American Concierge Key vs. United Global Services

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).

Filed Under: American, United
  1. You can expect to be on your own when you have a tight connection to make.

    That is not completely true, whenever that happenes about half the time I have somebody from the global services team meet me at the gate and escort me to my connecting flight or f I have missed that give me a new boarding pass for the next available flight. Especially the SFO crew has been very good at that.

  2. “the ability to turn upgrade seats into flat out award seats”

    This is NOT a published Global Services benefit.

  3. thanks so much, I just watched Up in the air and was clueless what they were talking about. I was searching for some answers and found your blog. Thanks again.

  4. Thanks for the info. I just found out when I called the EP desk last night that I’m now Concierge Key. Is there any formal notification to members when they are “invited”? One benefit I experienced today is that when I called about getting an earlier flight home, they were able to add me to the standby list over the phone. Generally you still have to get to the airport to add to the standby list. It may not sound like a big deal, but it allows you to reduce the time you waste in the airport.

    I’ll keep you posted on standby ranking as well. I added to a flight on Tuesday 45 minutes before departure with 61 people on the list. When I got to the gate I was first on the list. I find it hard to believe that out of 61 ppl. I was the only EP.

  5. When you’re invited to Concierge Key, you get a formal invitation letter in the mail vaguely explaining the program. The letter also has an activation code that you input on the AA website to accept the offer.

  6. I have been a GS member since the program started 5 or 6 years ago.That was before most people (including UA staff new what it was)
    First couple of the years it was low key and then they started putted signs up and calling it out. at the gate. Other than wait lists and getting your choice of salad or sandwich I do not see an real difference from 1k .
    I have never been met at a gate or such,
    It will be interesting to see what happens when the continental and United programs merge as they I think are quite misaligned around status tiers (or possibly tears)

  7. New Product from Premium Services – ConciergeKey Premium Services

    Premium Services is the American Airlines work group that accommodates the special needs of
    our most valuable customers. Premium Services operates all of our airport lounges including 43
    Admiral’s Clubs Lounges, Flagship Lounges, Arrivals Lounge and Executive Centers.
    Premium Services has developed an exciting new way to expand the services we offer to these
    select customers with the introduction of the ConciergeKey.
    The ConciergeKey program will differentiate the travel experience
    for our most important customers. In a recent survey, 87% of AA
    VIP travelers stated that the availability of a premium customer
    service product, like ConciergeKey, impacts their choice of airline.
    ConciergeKey is a wallet card that has been sent to a group of valuable customers, including
    customers who travel frequently and those who purchase travel for other individuals. The front
    of the card reads “ConciergeKey; Always connected” and features the AA aircraft nose logo.
    The back of the card includes the customer name, AAdvantage number, expiration date and a
    phone number and email exclusively for ConciergeKey customers.
    Components of the ConciergeKey Program
    ConciergeKey is a free service for customers who qualify and it replaces some programs that
    we have previously used to recognize our premium customers. Key components include
    telephone support and special services to improve the airport experience.
    ConciergeKey customers are proactively monitored every time they travel; there is no need to
    contact AA to arrange for the services.
    Phone Assistance (evolved from VIP Connection)
    ConciergeKey cardholders have access to dedicated 24/7 phone number. Specially trained
    representatives proactively monitor these customers and can offer assistance with re-routes,
    flight and seat changes, day-of-departure airport assistance and assistance with upgrades.
    Airport Assistance
    ConciergeKey cardholders may use First and Business class counters where available for flight
    check-in and may use the premium security lane, available at more than 30 airports.
    Concourse Assistance (evolved from Special Services, Premium Customer Services)
    ConciergeKey representatives in 35 stations provide proactive assistance for VIP and Premium
    customers and will be assigned to key markets in BOS, DCA, DFW, JFK, LAX, LGA, MIA, ORD
    and SFO.

    Other Assistance
    During OSO situations, ConciergeKey customers transiting through hubs will be assisted to their
    connections. The primary goal for representatives is to anticipate the customer’s needs and
    prevent negative airport experiences.

    ConciergeKey representative will be assigned to the following markets to provide concourse
    assistance to our VIP customers.
    Europe, Asia, India: BRU, CDG, DEL, FRA, LGW, LHR, MAD, MAN, NRT, PVG, ZRH
    Latin America: BOG, CCS, EZE, GIG, GRU, MEX, PTY, SCL, SDQ, SJO, SJU

    One of the key
    points that may be important to customers is they cannot apply for the card, and instead
    must be selected based on our established criteria.

    All ConciergeKey services are available to cardholders each time they travel, regardless of the
    cabin classification of these customers.

  8. UA GS is great. Here are some experiences:

    When my flight to Singapore was delayed and I missed my connection, they met me at the arrival gate with 3 different tickets (1 on US, 2 on other airlines) of my choice to Delhi and I just chose one.

    When luggage went to a different airport because of rerouting on a trip, they called me three times and delivered the luggage in the middle of the night to make sure I got it)

    When I was traveling on United plane but on a USAir ticket (!) and therefore didn’t qualify for an official upgrade, they bumped me to first class AND held open luggage space overhead on a very full plane.

    Great benefits for me. New benefit to them? Well, I figure I end up spending extra 30-40K per year on United as I try to fly them whenever I can.

  9. I am both GS and CK and do NOT understand why CK doesn’t count toward status for upgrades and the like…it makes no sense, if they do consider CK eligible for other perks. When I have asked AA (and I have many times), I am told CK is about day of travel “airport” services. Seems very short sighted

  10. I have been ck for three years. I was invited out of the program last week and I flew more miles in x2012 than 2011 and do nit understand. Aa is nit very helpful in fact totally unhelpful in explaining let alone talking to me about it. I spent 233000 Usd on Aa last year including family and that will not happen again. I am moving to delta air francecand virgin as much as I possibly can. Very unhappy w
    After more than five million miles myself

  11. Global service members are re-protected 1st when a flight is cancelled.

    In terms of moving to an earlier flight WITH checked luggage, Global Service members can have their luggage delivered to them even if the Global member has voluntarily moved to an earlier flight with their luggage on a different flight.

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