she bets his (flying stats) are huge and he says she has no idea (whatever George’s total is, mine’s bigger!). Well, should she really be that impressed? Is there anything awesome about Concierge Key?
First of all, for those of you not familiar with these two programs, they are invitation only programs for the airlines’ most valuable customers, either directly or indirectly. Well, here’s my analysis, and again, this is just based on the research I’ve done.
The first impression I get is that there aren’t nearly as many Concierge Key members as Global Services members. This is just an impression I get based on the benefits. Concierge Key seems to be given mostly through major corporate contracts along with some people legitimately earning it based on their travel patterns, while Global Services seems to be more of an equal mix between the two. So on an individual basis, I get the impression that Global Services is more attainable.
Now let’s talk about the benefits. It’s worth noting that Concierge Key isn’t a status level, per se. It doesn’t appear on your boarding pass, so your normal status, whatever it might be, would show up. Apparently Concierge Key shows up on the manifest, though. The real benefits of Concierge Key are the airport services. Basically, it seems like Concierge Key members get escorted every step of the way, both at departure and upon arrival, at least in theory. There seems to be some inconsistency with this. Apparently the service isn’t so consistent at DFW and at some other stations. But in theory you should be escorted onto the plane, even on a domestic flight, and should be met on the jetway. Based on what I’ve read the service can be embarrassingly personalized. Concierge Key members also have a dedicated phone number, but other than the airport services they don’t really receive any priority benefits. Yes, if a flight is delayed Concierge Members will be protected on a later flight, probably in first class, but they don’t technically get upgrade priority or any other published benefits. So it really is a “concierge” service.
Now let’s compare that to Global Services. First of all, Global Services is a much more “official” program. Your boarding pass indicates you’re a Global Services member, and while Global Services members also have status levels within Mileage Plus, last year all Global Services were also made 1K’s (or so it seems), although this hasn’t been consistent in the past otherwise. Premier Executive has always been a guarantee, though. There are, however, several “published” benefits — an earlier upgrade window than 1K’s (120 hours), access to Arrivals Lounge facilities when traveling internationally (regardless of the class of service), the ability to turn upgrade seats into flat out award seats, the ability to upgrade award seats with confirmable upgrade instruments, being protected on the next flight (even if it’s sold out), etc. Notice I put “published” benefits in quotes, since these are benefits that are consistently applied, yet they’re not written anywhere for the public to see.
At the same time Global Services members don’t have nearly as “personalized” of a ground experience as Concierge Key members. You can expect to be on your own when you have a tight connection to make, let alone during regular operations. Of course there’s inconsistency there too, so once in a while you might be pleasantly surprised.
So that’s a quick rundown without getting into too many details. The moral of the story is that the names of the respective programs live up to their offerings pretty well. Concierge Key status really is a concierge type service, where it’s all about the airport experience, while Global Services is more about all around improved status and a bit more recognition and benefits all around.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that other airlines (like Delta) have invitation only programs as well, but they have substantially fewer members than Concierge Key or Global Services (which have memberships in the thousands).