Review: American Airlines Main Cabin Extra 737

Filed Under: American

Ford and I are spending the weekend in Nicaragua to visit Calala Island. In the past I didn’t review “run of the mill” flights, though I’ve realized they have the potential to be useful as well, so am trying to do when it’s practical.

For example, I’ve reviewed American’s short haul first class product a few times lately, and it occurred to me that I’ve never reviewed American’s Main Cabin Extra, which is their extra legroom economy.

Since I flew it last night, I figured I might as well review it…

Booking American Main Cabin Extra

We booked roundtrip tickets from Miami to Managua for ~$300 per person. As an Executive Platinum member I figured an upgrade with a companion would be a near guarantee, given that the cabin was wide open when we booked, and Managua isn’t a particularly premium market, to put it mildly.

Well, we ended up not clearing our upgrades — I was #2 on the list, while Ford was #5 (as an AAdvantage Gold).

Technically I could have had him moved up to #3 because he was my companion and inherits my priority, but it’s such a time consuming and convoluted process, and given that the upgrade wasn’t going to clear either way, it didn’t even seem worth it.

Instead we flew Main Cabin Extra, which I could select for free at the time of booking:

  • Main Cabin Extra is free at the time of booking for AAdvantage Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Executive Platinum members, as well as oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members, with up to eight companions on the same reservation
  • AAdvantage Gold members can select Main Cabin Extra for free starting 24 hours out

For what it’s worth, if you don’t have status you can buy these seats for $34-37 per person on this flight (the pricing varies based on length of flight, etc.).

As a point of comparison, even most “regular” seats in economy cost $17-21 to assign, so if you’re going to pay to assign a seat, the incremental amount is minimal.

American 737 Main Cabin Extra Review

We arrived at Miami Airport shortly before 6PM. Even though it was a Friday evening the airport definitely felt a bit quieter than usual, and we were through security in no-time. Our flight was departing from gate D5, with boarding scheduled to start at 6:15PM, 45 minutes before departure. Sure enough that’s exactly when boarding started.

Concierge Key members were invited to board first, followed by Group 1 (first class passengers), followed by Group 2 (Executive Platinum members).

American Airlines 993
Miami (MIA) ā€“ Managua (MGA)
Friday, March 6
Depart: 7:00PM
Arrive: 8:43PM
Duration: 2hr43min
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800
Seat: 8C (Main Cabin Extra)

This flight was operated by an “Oasis” 737, which is the name for American’s less comfortable interiors nowadays. These interiors debuted on the 737 MAX 8, but have since been retrofitted on many 737-800s.

American 737-800 economy cabin

I had assigned us seats 8A & 8C, the bulkhead seats in the first row of economy on the left side. In many ways these seats are actually better since the introduction of Oasis. Since there’s no longer a bulkhead between first class and economy, there’s plentiful legroom, and you can even store your bags underneath the first class seats in front.

These seats are ideal in terms of legroom, and also in terms of getting off the plane quickly.


American Main Cabin Extra bulkhead seats


American Main Cabin Extra bulkhead legroom

As a point of comparison, American’s standard Main Cabin Extra seats don’t have nearly as much legroom — American has cut the legroom in these seats, so while there’s still way more than in regular economy, they don’t offer as much space as in the past (I think the pitch is ~34″).


American Main Cabin Extra legroom


American Main Cabin Extra legroom

With their Oasis interiors, American ripped personal televisions out of their planes. Instead they encourage you to bring your own personal entertainment, and the tray table has a device holder.

American Main Cabin Extra tray table

Underneath the seat were AC and USB outlets, which is more than can be said for most American A321s.

American Main Cabin Extra power ports

The overhead consoles were modern, and had individual air nozzles.

American 737 overhead console

The flight was quite full, though not completely full, and as you can see based on the seatmap shortly before the door closed, our middle seat was supposed to be empty.


Seatmap for flight

However, last minute the crew moved someone there. I asked the flight attendant if exit row 16 was still open and he said it was, and said we could move there. However, when we got there we found that people had occupied that in the meantime as well.

I’m not sure what exactly was going on — obviously we only paid for two seats and are only entitled to those seats. When there is an empty middle in Main Cabin Extra, I consider it to basically be as good as first class.

