American Flight Attendant Credit Card Sales Pitches: A Different Take

Filed Under: American

A lot of people take issue with the sales pitches that American Airlines flight attendants make for credit cards. Let me give a slightly different take.

For the record, yes obviously I also make money through this blog through credit card affiliate marketing, though I’d say that’s unrelated here (if anything, one could argue I’d be biased towards bashing them, since they’re competition). 😉

American flight attendants really sell credit cards

Co-brand credit cards are big business for airlines, and airlines have a pretty captive audience at the gate, onboard flights, etc.

Different airlines advertise their co-brand credit cards in different ways at the airport, though no doubt American is the pushiest when it comes to making onboard credit card announcements. It’s something I see complaints about all the time online, though let me take a slightly different perspective.

I’ll be honest, at first they sort of annoyed me — more often than not the information isn’t quite accurate, the announcements are intrusive, and often it gets in the way of service.

But in life you have the choice of looking at things positively or negatively, so let me take an unpopular perspective and say that I sort of dig these pitches, at least the one I heard today.

So, why should you not hate these pitches?

They can be entertaining

Now when flight attendants start the credit card pitch I think to myself “I can’t wait to hear what they’re going to say today.”

On a flight this morning I had possibly the most convincing credit card pitch I’ve ever heard. It started with “I’m sure most of you have heard this many times before, so I’ll keep it short.”

She didn’t keep it short.

But my gosh, this lady could sell. After making her initial announcement (which was really convincing and made me want to apply for three more) and passing through the cabin, she announced “ladies and gentlemen, we have 190 passengers, and so far 75 applications have been handed out. We have a very limited quantity they give us for this deal, and we only have five left, so this is your last chance. You don’t want to miss out on this amazing deal. We’ll give you one last chance to get these applications as flight attendants pass through the cabin again.”

She passed through the cabin again, and then returned to business class and yelled “these are the last two, does anyone want them?”

As we exited the plane she was standing there with probably a dozen credit card applications in a “fan.” Rather than saying “goodbye” or “thanks for flying with us,” she said “60,000 bonus miles?”

I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. C’mon folks, it’s sort of funny.

Credit cards greatly supplement flight attendant income

The reality is that flight attendants aren’t very well paid. So this is a new source of income for them, and I’ve heard of some flight attendants who make more from credit card applications than they do from their typical pay.

Obviously this isn’t ideal, but if this makes it more sustainable for people to remain flight attendants, rather than worrying if they can afford to pay rent, then I view it as a net positive.

Credit cards help people travel

Sure, I’d rather people read about how to maximize miles on this blog, but the reality is that for many people these announcements actually open their eyes to miles & points, and it does let them travel better than they otherwise would, and that I’m a fan of.

What I’d like to see…

If American is going to continue with these credit card pitches (which I assume they are), what I’d like to see is American making this part of an overall change in service culture. This is a great opportunity for flight attendants to earn extra money, though it disappoints me how often flight attendants compartmentalize the service.

They’ll be completely rude during the service, and then charming as could be when they’re trying to sell you a credit card.

It would be great if employees could be motivated in such a way that encourages the benefits of being nice all around. Heck, there must be some data suggesting that passengers are more likely to apply for credit cards if they get pre-departure beverages and receive eye contact, no? 😉

Bottom line

Look, I’m not actually a huge fan of flight attendant credit card sales pitches. However, in life you can choose to be annoyed or amused by things, and I’ve started to be amused by these pitches.

Some of them are so outlandish that I can’t help but laugh. I’m all for educating people on the value of miles, and if it helps supplement the income of flight attendants and allows them to greatly increase their income, I’m generally in favor of it.

I certainly wouldn’t want them to eliminate these pitches, because that would represent a pay cut for most flight attendants, and you can bet service would get worse.

I just wish this weren’t so compartmentalized, and that being nice during the flight was a consistent theme, rather than flight attendants just turning on their “happy face” for five minutes while selling credit cards.

What’s your take on American Airlines’ flight attendant credit card pitches?

  1. “one could argue I’d be biased towards bashing them, since they’re competition”

    So basically your doing business with your competition. First time I see that…

  2. I got my first US Airways Aviator Red Card through a flight attendant on a flight to Rome about seven years ago, long before I started following this blog. Many people who are occasional passengers have no idea of the benefits. I filled out the application and handed it back to the FA and the new card was in my mailbox when I got home two weeks later.

    I don’t mind the sales pitches even though I’ve heard them hundreds of times now.

  3. American has two card issuers, and we can get cards from both. They seem to push each other to offer bigger initial bonuses. That’s a good thing.

    And you wouldn’t have this without inflight card pitches. Barclays only is permitted to market their cards in flight and in airport (but not within 100 feet of a club). And while they advertise in airport, they don’t do tabling [people sitting in the airport trying to get you to stop and apply as you walk by].

    So this is the only avenue Barclays has to proactively promote their cards. Without it there’d be no second issuer, no second set of bonuses, no competition amongst AAdvantage cards.

    I guess what I’m saying is we live in a world of tradeoffs.

