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What is the essence of the American Airlines lowest fare guarantee?

American Airlines guaratees that, if you book your American Airlines flight on their web site ( http://aa.com ), that you would not have been able to obtain a lower fare for an identical itinerary (i.e. same dates, same flights, same class of service, same restrictions). Note that the guarantee applies "only at AA.com", meaning that the lowest fare guarantee does not apply when you make your reservation using an American Airlines reservation agent.

Why are they offering this guarantee?

American Airlines' primary purpose is making this guarantee is to discourage travelers from making reservations using online travel services such as Travelocity and Expedia.

Can I ever collect on this guarantee?

It's going to be tough. First, you have to find a fare to beat it on the same "reservation day". Second, you have to beat it by at least $5, so if the other travel service is charging a $5 fee, you'll need to beat it by $10. Third, not only do you need an identical itinerary, the fare has to have the exact same restrictions. They're essentially trying to say that you have to use the same fare basis. In other words, you have to be using the same "published fare" as the reservation on American Airlines used. The only way this can be done is if the other travel service is selling below the published fare (meaning they are violating their agreement with American Airlines) or as the result of a computer glitch.

How much can I collect under this guarantee?

You get the difference in price (i.e. how much you overpaid at aa.com) plus $50. Given that this is completely rigged, and that what you're doing when you make a claim is turning in a business that was trying to offer competitive prices, you are essentially helping American Airlines to enforce their contract terms, and in the process, colluding with them to prevent price competition, $50 is nowhere near enough.

What's the real downside on this offer?

The downside is that you might believe the claims implied by this guarantee, and therefore choose to bypass these other online travel services. In the process, there's a good chance you'll end up paying substantially more than if you had used these other travel services. There are several reasons for this:

Additionally, the way that American Airlines displays your travel options makes it difficult to use if there are more than a handful of outbound and return flight choices, because aa.com presents each combination of outbound and return flights as a separate option, i.e. if there are 5 outbound choices and 7 return choices, you'll have to examine 35 options to find the one that's right for you, instead of just letting you choose from one of the 5 outbound flights and one of the 7 return flights. That might be only for a single set of dates, a single airline, and a single fare basis. By making booking a fare so much more complicated, they discourage people from doing effective price comparisons. Doh!

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Revision r1.1 - 02 Oct 2005 - 16:00 by EliMantel web search for EliMantel
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