American Airlines Is Testing a Truly Helpful New Service (Of Course You Have to Pay For It)

American Airlines Is Testing a Truly Helpful New Service (Of Course You Have to Pay For It)

The one on the left might be non-stop.

CREDIT: Getty Images

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

How much do you care about money?

When you book a flight, that is.

Will you fly Basic Economy, just to save perhaps $25?

Are you also prepared to tolerate connecting flights, which might take longer, but, hey, you never know which flights will be on time these days, so it's worth taking the risk?

American Airlines wants those who book connecting flights to feel better about their decisions.

It's testing a service whereby it might just offer you a direct flight instead.

Yes, even after you've booked.

First spotted by the self-effacing and highly influential JonNYC, this effort is called Project Direct.

I asked American how this might work. A spokesman told me: 

We're testing with a small number of customers, who will receive a phone call from American with the offer. This is actually something we had a few years ago and we're bringing it back.

Who, though, might get the offer? The spokesman said: 

We look for situations where it's likely to make sense both for the customer and for the airline.

So when the airline hasn't filled the direct flight, it'll try and move some of those with connecting flights over to it.

Oh, and you can't call up and beg. You have to be one of the chosen ones.

Still, I can feel you swooning at American's thoughtful magnanimity. 

It is, indeed, a fine idea.

It's also not free.

Those who get the phone call and leap at the notion of a direct flight will have to pay $75 for the joy of changing their flight.

You might decide this is deeply generous. After all, American's usual voluntary change fee before the day of travel is $200. (It's up to $750 for international flights.)

You might also decide that airlines want you to understand that the era of free is over.

You simply can't expect airlines to give you anything for free these days. 

It would simply ruin airline executives' moods.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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American Airlines Is Testing a Truly Helpful New Service (Of Course You Have to Pay For It)

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