    On the other hand, it’s the co-brand deal that made American profitable last year (their co-brand profit was greater than total profit). So perhaps you think without this card deal, and the concomitant drop in financial performance, current management would see a shakeup and the on board product would be better overall. So…..

  4. This whole credit card pitching on legacy airlines is so tacky and cheap. Never heard things like that on my flights on Asian, Middle Eastern or European carriers (excluding low-cost carriers and their sales techniques, of course).

  5. Selling credit cards inflight is extremely tacky and cheap, especially when it compromises service or comfort (and it always does in some way).
    I wonder why Asian, Middle Eastern or European airlines never did things like that I’m my experience.

  6. Overall, agree with your comments. I would make one suggestion, might even help sales: End the card pitch asking anyone with the card to show the flight attendants as they walk through for a free drink. (May not work up front, but should be very popular with card holders in coach.)

  7. It’s a case of the tail wagging the dog and it usually means that company is in the process of dying; they are focussing on the thing that is generate easy profit, while their core business is neglected and going down the toilet.

    That doesn’t apply to monopoly suppliers: so airports can usually focus on making your life miserable by trying to force you to buy stuff in shops, instead of streamlining the travel experience. (British airports are particularly ghastly at this – in financial terms, Heathrow is a shopping mall and commercial car park, with a couple of runways attached.)

  8. Nothing about credit card pitches on airplanes is a good thing.

    Every “bonus miles” offer on an AA (or DL or UA) credit card directly contributes to the ongoing devaluation of the FFP programs that you all love to complain about.

  9. Today I flew with Hawaiian to JFK, I don’t visit the US very often, and for the first time I witnessed the credit card sales pitch over the PA, followed by the flight attendants parading down the aisles with the card packs. It was, hands down, the saddest thing I saw flight attendants having to do. Really sad to see them forcing flight attendants – whose primary role is safety and wellbeing of passengers – having to peddle credit cards so the airline can make a few more dollars.

    I will actively avoid airlines that do this to their flight attendants from now on. I never even knew this sad thing existed.

  10. I have the urge to scream “these miles are worthless!”
    They are convincing, but in reality the availability remains ridiculously low even on coach unless you want to fly from DFW to Cancun via Chicago.
    When we fly with friends, I find myself shaking my head vigorously with the “don’t” look.

  11. I had her twice in December, I know just who you mean. MIA-JFK and the return JFK-MIA, both on the 777-300ER. She made it seem like she tries to stick to that route as much as possible, and bids whatever the heaviest jet is at the time (presumably the 767 currently). She was very good, though clearly lying. After hearing her pitch the first time, I paid more attention on the return, and I didn’t see very many credit card things being handed out at all, and she and her colleagues had a massive pile at the end despite “only five are left!!” Very funny.

  12. It would be better if they just paid FAs a living wage, instead of making them shill for the CC company. This is almost as bad as Frontier Airlines suggesting you tip your FA.

  13. I like to join in the sales pitch “and SIXTEEN PERCENT INTEREST” ad a little later “or TWENTY FIVE percent if you miss a payment”

  14. Only in america – instead of people doing their job they waste time selling WMD’s and both seller and buyer get rewarded for it. I will never understand this society that seems to be hanging together from corporate greed.

  15. Just out of curiosity, do these applications have some tracking code that the flight attendants get personally credit/commission for?

  16. I kind of ignore the pitches. I am annoyed at the fa’s that are on their damn phone when we are deplaning and can’t even say good bye.

  17. I worked for one of the legacy carriers for over 20 years. Flight attendants who work for American, United, Delta & Southwest are very well paid. Most are making 70,000 plus per year.

    As far as the credit card sales go, the only reason they are being promoted is because the airline employee is being paid every time an application is approved. I personally know 2 ticket counter agents who are making $300,000 per year selling credit cards. At least 10 of their co-workers in the same city are making $150,000 plus. Passengers are profiled as they are checking in & the ones most likely to be approved are given a hard sales pitch. The airlines do nothing about the complaints regarding credit card sales because they are making huge amounts of money from this.

  18. “Tickets for two anywhere in the domestic United States”.

    If you are willing to take three flights, two connections, one of which is a red-eye followed by a 10 hour connection.

    How could that not be fraudulent advertising.

  19. @Val

    “I personally know 2 ticket counter agents who are making $300,000 per year selling credit cards.
    At least 10 of their co-workers in the same city are making $150,000 plus. ”

    Hahahahahaha! Sure, Jan.

  20. So after paying an extra $110 day of for a very little extra leg room & to avoid a middle seat then offered no advertised “free cocktail”; have to pay a baggage fee cos I booked 2 res instead of 1 (& only one of these “free 1st bag” credit cards); “run out” of gross $7 sandwiches on a 6-hr flt; be loudly berated for “not putting my seat up on departure or arrival” (seat is busted & they will have to write it up) they want to then reach into my wallet further? It’s just SO Southwest, completely pedestrian.

  21. So if you want good service pretend to apply. As you are pretending to fill in the form start requesting for the services you require and you get the best service …. 2 can play the same game.

