AAdvantage Eliminating Main Cabin Extra Discount For Gold Members

Filed Under: American, American AAdvantage

As I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, American has made some changes to Main Cabin Extra, which kick in as of today. Specifically, those in Main Cabin Extra now receive:

  • Complimentary beer, wine, and spirits
  • Easier access to overhead bin space with Group 5 boarding (in reality flight attendants won’t be policing this, but rather there will be placards indicating that the overhead bins above Main Cabin Extra are for passengers seated in that section only)

The complimentary alcohol is a nice addition for Main Cabin Extra passengers, though in fairness AAdvantage Executive Platinum members already received a complimentary drink, so this is mostly a benefit for other passengers.

American AAdvantage Executive Platinum and Platinum members can select free Main Cabin Extra seats at the time of booking, while AAdvantage Gold members can select free Main Cabin Extra seats 24 hours before check-in. However, these members at least get a 50% discount when paying for Main Cabin Extra seats in advance.

It appears as if American will be eliminating this. As of September 5, 2018, AAdvantage Gold members will no longer receive 50% off the purchase of Main Cabin Extra seats at the time of booking. They’ll continue to receive complimentary Main Cabin Extra seats within 24 hours of departure, though now they’ll pay as much as non-elite members if they want to select these seats at the time of booking. Until 2014 American offered Gold members free Main Cabin Extra at the time of booking, so this is a disappointing change.

What I’m most disappointed about here is that American is taking away this benefit mid-year. Members choose to qualify for status based on a published list of benefits, and to take a major benefit away mid-year isn’t cool.

Clearly American wasn’t adding benefits to Main Cabin Extra out of the kindness of their hearts. We’ve already seen them increase the price of Main Cabin Extra seating on some flights for travel as of today, though to eliminate the discount for Gold members seems silly. I imagine a lot of Gold members paid to select these seats in advance because of the discount, so I’m curious to see if this has the impact on demand that American is expecting.

To any AAdvantage Gold members, did you ever pay the discounted cost for Main Cabin Extra? Will this impact whether you choose to do so in the future?

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

  1. Been good for about a year now. Fly almost exclusively domestic. On most flights, at least where I fly in and out of, there’s usually a good few MCE seats left within 24 hours. I’ve never even thought about paying for them since I got gold status.

  2. Gold Member, 2 years running.

    Never bothered to pay for the upgrade because all the EP’s took the best seats in MCE and then 24 hours before the flight all the EP’s get upgraded and you get them for free.

    Yes, it sucks they took it away but in reality I doubt anyone paid for them.

  3. Just another way they’re squeezing out the middle. In a few years, they probably won’t even have Gold (or Platinum) status anymore. Just EP and CK at the top, and everyone else in Kettle Class.

    I’d switch airlines, but go where? The others have been stepping on their mid-level frequent fliers too. If you’re not a massive spender or a daily flier with them, they apparently don’t want your loyalty. So, I guess they won’t get it.

  4. I’ve been a gold member for 3 years.

    I fly for work really often (atleast 3 flights every 2 weeks) and my tickets are reimbursed however only for the price of economy. Being 6′ 4″ that’s uncomfortable so I often used this perk (and my company was willing to pay it as long as it’s half). Now I’m probably going to have to change carriers.

  5. Seems like Hyatt and AA must be colluding to drive down benefits…there’s really no other explanation for the decline of either program.

  6. it’s aligned with United’s practice – their silver elite (corresponding tier to AA’s gold) never got a discount on Economy Plus in advance, but did get free access to those seats at check in. So it’s a product alignment.

  7. I tried to do the wait and see game, but I usually lost out and wouldn’t get MCE. I have a method – if my flight is nearly 4 hours or more then I consider it. For sure, $20-$30 made sense.
    International flights, LHR to JFK and $60 for a 6 hour flight – very much worth it. After September 5 I would definitely consider it depending on the trip and if I want to “treat” myself. The longer the flight the more I would lean toward it.

    At least they’re waiting until September 5 to implement, unlike a few years ago with the Admirals club access for Citi Prestige card members and just stopped that benefit mid-July. That was uncalled for and really stung.

