American Lets You Self-Upgrade To Main Cabin Extra For Free

Filed Under: American

I thought I knew most of American’s policies, though this is something I had no clue about. Main Cabin Extra is American’s extra legroom economy seating, which will soon feature new benefits, including complimentary alcoholic drinks.

American’s 777-300ER Main Cabin Extra

Technically Main Cabin Extra isn’t a separate class of service, which is to say that it’s still part of economy. However, my assumption has always been that you’re not allowed to upgrade yourself from economy to Main Cabin Extra for free. After all, there’s an extra fee to sit in those seats, and I figured American considered it to be sufficiently separate (then again, I guess nowadays American charges a fee even to sit in most regular economy seats).

As a point of comparison, I know Delta and United both explicitly prohibit self-upgrading to their extra legroom economy seats.

That’s not the case at American, though. The Forward Cabin notes that American issued a memo to employees regarding their upcoming Main Cabin Extra changes, and in it they say the following:

Can customers move into open MCE seats once boarding is complete?

Yes. Once the door is closed, customers are allowed to move to any available seat within their ticketed cabin (no change to current procedure).

I had no clue this was the current policy, but this means that passengers can take any Main Cabin Extra seat once the door closes. Furthermore, now that American is introducing complimentary alcohol in Main Cabin Extra, passengers can self-upgrade to seats that include free alcohol.

American’s intent here is clear — they don’t want to create any additional work for employees, and they know the only way to have a different policy would be to put flight attendants in charge of policing the cabin. They don’t want to do that, because they’re doing everything they can to appease employees nowadays (which on some level I find ridiculous).

I (and I’m assuming 99.999% of other people?) had no clue this was the policy, and for that matter, I can’t believe that this is the policy. Now that it’s known, maybe we’ll see more self-upgraders.

Personally I wouldn’t be surprised if some flight attendants don’t know this is the official policy, and that they may tell people that they can’t upgrade to Main Cabin Extra for free. So while it can’t hurt to try, I’d still recommend following crewmember instructions if you’re denied, because the last thing you want is for the police to be called due to a “disruptive passenger.”

Did you realize American lets passengers upgrade to Main Cabin Extra for free once the door closes? Do you support this policy?

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

  1. Can Elites selected these in the ticketing process for free? Either way, seems like it would make more sense to offers to Elites in the last 24 hours or something like that.

  2. Hmm I’ve been taking exit row seats (which cost ā‚¬25 to block) on LH flights once the doors close since I started flying – I thought this was standard procedure on airlines šŸ˜€

  3. it’s quite rich that the FT/gary leff/ travel hacker class decried AA’s recent “enhancements” to MCE since they assumed that it would cause people to buy up to MCE and mean fewer MCE available seats for elites. yet today, they’re complaining about how *empty* MCE seats could now be filled by “self upgrades.”

    following this logic, those MCE seats will be empty because their original fears about the great unwashed buying MCE won’t come to pass.

    yikes, AA can’t catch a break with this crowd!

  4. Yes. Was on a flight two days ago from Tulsa to DFW, short hop admittedly but I selected MCE (Exit Row) and there were two seats remaining once the doors closed and two passengers asked if they could move and the flight attendant obliged. It struck me as a bit offensive to those who pay for the privilege however I guess AA feels the privilege in paying $$ for a better seat is securing the seat and not waiting until the doors close to have to race to it.

  5. Actually I do want security to come and escort me off the plane for following official AA policy. I will just do what everyone else seems to and get a big fat juicy settlement. Maybe I’ll trip myself on the way out and add a few zeroes to my check.

  6. American really is the new United. I don’t have the balls to self-upgrade but I sure as hell won’t be paying for MCE.

  7. Whatā€™s the policy for Premium Economy? Does elite members are eligibles for upgrade from main cabin at check in/gate? Does someone know when this class will be available using miles?

  8. I was on a JetBlue flight recently, and a passenger self-upgraded to a Even More Space seat after the doors closed. The FA’s promptly asked him to pay to upgrade or return to his original economy seat. He returned to his seat.

  9. Well the unstated but well-known policy was to just ask politely before the door closed if it would be ok to take one of those seats after the door closes, and then to run and take the seat as soon as the door closed. Now that this was plastered all over the blogs doubtless there will be an official policy change. Anyhow with my Platinum benefits expiring in a few days looks like I’ll soon be one of those running šŸ˜€

    It’s actually an interesting point of difference when you compare AA with JetBlue, where in years prior to their crazy pricing for “even more legroom” seats you could easily switch to an empty exit row seat.

  10. That’s f’ing great. So AA just announce that moving seats to a premium cabin is fine? What chaos is this going to cause? I guess it’s because their $hitty IT system can’t implement the correct process.

  11. Bummer if pax pays for upgraded MCE seat (or has flown many elite+ miles to earn it) and finds nobody in middle seat (yeah!). Then door closed and pax comes running from the back who didn’t pay (or paid Basic Economy) and takes seat! That doesn’t make sense. Will call EP desk to verify.

