Pathetic: American Cuts Free Main Cabin Extra On Full Fare Tickets

Filed Under: American

American has just announced that they’ll no longer be offering complimentary Main Cabin Extra seating to full fare passengers.

For those of you not familiar, Main Cabin Extra is American’s extra legroom economy section, offering up to an additional six inches of legroom. It’s available to elites (different elite tiers get access to it at different points in the booking process), you can pay extra to sit there, and up until now, full fare passengers could select a Main Cabin Extra seat at no additional cost.

However, as of August 30, 2017, those booked in the “Y” fare class on American will no longer receive complimentary Main Cabin Extra or Preferred seating. This includes those on revenue tickets, as well as those booked on AAnytime awards in the main cabin. This only kicks in for tickets booked as of August 30, 2017, so you still have some time to book under the old rules.

This is such a pathetic change on American’s part. Let’s look at one-way Los Angeles to San Francisco fares, just as an example:

  • A discounted flexible ticket costs $214
  • A fully flexible ticket (in the “Y” fare class) costs $1,011
  • A first class ticket costs $321

So the flexible economy ticket costs more than three times as much as the flexible first class ticket, but now they’ll want you to pay $27 for the privilege of assigning a Main Cabin Extra seat.

To me it even seems ridiculous to make this change to AAnytime awards, given how expensive some of these awards are nowadays. 120,000 miles for a one-way economy ticket from Los Angeles to Sydney? Really?

However, even if they decided to change the policy on award tickets, how the heck do you justify this on revenue tickets, where people are paying a huge premium to book a “full Y” ticket?

How low can you go? There must be some bean counter at American who’s giving him/herself a big pat on the back today. There’s nothing quite like paying more than three times as much to fly economy as first class, only to be asked for $27 to get an extra legroom economy seat.

  1. If they cut Main Cabin Extra for elites they will lose my business. Only reason I still fly them to be honest.

  2. I divorced American 2 years ago. Just a silly crap product now. Even as an EP it still sucked. All around suck suck suck. Took my business to jetBlue now.

  3. First Class cheaper than Economy? Have they changed the definition of First Class? Who in their right mind would pay more to fly Economy?

  4. All Carriers want is more $ now & they’ll do ANYTHING to get it. Luckily I don’t have to fly except for leisure & I use Ben’s blog to decide who to fly

  5. Why does American keep alienating its customers? I just flew JetBlue Mint last week and am not looking back even though I am AA Plat. It cost less than half of AA business/first, and was a much better product. I’ll keep taking it even though I have to get to an airport that is farther from my house and does not have a Centurion lounge (FLL vs MIA). So disappointed in AA.

  6. @Gary – Is this to take advantage of, e.g. government, flyers, who cannot choose what cabin or fare class to purchase? Gotta get that incremental revenue, I guess!

  7. It’s probably because of the government travellers. All government contract fares are full Y and often cost marginally more than discount Y.

  8. I don’t like this change either, but I’d guess most pax who regularly travel on full Y will have some sort of status anyway (or at least they eventually would), which negates the new fee.

  9. Do not fool yourselves. This is not directed at full fare passengers, it is the beginning (actually the continuation) of a war on perks. Parker never liked them nor understood that one does not catch flies with vinegar This, by the way, is the same man who was “not enthusiastic” at Qatar’s Airways’ intent to buy 10% of American. He of course had much to lose in any rapprochement or comparison with Akbar Al Baker, same ego but Al Baker’s is justified as he runs, and competently, a hell of an airline.

  10. My work travel is exclusively on fully flexible tickets (not always Y but usually pretty close in price even if it’s not). This is due to the number of changes our itineraries go through even in a few days. Although, like everyone, I like to concentrate flying on one airline, I consider AA when it has a nonstop and my preferred carrier (DL) does not. This is definitely a disincentive to doing booking on AA.

  11. There are some $49 flights on that day…Lucky hasn’t shown the non-fundable fares so you could get a seat at $49 for a non flexible ticket.

  12. Are Y fares on American eligible for instant upgrade? On United, if you book Y or B fares and have any Premier status you can instantly upgrade to First class, assuming space is available (upgrade space, not just an open seat).

    And there are plenty of times I’ve booked economy refundable tickets that were more expensive than non-refundable first class but we have to book refundable due to company policy (lots of ticket changes add up and I believe our airline contracts may incentivize booking refundable for larger rebates at the end of the year).

  13. LMAO talk about a ***convoluted*** pricing scheme! Man I wish Emirates business saver was one third their economy flex plus price lol.

  14. Isn’t it likely that this is aimed at government and corporate negotiated fares that happen to book into Y but aren’t necessarily expensive? With (rare) actual full Y flyers and awards an unintended consequence?

  15. I’m sure there are a few people who actually buy full fare tickets but most don’t so I don’t see that this is that big of a deal personally. It actually might help elites get a better selection of these seats. Besides if your willing to pay 3x or more for a full fare ticket what is another $20 or whatever to pick a MCE seat. To me it’s a much bigger problem when someone buys a super cheap discounted ticket and can’t pick a seat on some airlines at all. In your $49 example the full fare ticket is 4x more. If you need to make changes on flights a lot it seems it would be cheaper to just book the $49 ticket and figure you’ll only throw one away every 4 flights.

  16. It doesn’t make sense that economy does cost more than F but I see it. I booked a rt from LAX-PDX on AA in F a few months back. I wanted to change the dates due to a scheduling conflict. Called AA and was informed by the agent it would be $250 plus fare difference! I said how can that be? Was informed that my ticket was a restricted first class ticket. I’m assuming the unrestricted economy class ticket wouldn’t have these fees.