Initially I assumed our crew was Lima based, as American has some foreign based crews — the crew spoke excellent Spanish, and made announcements in Spanish before English (which I often find to be the case for the foreign crews). However, I asked one of the flight attendants, and he said they were Miami based.

The door closed at 6:50PM, and a few moments later we began our pushback, at which point the manual safety demo was performed.

We were airborne by 7:05PM for our 2hr12min flight to Managua.

One of the lovely things about American is that many planes have Viasat wifi, which has a great coverage zone. I have a Gogo monthly pass so got Wi-Fi for free, but otherwise Wi-Fi for the entire flight costs $12.


American Viasat wifi

Wifi speeds were excellent, and Wi-Fi was available throughout the flight. That being said, Viasat may want to update their coverage map through aainflight.com, based on them referring to “early 2019” coverage.


American Viasat Wi-Fi coverage map

About 30 minutes after takeoff the crew came through the cabin with a cart.

The menu read as follows:

All passengers receive complimentary snacks (and non-alcoholic drinks), with the choice of either mini pretzels or Biscoff cookies.

Complimentary snacks in American Airlines economy

Alcoholic drinks are also complimentary in Main Cabin Extra. Ford had a Coke Zero, while I had a Truly, natch.

American Airlines economy drinks

We didn’t eat dinner prior to this, so Ford and I both ordered something to eat. American has a relatively new menu from Zoes Kitchen.

I ordered the chicken lentil salad shaker jar. This is a cute concept and the salad as such tasted good, though I’d note that it was a rather small portion, and also that I found it very hard to actually shake and mix up the ingredients.


American Airlines economy food for purchase

In the end I first ate all the lettuce, then the chicken and feta, and then the lentils.


American Airlines economy food for purchase

Ford had the raspberry chipotle turkey sandwich, served with a chocolate chip cookie

American Airlines economy food for purchase


American Airlines economy food for purchase

As Ford described it, “it’s like the sandwich your mom would make in school, if your mom wasn’t good at making sandwiches.” For an airline sandwich I’d actually kind of consider that to be a compliment.

As an Executive Platinum member you receive a free snack, so my meal was free, while we paid for Ford’s. I still have the Barclays Aviator Silver Card, which comes with a $25 daily inflight credit, so it didn’t cost me anything.

I have to give props to one of the flight attendants working economy. He was extremely friendly, and after realizing I was Executive Platinum during the first service, came back later to see if I wanted anything else.

Towards the end of the flight I checked out the infamous Oasis lavatories.

American Oasis lavatory

American Airlines 737 cabin

Landing cards were distributed around the start of descent. We started our descent around 7:55PM Managua time (which is one hour behind Miami), and touched down at 8:15PM. From there we had a five minute taxi to our gate.

Bottom Line

As much as American’s Oasis 737s offer a not-great passenger experience, this was an all around pretty great flight.

The bulkhead economy seats on Oasis 737s are awesome, the flight departed early and arrived early, Viasat Wi-Fi worked throughout the flight, alcohol is free in Main Cabin Extra and I like “Truly,” I received free food as an Executive Platinum member, and the flight attendant was friendly.

While I sometimes give American a hard time, they’re running a really punctual operation at the moment and have excellent, high-speed Wi-Fi. Living in Miami I can’t really justify not flying them for the convenience.

Comments
  1. The complaints about Oasis in the main cabin are way overblown. Also, personal IFE wasnā€™t ripped out of most (all?) of the planes converted so far as the didnā€™t have IFE to begin with. The newer 737s with IFE are yet to be converted.

  2. “When there is an empty middle in Main Cabin Extra, I consider it to basically be as good as first class.”

    I’d say it’s closer to European business class…

  3. “Initially I assumed our crew was Lima based, as American has some foreign based crews ā€” the crew spoke excellent Spanish, and made announcements in Spanish before English (which I often find to be the case for the foreign crews). However, I asked one of the flight attendants, and he said they were Miami based.”

    Hahaha, Ben, you’ve been “en Miami” long enough to not be surprised by this!

  4. Great review, Ben! MCE is a decent go-to when upgrades don’t clear. As a platinum, I love that I can book these seats for free at time of booking, get free alcoholic drinks, and have better leg room.

