American Airlines Will Extend Elite Benefits to Fliggy Customers

Over the weekend many readers reacted viscerally to my claim that Chinese regulators increasingly have clout over American companies doing business globally. But the Chinese market is huge and growing even if predictions about its maturity from ten years ago are just as likely now as they were then.

United Airlines’ play for China has been 787 service to secondary cities. Delta’s has been a strategic relationship with China Eastern. And American invested in China Southern.

Now American has a new play in Chinese distribution. China’s Alibaba Group has an online travel service called Fliggy. American Airlines is launching an online travel store on Fliggy, and extending elite benefits to Fliggy’s elite customers.

Fliggy’s eligible F1, F2 and F3 loyalty members will be able to enjoy select benefits which American offers to its AAdvantage elite members.

F1 members will receive Preferred Boarding; F2 members will enjoy certain AAdvantage Gold elite tier benefits such as complimentary Preferred Seats; and F3 members will gain select AAdvantage Platinum privileges including complimentary Main Cabin Extra and Preferred Seat allocation.

American Senior Vice President of Global Sales and Distribution Alison Taylor says “This partnership changes the way loyalty programs in China interact with one another” but note that American is extending elite benefits to frequent customers of the Chinese travel site, they are not obtaining elite status benefits on that site for their own elite customers. This isn’t about ‘loyalty programs interacting’ it’s about American seeking access to and providing incentives in the Chinese market.

Somewhat surprisingly given American’s interest in the Chinese market and their investment in China Southern, their codesharing appears to be scaled back from the lofty expectations that were set when the deal was announced.

Last year they asked DOT for codesharing authority that’s at least three times greater than the 9 routes beyond Beijing that went on sale today — Guangzhou; Chongqing; Harbin; Shenyang; Shenzhen; Changsha; Changchun; Dalian; and Nanning. American notes to me that it’s “not uncommon” to ask DOT for more authority than needed right away and that the codeshare may “grow over time.”

There’s no codeshare in place currently, though, from Beijing to Chengdu, Chongqing, Hangzhou, Kunming, Wuhan or Xi’an as suggested in the original DOT request. And China Southern has placed its code on only 7 American Airlines routes, which is less than half that originally requested.

Nonetheless loyalty programs are perhaps more important in China than in the U.S. where surveys view program benefits more as a right than as a privilege, so it’s interesting to see American experiment with using the elite program component of their program as a tool to experiment with attracting Chinese customers.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. As LarryInNYC noted.

    This is fine and all, but do I need to move to China, claim allegiance to China, learn mandarin, and wave the red flag?
    Or can I just use a VPN to sign up and make some simple e-purchases?

    concisely: wtf is figgy and how can we take advantage of this?

  2. Fliggyis (Alitrip) is a OTA by Alibaba. You can register Fliggy membership everywhere in the world. You can even use a VoIP number to register.
    When you join Fliggy membership, you are F1 member which is FREE.

    Most purchase from Fliggy can earn Fliggy Mileage (not sure what it’s called) which is valid for 1 year. When you spend enough on Fliggy, you can upgrade to F2 then F3 then match AA and Marriott status.

    It is a lot of F2 and F3 there.
    The only problem is no other language to choose.

  3. American is doing this because they are significant laggards in China, they have almost ZERO brand recognition in China and up until the followed Delta’s lead, entirely depended on OneWorld partners JAL and Cathay Pacific for their China strategy!

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