Imagine you're a passenger on American Airlines. You land at an American Airlines hub, and you realize that your connection to make your next flight is really tight.

You've only got a few minutes to make it all the way across the terminal.

And then, American Airlines does something that truly surprises you, and maybe makes you absolutely love the airline.

A flight attendant guides you to the door. You head down to the tarmac instead of the terminal. And American Airlines has a Cadillac Escalade waiting for you. You hop inside, and they rush you across the tarmac to your connecting flight.

You're there in seconds, minutes at the most, far faster than the proletariat who have to schlub their way through the inside of the airport with everyone else.

Yes, it's true. American Airlines just started offering this this service recently at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. It's also being offered at Dallas/Ft. Worth, Los Angeles, Charlotte, Philadelphia and New York City's JFK.

The only problem? It's probably not for you.

You see, to imagine this scenario, we also have to imagine that you're not just any American Airlines passenger. 

Instead, you're one of the airline's "most elite passengers who have been given 'concierge key' status," according to Lewis Lazare of Chicago Business Journal. This status isn't even something you can buy; it's an invitation-only, velvet-roped club for the airline's biggest spending customers. 

American won't even disclose what the criteria are to become a member, although that's the subject of a lot of conjecture and crowdsourcing on various frequent flier groups.

Best guess? You'll need to be spending roughly $40,000 to $50,000 a year, maybe even more, to qualify for the status. Besides the Cadillac rides across the tarmac, concierge key passengers get a lot of other perks. 

"This is not a service that is bookable, but a surprise and delight for our highest-value customers," an American Airlines spokesperson told Lazare.

And that's the real story here. Because across almost all airlines, at least the ones that don't pride themselves on offering a single class of service and the lowest fares, there's always going to be a battle brewing.

It's between the airlines' preferred, high dollar passengers who make up a much bigger percentage of airline revenue per passenger, versus the budget minded passengers who fill up the rest of the plane.

It's a tough issue that goes right to the heart of why it can be so uncomfortable to fly in economy.

Because there are two kinds of airline passengers. The ones riding in Cadillacs across the tarmac, and the unwashed masses standing in line. 

Unfortunately, chances are, you're probably not in the Cadillac.

Published on: Sep 1, 2018
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