Is the American Airlines AirPass Worth It?

AirPass requires a significant investment upfront to get fixed-price ticketing and automatic elite status.
Elina Geller
Ramsey Qubein
By Ramsey Qubein and  Elina Geller 
Edited by Kevin Berry

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Whether or not the American Airlines AirPass is worth it depends. If you’re always on the hunt for the cheapest fare, then most likely no. However, if you’re a high-flying, frequent American Airlines customer, the AirPass program may be worth considering. Joining requires significant cash outlay, but this upfront payment then acts as a credit balance for travelers to draw from when purchasing future travel.

The AirPass also includes many elite status perks and guaranteed pricing, but is it worth it? Or are you better off simply spending as you go when buying American Airlines flights?

Here’s a rundown of the American Airlines AirPass program, plus who can get the most value from the upfront investment.

What is AirPass?

The American Airlines AirPass program is nothing new; American has offered iterations of the program for years. In short, the program allows members to purchase unrestricted tickets at a discount by putting down a large deposit up front. Ticket purchases are later deducted from the balance like a debit system.

This has been a useful tool for the airline to get upfront payment for future travel while providing perks and protection against last-minute fare hikes in exchange. The program is especially attractive to some corporate and business travel customers that buy expensive last-minute tickets and are prone to making frequent changes to them (often at great expense).

However, due to cheaper airfare and recently loosened ticketing rules that allow free changes on both domestic and international tickets, buying unrestricted tickets makes less sense these days than before. Still, since many corporate customers prefer maximum flexibility on their tickets, including generous routing rules and less travel restrictions, AirPass targets the last-minute business traveler.

Lifetime AirPass

In the 1980s, while the airline was struggling financially, the airline offered a lifetime AirPass (formerly known as AAirpass) for $250,000. The cost of the pass increased over time and was discontinued in the 1990s.

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AirPass benefits

Fixed-price fares with companion privileges

Membership is primarily built around the opportunity to purchase fixed-price fares, which eliminates concern over price fluctuation on American and several partner airlines, including Finnair, Iberia and Japan Airlines (when these flights are ticketed through American).

Even though ticket changes are allowed for most travelers these days, most changes are still subject to a difference in fare. This sometimes means a substantial price hike — especially for last-minute changes — and flyers are on the hook to make up the cost difference. With AirPass, travelers are protected against that with guaranteed pricing. Members can book the last seat on a given flight and be assured that it will still cost them the original fixed price.

AirPass members can also bring along a companion. Their tickets are priced according to the member’s rates and flexibility policies.

Instant elite status

Depending on the level of investment in the program, AirPass members are granted instant elite status.

AAdvantage Gold

AAdvantage Platinum

AAdvantage Platinum Pro

AAdvantage Executive Platinum






Priority services

From check-in to boarding, AirPass members can use Priority Access lanes to avoid longer lines. There is no charge to check a bag either.

Lounge access

A membership to Admirals Club lounges is part of AirPass membership, and this includes the standard guest privileges that come with being a member. Of course, if this is the most important reason you're considering AirPass, a credit card that comes with Admirals Club access like the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® would make more sense.

In-flight amenities

Instant upgrades to better seats, including Main Cabin Extra or Preferred seating, are part of the program, regardless of the member’s AAdvantage status. Depending on the elite status earned, AirPass members are also eligible for complimentary premium cabin upgrades on many flights and free in-flight Wi-Fi. If seated in the main cabin, AirPass members are also treated to a free snack or meal, plus two alcoholic drinks.

Waived same-day change fees

There is no fee to make a same-day flight change, and the ability to change flights both before and on the day of travel without any fees or difference in fare (if routing remains the same, since AirPass uses flat pricing) is one of the primary benefits.

Mileage earning

Another AirPass perk is the substantial Elite Qualifying Miles bonuses travelers will earn with AAdvantage: All purchased AirPass tickets are eligible for mileage earning, and those tickets booked within seven days of departure book into the first (F), business (J), premium economy (W) and main cabin (Y) fare buckets.

If you have elite status, your mileage earnings will be even higher.

AirPass customer service

In addition to signing up online, American Airlines offers a customer service phone number to help travelers register for an account. The number is 800-433-6355.

What does AirPass cost?

Depending on the level of membership, AirPass costs between $10,000 and $30,000. There are personal and shared memberships available, with the latter allowing the initial prepayment (charged per member) to be used across multiple travelers.

Shared membership comes with an allocation of elite status for each member, but the status level varies based on the investment amount between the primary member and those with whom the AirPass is being shared.

How much do individual flights cost?

To determine the cost of your most frequent routes, there’s an online calculator that gives you the standard AirPass fares for any route you search. Flights are calculated on a one-way, cost-per-mile basis using a flat 40-cents-per-mile base times a cabin multiplier.

For example, a main cabin flight between Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago-O'Hare comes out to just under $400 based on the distance, cost per mile and cabin multiplier.

AirPass fares offer flat pricing and the ability to change your ticket whenever you need to. Even though they won’t be the cheapest tickets, for many types of travelers, that flexibility is paramount and what makes AirPass so valuable.

Is AirPass worth it?

Let’s face it: AirPass is not for travelers who buy basic economy or the cheapest tickets. It is designed for frequent flyers who want flexibility in their travel and are willing to pay for it. Don’t consider this an option if you typically buy only the most affordable flights; AirPass won’t save you money.

AirPass fares are often priced substantially higher than most other tickets, but protect members from even higher last-minute fares if they need to change a ticket.

AirPass doesn't charge change or cancellation fees for tickets, but airlines are generally waiving those restrictions for current travel. This means one of the primary benefits of AirPass is now available to everyone, making it less advantageous.

While flight changes may be free, the difference in fare always applies. With AirPass, fixed-price ticketing makes large swings in price less of an issue.

One caveat: AirPass members who buy the cheapest “PlanAhead” fares and make a change within seven days of departure lose the ability to keep the discounts associated with this ticket type. Instead, these travelers must pay the flat AirPass main cabin fare. Still, the difference in fare is a preset price, so the predictability of what you will pay remains the same.

The bottom line

If you make lots of changes to travel plans, especially at the last minute, and need to have maximum flexibility with ticketing rules, AirPass provides value. In addition, it adds Admirals Club membership, elite status and other in-flight benefits. For corporations that don’t already have a ticketing contract with airlines for special fares, it can make a lot of sense.

AirPass is not for everyone, but for a select few who do the cost-benefit analysis, it might be worth trying for the price predictability and flexibility of its fares. For the vast majority of value-conscious road warriors among us, however, AirPass is not the best fit.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are some of the best travel credit cards of 2024:

Cards for American Airlines from our Partners
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate


Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.


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Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

Citibank Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® Credit Card

on Citibank's application

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
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Rewards rate


Earn 1 Loyalty Point for every 1 eligible AAdvantage® mile earned from purchases.


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For a limited time, earn 100,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $10,000 within the first 3 months of account opening.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

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Rewards rate


5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.


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Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

See more cards
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