American has some interesting inventory management…

While I’m all for trying new airlines, one of the things I’ve always loved about being such a frequent United flyer is that I have their system down to a “T.” In particular, I feel like I know their inventory management as well as they do.

As I slowly switch some of my travel to American and prepare to take my first international flight on American this week, I’m totally confused by their inventory management. I pulled up the fare buckets on Expert Flyer for my flight, which were as follows:

So for those of you not familiar with fare “buckets,” the above means that they’re selling one more seat in first class, six seats in business class, and at least seven seats in coach (“7” is as high as their buckets go for American). What surprised me was the seatmap:

So as far as I can tell, every seat is taken in business class. There are two “blocked” seats, though I’m not sure if those are crew rests or assigned at the airport.

It’s not unusual for airlines to oversell business class when first class is wide open, because they can always operationally upgrade passengers. In other words, if business class is sold out and there are nine empty seats in first class, it’s not unusual for airlines to still sell nine business class seats, because they’d prefer the business class revenue and having to upgrade people over not getting the revenue at all.

But doing the math, in this case, they’re selling six seats, there are two unassigned seats in business class, and there’s one seat remaining in first class. In other words, they’re overselling a 37 seat cabin by at least three in business class (probably more, based on the above).

So I’m curious, American flyers, am I somehow reading this wrong, or does American consistently substantially oversell business class, even when first class is full?

Oh, the mysteries of this new airline will keep me up into the wee hours of the night. šŸ˜‰

Filed Under: American
  1. What system are you using to retrieve availability, I often find AA availability on most sources very unreliable.

  2. 8 H and 8J are not available for assignment until day of departure, at the airport. As for why there are no other business seats open, I am stumped.

  3. This does not look familiar for AA RM strategies…there is a small chance that there are some NRPS listed who have seat assignments in F/J but could be bumped backwards or something fishy going on here, as AA is usually very conservative in filling up F/J, especially with clearing upgrades, etc.

  4. not only do I find AA inventory to be unreliable, I also find their seatmaps to be equally as dodgy. last week I checked in for an “near full” DCA-MIA only to find 1/3 of Y empty..including exit rows =O

  5. Based on my experience with AA (and expertflyer), this is highly unusual and probably some kind if fishy glitch in the system.

  6. While this also strikes me as odd, it is important to recognize that you are including info from a seat map when making availability assessments … which can sometimes be misleading.

    You might try to book some J seats online to see what if offers you, if anything, in terms of seats. You also might call AA plt desk (I think you’re plt now) and ask about business cabin seat availability. You might get an agent who tries to figure things out…or who might not…but it is a free call either way!

    I think you’ll find AA’s RM to be pretty straight forward as you get the hang of different routes that they fly. This strikes me as an outlier.

  7. Thanks for the feedback, folks!

    @ Gene — There are a few unassigned seats, though the flight is F1. So I assume it’s just a function of people being confirmed in first class but not having selected the seats, or else they would be selling more first class seats.

    @ Nybanker — Thanks for the feedback. As far as the accuracy of the seatmap goes, I agree it’s not totally accurate when counting empty seats (in other words, 10 empty seats on the seatmap doesn’t mean there are 10 seats left for sale). But I do believe the opposite is true: if every seat shows as being taken, each of those seats is actually occupied.

    Will be interesting to see what the story is!

  8. Seat map being full does not necessarily imply that every seat is taken. It is not an uncommon practice to block some seats and release them later on. Actually UA also does so. I had been watching the seat map of a SFO-SYD flight last year and found out the seat map was full while my UA crew friend checked their system and told me it was still under capacity by 10+ seats.

  9. Just because a seat is not showing as available does not mean it is sold. Many seats are blocked and under airport control and are supposed to be released on day of departure. It has happened to me before where i had a purchased a ticket yet could not print a broading pass at home.but had no problems printing one at the airport kiosk.

  10. Maybe, AA allows crew in the premium cabins, but reserves the right to push them back to Y in the case that all paying or upgraded actual flyers arrive.? Could also be that this close in they artificially pull “availability” in order for their revenue management system to increase pricing?

    I thought the map above was showing ALL seats free in C, whereas the fare buckets shows few seats available. I find that happens sometimes even on united, where seats are simply not assigned. Not sure WHO flys these days, even a day prior without having an assigned seat.

  11. If this is a Wednesday night flight to Buenos Aires I know exactly what it is, as it happened to me last week. AA has 2 daily evening MIA-EZE flights, and a third daylight flight operating F, S, Su, Mon. only. So an entire 777 crew is deadheading down tonight (~20 pax) to work the Friday morning flight back. On my flight F was full of deadheaders and 2 more in J.

    I don’t know if premium deadheading is in their contracts, but none of them were in Y! My guess is they assign at least 20 F/J seats, but would never turn away someone that walks up to the ticket counter with $8k and wants to fly F. This is an odd case of potentially ‘rolling’ backward rather than forward an oversold flight.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *