American Brings Free Booze To Main Cabin Extra, Sends Self-Upgraders To Back Of Plane

Filed Under: American

As I first wrote about in January, American was planning some improvements to Main Cabin Extra, which is their extra legroom economy section. Specifically, with these changes passengers seated in Main Cabin Extra will receive:

  • Complimentary beer, wine, and spirits
  • Easier access to overhead bin space with Group 5 boarding (in reality flight attendants won’t be policing this, but rather there will be placards indicating that the overhead bins above Main Cabin Extra are for passengers seated in that section only)

Airlines are increasingly trying to improve their extra legroom economy options, both to appease elite members given that upgrades are getting tougher to clear, and also to increase the revenue they earn from buy-ups.

In April it was revealed that there would be a delay in the implementation of these new features, and that the new target for the introduction of these benefits was summer 2018. The reasoning for the delay was that American wanted to hold listening sessions and roundtable discussions with employees regarding these changes.

There’s some positive news on that front — American’s Main Cabin Extra enhancements are expected to be introduced on June 5, 2018. That’s sooner than I was expecting, since June 5 technically isn’t summer yet. As of that date, Main Cabin Extra passengers will be entitled to complimentary beer, wine, and spirits.

On top of the actual improvements, American is also revising one of their Main Cabin Extra policies. A few months ago I wrote about American’s puzzling policy that passengers were allowed to self-upgrade themselves from regular economy to Main Cabin Extra. That seems like a crazy policy, but I guess the intent was to limit the work that flight attendants had to do.

American is revising their policy so that they’re limiting passengers to moving within their seat classification or lower — this means that a Main Cabin Extra passenger can move to another empty Main Cabin Extra seat or to a Main Cabin Seat, but a Main Cabin passenger can’t move up to an empty Main Cabin Extra seat for free. Flight attendants will continue to be able to make exceptions in certain circumstances, including when it’s needed for operational reasons, when it helps to seat families together, etc.

Bottom line

It’s good to see American finally add free alcoholic drinks in Main Cabin Extra. I guess as an Executive Platinum member maybe I shouldn’t be too excited, since previously I got a free drink and a free snack, so I’m now less special. 😉

I also think it’s smart that American changed their policy so that you can no longer self-upgrade to Main Cabin Extra. I doubt that was ever really the intent, but it’s clear they didn’t really think through the implications of the previous policy.

  1. I flew MCE yesterday on a legacy US A320, and the overhead bins already had “Reserved for Main Cabin Extra” signs in them.

  2. Seems like AA is aiming at a moving target and they’re always shooting behind it…they’ve got a ways to go to catch up to the better carriers in the world…

  3. Makes me wonder what sort of pressure this will add to United, since they’re the only ones left of the Big 3 that offers nothing extra in Economy Plus beyond the extra legroom.

  4. I just checked, and it seems that they’re also increasing the price of MCE seats for non-elites. Before June 5th: $29. After June 5th: $36. (I also could just be not very well versed in how they price out MCE.)

    Checked using the same route (BHM -> CLT).

  5. Meh – self upgraders purposefully board last and plunk their butts in the empty MCE seats. Are the FA’s going to check everyone’s boarding pass? Probably not. I’d rather fly in cramped economy than ever have to sit next to an obnoxious self-upgrader doing the poor man’s lie flat using just two empty seats.

  6. @ Tiffany — Yeah, the GDPR thing is super-annoying, although I’m sure it is about a million times more annoying for you than us!

  7. @ Gene — Thanks for being patient! We’ll eventually have something a bit fancier so folks don’t have to check a box every time, but for now…

  8. My question is when are they going to start policing the size of the carry-on bags. The number of times last week I saw what could only be called suitcases being brought on board was ridiculous. I saw duffles that literally could have had a body in them. Make them check those and many overhead problems are gone. Also, shouldn’t it read “A complimentary”. Good luck getting a second one.

  9. @ Hunter T. That’s why I was not excited about the news when they first announced it. I expected they would raise the price of MCE. Nothing is ever free. While this is good news for the platinum elites, no added benefit for the EXPs like Lucky, and not so good news for gold and non-elites who are paying for MCE seats. You are paying for the drink even if you don’t want it.

  10. Good for Plats and Plat Pros who didn’t already get the free drink benefit. Bad for Exec Plats, since the free booze will just make MCE all the more crowded. I’m Exec Plat and I’ve given up thinking about upgrades, since they just don’t clear anymore. If AA thinks MCE “upgrades” are going to drive any loyalty, they’re kidding themselves. They haven’t figured out that maximizing revenue on domestic F at the expense of upgrades drives customers away from their international premium products. If getting elite status only brings an MCE “upgrade”, why bother picking AA on the expensive trips. I’ll just fly the best product on my international trips, which is unlikely to be AA.

  11. What I don’t get is many times MCE isn’t full but econ is overbooked and so regular econ non elites get out in MCE seats without paying anything. I don’t see how they can police that since planes are so full anyway. It’s like the airports giving TSA pre to random uninformed folks that slow down that process.

  12. I just flew a AA 787 ORD>.CDG nice but I wish they would’ve a raise able armrests by the window ..


  13. I was on 2 legacy LUS flights Tuesday in the exit isle. Both flights the FA’s were policing the overhead and the seat map to make certain there were no self upgrades. I was very surprised.

    Hope legacy LAA falls in line

  14. Price to upgrade ORD-MIA-SKB doubled overnight. $33 to $67…I fear this is quickly going to turn into Spirit with people over-consuming and then complaining they don’t get served fast enough.

  15. Thanks for the update. On the ex-US planes I prefer to sit in the seats which are NOT MCE (they all have those hard, immovable sides). If you’re n Exec Plat and sit in a regular seat, do you still receive a free alcoholic drink?

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