  8. Well, that’s disappointing. I was going to reach Gold (for the first time) later this week, and this was one of the benefits I most wanted to test out. Now I have to pray to reach Platinum by the end of the year…or else cross my fingers and hope that a higher-level elite get upgraded out of the MCE aisle seat that I want.

  9. More MCE space for non-revenue pax. What airline wants to fill J and PE with paying pax when there’re so many employees and relatives to fill the space?

  10. So, Gold has gone pretty much from slightly valuable to about worthless in my opinion. I would often jump on the 50% paid rate for MCE on a 4HR domestic (personal flight). I’m just waiting for Alaska to start offering more service from ORD to the NE and SE.

  11. I could see the fact that FAs won’t be policing the bins as a potential argument situation. MCE passenger boards a bit late and the bins are filled with bags from people who ignored the policy and he just keeps pointing at the sticker on the bin while getting more upset. I think it’s unwise to institute a policy if you don’t plan on enforcing it, especially something as potentially explosive as overhead bin space.

  12. This hurts. I’ve paid for transcon when i want three seats across. I’m lifetime Gold. It’s slipping away.

  13. It’s clearly a negative change, but both United and Delta have the same policy (for Premier Silver and Silver Medallion, respectively), so this is really just another day in the race to the bottom competition.

  14. Yes, on domestic flights over a couple hours the half price was completely worth it. Full price – and higher at that – makes it time to consider options. If only Delta’s flights weren’t always so much more expensive around here…

  15. After moving towns and flying Alaska for 6 as an MVP gold I choose AA because I knew I’d be flying less and the discount for MCE and their partnership they had with Alaska. For my territory I have connect through Dallas or Charlotte. So the smaller legs I don’t bother but the 545/6am flights I tend to purchase MCE when I purchase my tickets. Last year I spent $610 out of pocket on MCE. Between the bathrooms on the new 737max, lost benefits and now this, I’m going to pull the trigger and switch next year to Delta. They don’t seem to listen to their customer surveys.

  16. Ditto @Steven
    Back when I used to fly in Coach, I did pay the discounted MCE once.
    Then, I realized they were usually easy to get 24 hours in advance for free (prob due to EXP upgrades)
    Now I always just buy First Class seats.
    However, I have toyed with buying 3-across in MCE. Just pretend to be a Fat Guy even though I am not. That would give my wife and I comfortable travel. So, this option is less likely now due to this change

  17. I had Gold with AA two years ago and actually bought MCE seats on a trip to Asia for 50% as it was too much of a gamble to rely on free (middle) seats 24h out. From my POV that was an ok deal as I got a loyalty discount and AA some albeit reduced revenue.

  18. Made lifetime on AA 15 years ago. At that time it was a big deal. Nowadays it means nothing. Totally useless. It was probably 10 years ago the last time I flew AA. Don’t miss it at all.

  19. Never paid for them as a gold. Though at half price, I might have considered it with free alcohol so there’s that. Usually if you keep an eye on the flight, seats open up either 24 hours or 1 hour out as others move around. For me, the bigger question as a platinum now will be if I want to take an MCE middle seat for drinks.

  20. Nope, I just waited until the 24h window. Never had a problem with it on domestic or international segments.

  21. I’ve been Gold with AA for several years and fly a lot of short haul. I’m tall and I do tend to pay for MCE if I think the flight will fill up or when booking close in. This is a huge loss to me. I’ve been going out of my way to fly AA but this puts everything about even with my Silver status on United so I might as well just move my flights over there since the boarding process is slightly better for low level elites on United in my experience.

  22. Gold is the new no-status level.

    I recall years ago being Gold and being upgraded for free, no stickers, not an op-up, just “Thank you for being a loyal AA flyer”. Admittedly only happened once, but it did happen.

  23. This perk was one of the reasons I choose American. Definitely will not be requalifying for the next year.

  24. United doesn’t give free Economy plus to its silver members (im not sure about delta) so reading at all the outraged comments is hilarious. AA is simply just doing what the other airlines do.

  25. Wow, American is ripping away a big benefit. I’ve always waited till 24 hours for free; but my dad always appreciated the 50% off because he needs the extra legroom because he has a lot of back problems. Oh well, Gold won’t be more as valuable as it once. Gold is becoming more and more like the perks of the AA credit cards!