    I’m surprised someone showed up in the middle seat, 8B, between you and Ford. An AA employee friend of mine checked the list for that day and didn’t see anyone assigned there as a last minute non-rev or over-sales standby. Always a mystery!

  5. I think my favorite part is the photo from the back showing approximately 1 person using the device holder. Yes, American. People LOVE using their own device.

  6. I sat in a A321neo last week LAX-PHX in regular oasis economy. It was fine, but given the extra width of the A321 I think it may be more comfortable than a 737 oasis seat

  7. Important note: Fees paid for seat assignment, including MCE, aren’t “fares”, and so even though paying extra for MCE seems the same as upgrading to premium economy, it doesn’t count for miles or status.

  8. This is probably the best use of the Amex airline credits I can find right now. My wife and I have $800 in credits annually, and this year 100% of it went to Hawaiian Extra Comfort and AA MCE seats. It’s a nice compromise on 3-4 hour flights.

  9. Also excited for canals island review. Have a booking there but not sure if I will go. Hope you guys enjoy it.

  10. Cool. We arrived 4 hours before from Panama on Copa. Spent 20 minutes filling out paperwork for having a drone. I was sweating because I thought I was going to lose it. (Brand new, haven’t used it yet) They just want them documented. If you go to Granada, let’s grab a drink! Have a great trip.

  11. The funniest part of this review “While I sometimes give American a hard time…” Most of the time you give American a hard time….its definitely not sometimes. LOL

  12. @Jeff

    I can’t even find the 1 person using the device holder, seriously where is it.
    Did you mean (roughly) 31B cause I don’t consider that using it.
    LOL

  13. I love this new blog “A View from Behind the Curtain.”

    Ben: “Since thereā€™s no longer a bulkhead between first class and economy, thereā€™s plentiful legroom, and you can even store your bags underneath the first class seats in front. Lucky: “I do not want your stuff beneath my First Class seat.”

    Ben: “Iā€™m not sure what exactly was going on ā€” obviously we only paid for two seats and are only entitled to those seats. When there is an empty middle in Main Cabin Extra, I consider it to basically be as good as first class.” Lucky: Your ticket says main cabin. “Extra” only relates to legroom. Only a foreigner would expect the middle seat to be left open.”

    Ben: “He was extremely friendly, and after realizing I was Executive Platinum during the first service, came back later to see if I wanted anything else.” OMAAT: Only those who have EP status get what used to pass for customer service.

  14. Robert
    If I am in a bulkhead seat on a oasis I will put my stuff under the first class seat. Don’t like it tough shit.

  15. @lucky – I’m pretty sure companions on an Executive Platinum’s reservation also get the free food perk. I’ve personally used it a few times with my family since and I’ve never had an issue. Is this actually the rule? I thought at least one companion got it too (but I’ve had some nice FA’s who give it to my whole family).

  16. I truly hate 737s. Canā€™t even look out of the window (why are they so f… low?). Time for Boeing to bring back the 757.

  17. @ Aaron — Or somewhere in the middle, since Main Cabin Extra has way better legroom than most intra-Europe business class.

  18. @ CJ — Hah, indeed, and very used to it in Miami. I think the reason I thought it was a foreign crew was before the Spanish announcements coming before English, which I’ve pretty consistently found to be the case with Lima crews, but haven’t found to usually be the case with Miami crews, even when Spanish is their first language.

  19. Main cabin extra in exit rows have more legroom than in First class.

    Also, seems kinda stupid that AA would put phone holders on the back of the First Class seats so you have to use the tray table instead. Planes and configurations cost millions of dollars and they cant figure out details like that.

  20. @Eskimo

    Someone in a D seat is using it …. I think. Unless that’s their laptop. In which case, no one is using it.

  21. There is a big Nicaraguan population in Miami. American dominates the market and believe it or not all those countries usually go full in business.

  22. @Marty – The Oasis configured 737’s will have different seat numbers. When you go to book on AA.com and view the seat map you can tell. If there are 33 rows of main cabin and first class starts with row 1, you know you will be on an Oasis aircraft! That’s basically what I look for when I’m on American’s site. You can look for yourself… I know that SFO to MIA are almost exclusively Oasis 737’s. You can see the difference there! Hope that helps!

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