Posted by: pizzainmotion | March 19, 2013

American’s New Choice Plus Fares More Of A Choose Your Own Adventure?

I’m a guy who changes his tickets frequently enough that I incur my fair share of change fees (and then some).  Plans change, that’s just the reality of a business traveler.

That’s why I was pretty pumped when American announced their new Choice Plus (and Choice Essential, to a lesser degree) fare options.  Priority boarding isn’t something I need, nor extra checked baggage, but change fees add up quickly.  At $150 to change, plus the possibility of a $75 same-day change on top of that, there was a ton of value for me at a price point of $88, not to mention that you get 50% more miles.

But, now I’m confused, hoping not to be saddened that this new benefit isn’t for me.  I’ve been trying to book a few flights on American over the past 48 hours and I’m getting some interesting results.  Let’s start with what things are supposed to look like.  Below is a standard flight selection, showing $88 extra for Choice Plus.  Interesting note for later is that ticket prices are much cheaper this date of travel as opposed to the following day.

Screen Shot 2013-03-18 at 1.12.57 PM

But, how about the same routes on the next day when the fares are higher?

Screen Shot 2013-03-18 at 1.16.19 PM

This is the one that really got me thinking there was some sort of a glitch, since it’s exactly double what I understood the price was supposed to be ($88).  That seemed like a good excuse to call an agent to confirm my suspicions.  Over a total of 3 agents (one of whom called the rate desk), I got the same answer.  All 3 agents were under the impression that the routing and fare impacted the price for Choice Plus.  I figured 2 calls had to be bad communication, but 3 gave me more pause, especially since I asked the 3rd agent to put me on hold while she tried to confirm from someone an authoritative answer.  She came back with the same.  Still not 100% convinced it wasn’t just a glitch, I decided to poke around some more.  What else did I find?

Screen Shot 2013-03-18 at 1.33.40 PM

The one above shows $88 and $132 gaps for Choice Plus.  How about a basic IAD-LAX flight a few months out?

Screen Shot 2013-03-18 at 1.33.51 PM

Some $88s and a $132.  Note that the $132 is on the higher fare that also has more segments.  So, unclear if one of these things is driving up the price.  Below is another good one, $233 for Choice Plus.

Screen Shot 2013-03-18 at 2.29.36 PM

Screen Shot 2013-03-18 at 2.31.19 PM

The best one I found was $440 for Choice Plus.

Screen Shot 2013-03-18 at 2.31.53 PM



What have I learned?  Not much.  Choice Plus fares are all over the board.  I eliminated browser issues by verifying each of the itineraries above with an agent.  Extra segments,higher fares, longer routing all seem to be common enough threads.

This obviously still needs some more research to be a proven theory, just a small amount of data so far.

Have you experienced this?  Have you seen any weirdness with the Choice Essential and Choice Plus pricing?


  1. I was excited about these new choices too but I also have found the prices to be all over the place. I have only booked one ticket so far using the choice plus. But with all these ranges in prices I think I should have just booked the cheaper ticket and then paid $75 for a confirmed flight change at the 24 hour mark. So far it’s a little of a let down.

    • Perry Platypus, I feel like if they were going to change the pricing it would have been reasonable to notify customers. I don’t recall seeing anything about variable pricing in the original announcement.

  2. […] Except… Pizza In Motion discovered that the official line about fixed pricing seemed not to be quite true. […]

  3. OK – I own a retail travel agency and we have access to these fares in S**RE – and it must be a routing issue where the system is breaking the fare. For example, Option 1- IAD-DFW-LAX, pricing the lowest as a through fare and adding one Choice fee. Option 2- same routing – but the lowest fare is two separate fare components, and then adding the Choice fee twice…..

    • Jack, I’ve got a bit more info on these fares recently. Hoping to post about it soon, but what you’re seeing is mostly intended behavior.

  4. […] And, then things started to get a bit screwy.  It started with just one flight I couldn’t get to price right with Choice Plus as an add-on.  But, then I did a bit more digging and found out very few flights were pricing at the originally advertised pr…. […]

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