For many, the first time they ever heard about American Airlines’ Concierge Key program was in 2009 with the release of “Up In The Air.” In the movie, Ryan Bingham shows his Concierge Key card to Alex Goran as seen below.
Up until that point many didn’t even know such a program existed. It wasn’t until recent years that American formalized Concierge Key as an elite status. You might have noticed gate agents inviting Concierge Key members to board first. Since then I’ve heard a lot of people talking about this elusive elite status and how to get it.
That made me wonder, what exactly are you getting from Concierge Key status? Today, I want to answer that question (broadly) and explain my opinion on this ever so exclusive status.
What Exactly Is Concierge Key?
Concierge Key is the by invitation only now top-tier elite status offered by American Airlines. The program always existed, but recently American formalized the program as an elite status which ranks above Executive Platinum.
As the name implies, Concierge Key is just that, access to a real human American Airlines concierge. You get access to an exclusive phone line and email address which you can use to contact American for any reason. These people can do things most other phone agents can’t (or won’t) do; quickly!
On top of the dedicated phone lines and email address you get a few other perks from being a Concierge Key member. Concierge Key members can expect the following benefits:
- Free Admirals Club Membership
- Access To American Airlines Flagship Lounges (even when traveling domestically)
- Access To American Airlines Flagship Check-In (again, no matter where you’re traveling)
- Unlimited Complimentary Domestic Upgrades (and you get top priority)
- Additional Systemwide Upgrades (2X)
- Personalized Assistance During Trip Disruptions
- Personalized Assistance At The Airport
The benefits of Concierge Key are good, but they don’t make me want to go out and spend a ton of money with American to earn those benefits. In fact, it wasn’t until I recently spoke to a Concierge Key member that I fully understood why Concierge Key is so valuable.
How To Earn Concierge Key?
Before I jump into that, it’s important to understand how you “earn” Concierge Key. I say “earn” because the program is by invitation only. Your invitation to the program depends on several factors. One of those factors is where you’re based. Arguably, it’s easier to earn Concierge Key in a smaller city (Charlotte) than a huge American hub (Dallas). So keep in mind your home base could affect your invitation.
Essentially, to get invited to the program you have to fly A LOT. I’m not talking 100,000 miles A LOT. I’m talking about several 100,000s of thousand of miles a year A LOT. If you’re not racking up huge distances you must fly A TON of segments each year. Again, more like 3-4 segments a week!
On top of that, you have to spend a certain amount of money with the airline to qualify. In years past that number hovered around $50,000 annually, but I’ve heard recently it could be much closer to $65,000+ these days.
So, to be invited to the Concierge Key program you have to fly A LOT and spend A LOT of money doing it. The only other way to receive an invitation is if you manage a corporate travel program or are some type of “influencer,” but those invitations are highly subjective.
Is Concierge Key Worth It?
For me, no. Would it be nice, sure. But worth it, No. The reason being, I don’t fly nearly enough to get much value from it.
I fly about 40 segments a year, tops. That’s only 40 opportunities for something to go wrong with my travel plans. That’s only 40 (or less) times a year that I have to go to the airport to catch a flight. I simply don’t fly enough to really see much benefit from the Concierge Key program. Again, it’d be nice to have and if you’re reading American I’d love an invitation, but it’s simply not worth it for me.
On the other hand, for the person who’s flying 150+ segments a year or doing 1-2 international trips in a premium cabin each month, you better believe the program is worth it. That’s because those are the people who can’t afford to not get to where they’re going on time. Those people need someone at American looking out for them if their flight is delayed. Those are the people who don’t have time to manage their own reservations. For those people, Concierge Key makes total sense.
As far as the upgrade priority goes, good for them. If you’re flying that often you should absolutely have the first crack at an upgrade. After all, you’re the one spending more than half of the year away from home.
I’ll never forget when I saw Casey Neistat’s Breaking Up Is Hard To Do video. In the video he whined about American taking away his Concierge Key status. Back then, I remember how unsympathetic to that situation I was. Now however, I’m starting to understand why it’s so valuable to the right person. If you’re on an airplane as often as he is, it’s nice to be recognized. It’s nice to have someone at American personally taking care of you. If your flight is delayed and you’re going to miss a connection, it’s nice that someone from American reaches out to you to solve the problem rather than the other way around.
Again, these are benefits that I personally don’t find very much value in, but for someone who is on a plane several times a week, I completely understand why you would value Concierge Key. Plus, who wouldn’t want to be driven around the airport in that super awesome all black golf cart!