New AA Fare Bundles Complicate Corporate Discounts, Online Booking

American Airlines on its website acknowledged "technical challenges" in applying corporate discounts to its newly launched fare bundles. Some of the new fare categories also "are not currently available via online booking tools."

In emailed responses to questions from The Beat, the carrier indicated that it is working with corporate clients and online booking tool suppliers to amend those issues.

AA late last year introduced the new domestic fare bundles along with updated shopping displays on its website. While the carrier vowed that "the new fares will be available via all channels," and global distribution system operators confirmed their availability, AA has encountered downstream issues with clients stemming from the changes.

AA on its website confirmed that "corporate fares will be discountable," and it is "working on a viable solution."

The carrier this week reaffirmed that the new Choice Essential and Choice Plus products are eligible for corporate discounts, but "in order to implement that discount capability, we are in the process of coding on a customer-by-customer basis," according to statements attributed to managing director of sales operations and distribution Cory Garner. "We made a lot of progress over the holidays and we expect the process will be completed soon."

AA has "prioritized the corporate customers that have shown the most interest in the new product options," Garner added.

AA deferred to booking tool suppliers regarding "if, when and how the new product options are displayed in their systems."

Concur said it is working with the airline to facilitate sales of those options and expects "to have the capability of displaying those product options to Concur clients sometime in the next few months," according to a spokesperson. Though GetThere did not share a timeline, an official said the tool also "will support the AA fares bundles."

The fare bundles are distributed through GDSs and technically accessible by the likes of Concur and GetThere "using the same method in which they access other content in the GDS," according to Garner. But he noted that "GDSs and booking tools are now responsible for bridging the last mile between the receiving dock of their virtual warehouses and the storefront where the user sees our content."

"In general, GDSs and booking tools are currently programmed to find and display the lowest available fare, which is anathema to the display of more feature-rich options like Choice Essential and Choice Plus," Garner's statement continued. "They will need to develop new logic to identify these new product options and display them to the user in a transparent display that clearly communicates the value proposition vis-à-vis our basic product. Although each GDS and booking tool is different, we believe our goal should be the same: develop a simple, intuitive display so our mutual customers can easily find the fares and options they want."

AA characterized the launch of its new Choice Essential and Choice Plus products as "a precursor to corporate-specific product options," which the carrier has been exploring for years. "So we have made a tangible, incremental step toward the ultimate goal of fully tailoring our product offerings according to the needs of our corporate customers," Garner explained.