    Now, as far as benefits being diluted. Just wait until PEY (premium economy) is fully implemented. Those SWUs will be a ONE CLASS upgrade. In other words, there won’t be a jump from economy to business. It’s going to be economy to pey on aircraft that offer pey. Most if not all the other carriers do it. Why wouldn’t AA. They have to follow the competition after all.

  17. This is only a devaluation on the surface, This is an IT change getting ready for MCE becoming it’s very own class of service similar to how Delta does it. The classes or service will be


  18. Am I missing something? What’s the big deal? Elites still get access to those seats, right? So, if anything, AA is making the experience better for their most loyal customers.

  19. United and Delta already do this. If you’re willing to pay $1,000 for a seat, what’s the big deal about another $27 for extra legroom? If you book a $10,000 per night suite at a hotel, they’ll still charge you another $10 for the bag of nuts you eat at the minibar, and $15 a night if you want wifi.

  20. The only reason I Continue to fly AA is because of their One World Alliance, it’s the most practice alliance for my needs. If they ever pulled out of it. I’m gone

  21. As a loyal long-time AA EP, it really bothers me that AA continues to make it more challenging for loyal customers to continue flying them. I live in an AA hub so most of the time it is simply convenient to catch the direct flight but it becoming harder to justify the fare when I can just connect in ATL or IAH and continue on to my destination. I hope it doesn’t come to that.

  22. I have a feeling one hand doesn’t know what the other one is doing here.

    Revenue guy: “Hey, let’s retire the free Main Cabin Extra seats for all revenue tickets? We can get incremental revenue from that seat and on Award tickets we at least make SOME revenue.” Boss: “How much will we add to the bottom line?”
    Revenue guy: “On average about $500/flight X 2000 US (?) flights a day = $1MM/day”.
    Boss: “Great, do it!”
    2 weeks after implementation – IT Director: “Ummmm, we’re getting feedback that pax paying full fare are getting rooked because they are charged $50+ extra round trip for a Main Cabin Extra seats. What numbskull didn’t complete the analytics to account for this scenario?”
    Boss: “Not me!”
    IT Director: “Who approved this policy?”
    (crickets chirping)

  23. Then just buy the first class fare if its cheaper than full fare Y and provides more perks. #eyeroll I love how everyone is whining about a perk that they almost never utilize. Has anyone here actually bought full fare Y tickets in the past? are you an elite? Yeah okay.

  24. So a full-fare Y customer pays 4x the going discount-Y fare, but can’t cough up $27 for an MCE seat? Two things at play here…

    1. AA is gouging those who are forced to buy fully-flexible Y fares (usually private biz corp fliers and gov’t fliers).
    2. You’re paying full fare Y for the flexibility of changes/cancellation, not the perks that may come with it.

    As KORD said above, this is a boon to the top tier AA loyalists, not a robbery of loyalty perks as others have stated.

  25. Frankly speaking, who’s buying Y at such a high price? Those on business trips who can get their money back from their company. So, if the traveller wants the extra legroom, then must pay $27 to get it. This way, the airline get money from both the company and the person. Perfect!

  26. I agree with Ven – this is just another step to introducing separate cabin classes. If/When they continue on this path, you’ll have to “upgrade” from main cabin to main cabin extra and eventually, you’ll have different pricing for awards in those cabins!
    Soon enough, your systemwide upgrade will get you from Main Cabin to Main Cabin Extra!

  27. Also, many (Federal) Government Y fares actually come out significantly less than discounted/ restricted fares because of the negotiated rates. At least in my experience as an infrequent government traveller.

  28. This is actually a growing trend. I recently booked an economy ticket on Lufthansa as I was gladly surprised as to how cheap the ticket was. There are few carriers that fly between some of the destinations of my business travel and even fewer part of a loyalty program I belong to. Anyway, while the other carriers were still more expensive, in the end the difference was not much more because I had to pay for a seat assignment in advance. On a inter-European flight, I would not care so much, but on a cross continent flight spanning for many hours I care much more and the difference between premium economy and basic economy was so much that it almost made sense to upgrade to business. It’s not pathetic it’s quite annoying, at best. Travelers want to compare “apples to apples” rather than “apples to oranges” and we do not want to be “nickled and dimed.” I did confirm that I am guaranteed the EXACT chairs that I paid for, so I can get a refund if I am seated elsewhere.

  29. Much ado about nothing

    1) Why buy full price economy? Just buy flexible first. Plus, you seemed to have specifically picked out a flight with unusual pricing.

    2) Main Cabin Extra and other preferred seats should be paid for or should be accessible to elites, period. One of the major perks of lower level status (Gold, Platinum) is being able to select these seats.

  30. Pay for the seat if you want it. Or buy a first class ticket. I don’t see the big deal. The flexible ticket isn’t giving you extra perks in seating, it’s giving you the ability to change your ticketing. American fares are extremely cheap right now. With the credit card you are still getting free checked bags. Unlike United’s now widespread economy minus most American economy fares still let you pick your seat and you can actually have a carry on. Woohoo. If you have to pay $1000 for a $200 flight because you aren’t sure when you’re flying that’s not a reason you should get more legroom. These airlines have WAY too many elites to give perks like that to everyone now. They could make elite status harder to get. But no one would like that either. Buy a first class ticket or bring a snack and sit in coach.

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