  12. Thatā€™s an annoying policy. Since an MCE middle seat beats a basic economy middle seat you can be pretty sure that all the MCE middle seats will be full. So pay more for MCE with extra legroom and high chance of being elbow to elbow with a stranger, or pay less for basic economy with less legroom but better chance of an empty middle seat.

  13. I don’t think this will have an effect on most flights because flights tend to be full. Gone are the days that a flight is only 40% full. MCE will be full or at least only the middle seat will be open for a few rows. People generally don’t force their way into a middle seat when the window and aisle seats are occupied.

  14. Hopefully, people flying Economy do not read this blog.
    I typically maneuver my reserved seat to the seats in MCE where middle seat is empty.
    The free drinks would surely cause those middleseats in MCE to be occupied regularly going forward.

  15. Already witnessed these ā€œself-upgradersā€ on AA flights in the past. Sorry to say, but they definitely belonged to the Passenger Shaming IG account. Just one guy alone was guilty of feet on tray table, feet on armrests, hogging multiple MCE seats, you name it.

  16. just a terrible policy. but a typical US (American) problem. Screw the person who works hard, does the right thing, or god forbid pay extra for something, but the freeloader who does nothing and complains, and just does blames the system gets rewarded…

    and to think I just paid $35 twice for 2 segments on a 1 way flight and someone will try this crap on me.

  17. “Wouldnā€™t AA only provide drinks to those who are indicated on the manifest as seated in MCE?”

    Am guessing when the free alcohol rollout commences that will be when the policy of self-upgrading ends.

  18. Wrong. The FAs look on their phablets to see who gets free drinks/snacks. Those who self upgrade wont be able to change how they appear on the flight manifest. The FA will know your original seat and know you didn’t pay or earn MCE.

  19. Think itā€™s the same on Delta. I self upgraded to a window exit row on a transcon 767 flight.

    My feet almost froze

  20. I would imagine that the method to determine free drinks in MCE would be a coding in the FA held hand. Those eligible would be any Elite, anyone who purchased MCE, or anyone otherwise eligible for MCE at no charge. Those occupied seats would then have a special color in the Hand held.

    Then what would have been empty MCE seats (that are now occupied by after door closing occupants) would be coded differently and they would not receive free drinks.

    Color Order would be:

    CK – Half green and half purple (free drink and food)
    EXP – Green (free drink and food)
    Non-Rev – Yellow (nothing free)

    Make valid MCE for example – half green and half blue (1/2 the benefit – only free drink).

    On a flight two days ago in exit row, me and other passenger in row both EXP.
    I check SeatMap (from expert flyer) and the window seat was to be vacant.
    I noticed the hand held showing yellow, which means non-rev.

    Hence a non-rev in a MCE seat – but no benefit and they would not be eligible under this benefit either.

    Not hard to identify the legal MCE passengers – they already have the system. The FA’s look at the hand held continuously throughout the service cycle.

  21. I think you also missed that Basic Economy passengers are being assigned MCE. On a recent flight, it looked like I was the only one in my MCE row. Since the flight was full, the BE pax with no advanced seat assignments got placed in MCE. So in the end, I had two people next to me and asked about their tickets to verify what I suspected. Talk about a nice treat for them. (Looks like the entire concept behind BE totally backfired for AA!)

  22. Am living on Social Security. Saved for 2 years to visit daughter in Australia. Splurged on MCE after she provided Her miles for my ticket. Cost $340-about 40% of a month’s income-for MCE. Seems unfair.Maybe they could put me in Premium Economy.

  23. This blog is not correct. American put out a memo yesterday which I saw on another site. You CANNOT self upgrade, and if you do be prepared to be asked to move to your original seat. Also the crew know who has paid for MCE seats and which seats are suppose to be empty you constantly see them looking at that hand held, so don’t expect to get that free drink you might be expecting.

  24. This is NOT the AA policy. A memo went out to clarify that passengers can NOT upgrade themselves to MCE. A correction on this article is in order.

  25. So if there was someone in my MCE seat, like their was on the last AA flight I took, I should self upgrade to business?

    (The git asked for my boarding pass, I told him to f**king move.)

  26. What Jon, Jeff, and Rick said. Flight Attendants will be armed with tablets with updated info as the door closes. If someone is in a MCE seat when that seat is clearly open on their software…off you go back to your assigned seat.

  27. i am taking a flight to china from chicago in 2 days. with it being a long flight and a tall person i payed $150 for MCE. as of now i see all seats in my row and many rows behind me empty. i would be pretty pissed to pay that kind of money for extra leg room to than have half the plane upgrade to my seating without paying. why pay when you can get free. not ok for those who pay.

  28. I read that a flyer booked basic economy on aa for $50 vs. $286 then paid only $17 48 hours prior to departure to select his seat. What’s the saving by booking aa basic economy then upgrade 48 hours prior to boarding vs booking main cabin from the beginning? Thank you.

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