  26. Interesting. For a while, many of the benefits of entry-tier elite status could be replicated with the right credit cards. AA is simply further aligning the benefits of gold status with their credit cards.

  27. I agree the space typically always opens within the 24 hour window if you track it, that said I have paid for it on longer flights where I didn’t want to take the chance. I have a family trip LAX-HNL over the holidays and I didn’t want to take the chance of finding 3 MCE seats on the 6 hour flight so buying 3 confirmed MCE’s for +/- $16/per seemed like a good deal. I’m not sure at double that price I would buy 3, so I don’t think it’s meaningless that they are cutting the benefit. As an unrelated aside I took several trips with my wife and two daughters (1 and 3) last year on both AA and DL. I consistently found that the DL crews were much friendlier and more helpful. Also DL allows families to pre-board which saves LOT of stress when you can install a carseat etc. without a train of irritated pax waiting for you to finish.

  28. @ Andy, no no, there is clearly a massive difference between between group 4 and group 5 “privileges” 🙂

    Kidding of course, you are 100% right. Especially since with TSA pre the “priority” security lane is typically longer than the TSA lane at many airports.

  29. I have been Gold – Plat – Gold for the past 3 years… I never paid for the MCE ahead of time because there always was space at 24h.

    When they announced free drinks, I was at first worried that folks would start paying for the seats using Gold status and I’d have to as well in order to secure a MCE seat. Perhaps this means that fewer people will pay for the MCE ahead of time and there will actually be *more* availability at the 24 hour mark.

    We’ll see… But I really miss my Plat status…

  30. They shouldn’t change the benefit mid-year. Actually, they shouldn’t change it until 2020, since many passengers are already qualified for 2019 under what they thought were existing benefits. I’ve been shifting toward Delta. As a Delta Silver Medallion there are a couple of tangible benefits, one of which is free exit row seats for your party at time of booking. Also Delta has fare sales and mileage redemption sales for all Medallion members quite frequently. I cannot see that American is offering me anything to continue as a Gold AAdvantage member which I cannot get from my Citibank Executive MasterCard. I do find that I am upgraded more often with my AAdvantage Gold status than with my Delta Silver Medallion status.

  31. Really bummed about this… Stopped traveling enough to earn status on AA and/or UAL about four years ago, but have been buying up to Gold on AA every year since. I guess we are among the few that pay up for MCE or Econ Plus in advance because we travel fairly often with two younger kids and A) we want the leg room and B) we don’t want to stress about being seated together.
    It was worth buying up to Gold in order to get the 50% of MCE because we were always going to buy the seats in advance anyway and we travel enough were we always “Save” more than the “buy up to Gold” cost in 50% MCE discounts.
    For us, this is a big negative and really unfair to cut this benefit mid-year as the ONLY reason I paid up for Gold was for the 50% off MCE – wonder if I can get a refund 🙂
    Are we outliers here in that we always pre-pay for MCE seats

    I’ll never “buy up” to Gold again and as Chicago based fliers we’ll more than likely fly UAL exclusively now.

  32. I just found out abou this…. after spending 3200 Biz extra points to get gold…. so I would save money on buying MCE seats.

    I “need” to sit forward on the plane for my own reasons. This change caught me by surprise. I am going to see if I can return the Gold upgrade from BIzExtra.

    Gold is now worthless. All it’s got is 24 hour switch seats for free and one group boarding in front of AA card holders? I don’t see any other advantages. Not one at all. I guess free tix changes.. however me making a tix change the same day would be such a crazy affair. (I only fly with special criteria that I don’t wish to share publicly)

    I say AA can go jump in the Lake. I unfortunately live in Dallas. So the only other player is the real cattle line with Southwest. Annoying that I have to spend 30.00 per flight to be in position 1-15 so I can pick the seat I want. Also I prefer 777, 787 and 321 or bigger equipment and am not fond of SW hard/soft product.

    This is even worse for my use of Miles for international travel. (One rule is I have to sit in front of emergency exit row) Looks like I have to use miles to sit in Premium Economy…. i assume that is possible now?

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