Here’s a noteworthy update to how American Airlines is accommodating non-revenue travelers on flights…
American lifts first class non-rev restriction
In early April, American Airlines introduced a restriction whereby employees could no longer fly in first class on narrow body aircraft when traveling non-rev.
For the most part US airline employees have pretty generous space available travel benefits, and that typically includes flying first class if seats are available (though only after all other passengers who have requested an upgrade, either with miles or on account of status, have cleared).
American’s logic with banning these travelers from first class was that planes were really empty at the time, and on some flights there were nearly as many people in first class as in the rest of the cabin combined. In order to alleviate that imbalance, they at least didn’t want employees filling up even more first class seats.
Well, that’s changing as of today. As noted by @xJonNYC, American Airlines has lifted all restrictions on non-rev first class travel as of today. As the decision is described:
As more customers begin to fly and aircraft become busier, we are seeing more passengers in premium and main cabins. Effective May 28, American will lift the restrictions that prevented team members and their guests from being seated in premium cabins on all flights when on business or non-revenue travel.
While the logic might seem questionable, I kind of get it:
- Flights are starting to really fill up, given that passenger numbers are up and capacity is way down
- Previously there might have been 20 people on flights with half of those in first class, while flights are slowly starting to become mostly full in all cabins
- Therefore the contractual benefits that employees get are being resorted
American is lifting restrictions on first class employee travel
American’s more concerning non-rev policy
I think the above policy change is fair enough. Personally I think another American non-rev policy is more questionable. American Airlines will load flights with non-revs up to 85% of capacity, which is a significantly higher threshold than you’ll find at Delta and United:
- Delta continues to block seats so that no one is sitting next to another passenger (flights will be at most ~67% full)
- While United isn’t outright limiting capacity, the airline won’t load non-revs on a flight if it’s 70%+ full; in other words, they generally won’t put a non-rev into an empty middle seat
While Delta and United won’t ever load non-revs on flights if they’re more than 70% full, American goes all the way to 85%. In other words, for many flights American will fill middle seats with non-revs.
While I think people have unrealistic expectations when it comes to social distancing on planes, I do respect the way that Delta and United are at least somewhat trying to restrict capacity in general.
American will fill every last seat on the plane with non-revs
American is no longer banning non-rev travel in first class, which is fair enough, as planes start to fill up. Upgrades from other passengers will still be processed first, but if there are seats leftover then employees can take them.
I think the more controversial policy is that American is “only” restricting non-revs up to 85% capacity, while Delta and United have much lower thresholds than that. In other words, American will generally fill empty middle seats with non-revs, while Delta and United won’t.
What do you make of American’s updated non-rev policy, both allowing non-revs in first class, and also allowing non-revs on flights up to 85% of capacity?