  22. I signed up for the Aviator Red card solely because of the 3000 EQD’s awarded after a certain spend amount. (And yes, I first heard about the card on a flight from a flight attendant. But I applied for it online.) So for 2019, that perk was eliminated. Now I hardly use the Aviator Red card. Evidently the EQD perk is still available on the Aviator Silver card but you have to receive an INVITATION to apply for that card. You can’t just request it. For my money and its benefits, the CITI Executive card is better.

  23. They are annoying as ####
    And then you hear them say enough for 2 round trips in cattle
    Except when it ends up not being available in saver category
    so as annoying as the pitch is they are also lying for the company
    Not that American would ever be deceptive

  24. What’s mystifying is that on more than one flight in the past year, I’ve heard the FA say something like, “If you act today, you’ll get 50,000 Dividend Miles, an offer you’ll only find by applying during the flight.” Uh, yes, I guess 50k is only available if you apply during the flight…because as soon as you step off the plan and connect to the internet, you’ll get an offer of 60k miles…and I’m pretty sure it you won’t be offered Dividend miles, as those have been extinct for 4 years. How could full-time front-line AA employees not even know the name of their own mileage program? And do are they truly unaware that 50k is less than what is publicly available online nearly all year, or are they deliberately lying about something that so easily could be disproved? It really hurts the credibility of the entire AA team.

  25. Saw a table set up in PHX hawking Southwest credit card. with Many department store employees pitch their cards. In some situations a good employee with the fewest applications can loose their job.

  26. To the person who said “these miles are worthless”, you couldn’t be more wrong. I just redeemed 70k AA miles for a one-way business seat NYC to Singapore on Japan Airlines in March. Of my 4 preferred dates to travel, 3 were available!

  27. Yes they make $50 per application. But honesty in today’s world, who would complete a take one application? I would never complete a paper take one application as I would apply online. Times have chance since Doug had the crew members offer take ones on AmWest of USAir.

  28. I’ll never understand why you have such a weird affection for some people who lie, yet moan when certain other people do it.

    You’ve just stated that the flight attendant used high pressure tactics and lies to sell a financial product (something that would be illegal in most countries with proper regulation), but you’re only comment was she’s a good salesman?

  29. Your HATRED for and bias against American Airline is palpable, and your constant picking and whining at them is TIRESOME!

  30. They make $50 for each application but the incentive increases by quantity thresholds. The very best are making tens of thousands per year on these. Others, they do not even try. If you take an application, it can be completed online and use the code on the application so the flight attendant gets credit for it. Contrary to popular opinion, flight attendant compensation has increased remarkably as the industry has evolved over the last several years. The legacy airlines pay their flight attendants well, especially after they hit the five year mark.

  31. 70,000? Regional Airline flight attendants do not make that starting out. They wear the same uniforms and sell the cards to supplement their income, for the residence, crashpad, day-to-day needs. It takes years and sacrifice to gain seniority and make money. When you are hired you are told you will make less than 17,000. Most take it because it’s an opportunity. Each processed card application is $50 for the flight attendant. They add their number to the application to get credit.

    As for the difference in mileage awards. Barclays will promote 50k to one group and hand out apps then switch promotion to another group. Sadly, it only makes the FA look uniformed and dishonest.

  32. This is a vile US Airways practice that I hoped wasn’t going to survive the merger. It is the aspect of AA’s current service I absolutely despise the most. I hate being a captive audience for a stupid credit card pitch I’ve heard for years, and I think the supplemental income argument to justify this is nonsense. What’s next, asking for tips? Selling candy? What about all the other customer support employees at AA who would like to supplement their income? Are we going to start getting the pitch from reservation agents? The flight attendants are unionized employees and if they aren’t making a living wage doing their jobs, that’s something for the next contract negotiation with AA.

  33. You are correct. Regional airlines barely pay any of their employees, including the crew. My reference to $70,000 is for mainline FA positions,i.e. Delta, American, United and Southwest.

  34. Totally agree with John; this practice started with USAir and we usually just heard the pitch on the LAX/PHX routes after the merger. It seems that you now hear it on almost every flight-particularly if its crewed by younger flight attendants (don’t seem to hear it from the more tenured ones). I particularly hate the “thank you for your attention” line in the pitch; I mean it’s not like I have a choice as inflight entertainment turns off… it gets really old when you hear it a couple of times a week.

  35. I just heard the speech last night on AA as well as the week before. I already have the Aviator card so the offer is of no benefit to me but come on: If “we” who are following OOMAT in this space really saw no value in miles and points, than why would we bother showing up to post.

    Here’s is some “truth”: 60,000 miles plus purchase of a pack of gum gets you 60,000 AAdvantage miles. 60,000 miles gets you a ticket to Asia zone 1 in business on Cathay and zone 2 (ie, HKG) for 10,000 miles more…..same on UA, etc. That’s a $6,000.00 plus ticket for the cost of the tax. It works for me. Plus, since most airlines economically are credit card companies who also own some planes, these CC sales are subsidizing my airfare cost.

    Anything over 60,000 airline (not hotel) miles gets my attention, so bring on the application parade.

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