American Is Delaying Introduction Of Free Alcohol In Main Cabin Extra

Filed Under: American

As I first wrote about in January, American was planning on introducing free alcoholic drinks in Main Cabin Extra as of this spring. Airlines are increasingly trying to improve their extra legroom economy options, both to appease elites given that upgrades are getting tougher to clear, and also to increase the revenue they earn from buy-ups.

As part of these improvements, American was planning on introducing complimentary beer, wine, and spirits, as well as introducing dedicated overhead bins and preferred boarding, in Main Cabin Extra.

It’s now the spring, but American still hasn’t introduced free alcoholic drinks in Main Cabin Extra. What’s the delay? The always knowledgeable JonNYC has an update, per a memo from the airline:

In January, we announced an enhanced Main Cabin Extra (MCE) service that would begin this Spring on widebody, narrowbody and regional fleets. After hearing from many of you following this initial announcement, we decided to take MCE on the road with listening sessions and roundtable discussions in DFW, MIA, CLT, and PHX and at CQ sessions at FSU. At each location, we brought team members from Revenue Management, Policies and Procedures, Food and Beverage, and Corporate Planning to meet with flight attendants and directly answer your questions and concerns.

First, thank you for your feedback and suggestions. We are now planning to begin this enhanced service Summer 2018. In the coming weeks, we’ll share more information to ensure you have all the resources necessary to easily identify and provide the enhanced service.

So as you can see, American will now be introducing free alcoholic drinks in Main Cabin Extra as of summer 2018.

I’m still not really sure I get what the delay is all about here? On one hand I can appreciate airlines increasingly involving frontline employees in decision making, but I can’t really make sense of the things that they have listening sessions about.

It’s like how United recently had over “listening sessions” after their controversial attempt to change employee bonuses. What emerged from those 50+ listening sessions? “When it comes to operational performance, you want to be rewarded as a team for what is truly a team accomplishment.” Did they really need 50 listening sessions to figure that out?

Similarly, I’m not exactly sure what the listening sessions here were about, and how they resulted in a delay in the implementation of free drinks in Main Cabin Extra. I could see them having these sessions about their ridiculous policy of letting people self-upgrade to Main Cabin Extra, but what does that have to do with introducing free drinks?

Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s a lot of value in these discussions, but it sure seems to me like they should be about much higher level stuff, like the direction of the company, rather than something as simple as offering free drinks in Main Cabin Extra.

If you were looking forward to free drinks in Main Cabin Extra, it will be a few more months before that happens…

  1. Seems like less work for the flight attendants given they won’t have to process payments meaning they can quickly get back to doing what they do best, nothing.

  2. In a word – unions. Delta’s FAs aren’t union which in practice has meant that they take less adversarial positions when management looks to roll out improved services for Pax which require a little more effort from FAs, like free drinks in E+. For AA I would assume the union was looking for some concessions from AA in exchange for the extra drinks the FAs would now be serving resulting in the listening sessions where FAs could voice concerns about other aspects of their duties they’re looking to change (probably not improving the Pax experience).

  3. I think your confusion is because you have never worked for a large corporation. You can’t just ‘listen’ to one group, you have to listen to several. It is about getting buy in. Its about appearances and ‘corporate is listening to all of you’.

    If you don’t get buy in , you get inconsistent service. And one of the biggest criticisms I read on here and elsewhere about AA service is that it is inconsistent.

    It sounds like delaying it until the summer until some other change takes effect was the agreement the corporation had with the employees to ensure a consistent roll out. The last sentence is key: ‘to make sure you have the resources necessary to easily identify and provide the enhanced service’.

    It might not always be about ‘less work’ for the flight attendants. It might be about some other type of logistic instead.

  4. Mark F is correct

    This is a change management process

    These sessions can be extremely important to the success of an initiative

    I’m not in the airline industry, but my guess is that there were some very valid concerns raised, and now AA can address them before rollout

    An example: free alcohol means more alcohol consumed which may cause increased impairment of customers which could be a safety issue. In addition, this initiative may need to be paired with more strict “self upgrade “ enforcement…

    It’s not just about union employees being lazy. That’s a tired old meme (and I’m a person who routinely negotiates with nursing unions)

    Now all parties can feel like they were a part of a collective initiative instead of victims of a top down directive that may have been missing critical information

    Think about your job. Ever received a new directive that you thought “holy crap, who thought this up?”

    Listening sessions avoid that

    Lastly, change is glacial in all huge organizations
    It’s just the way it is

  5. On a side note

    Clearly United could have used some listening sessions before “rolling out” Polaris

  6. Lastly, DLPTATL could be correct and these were just bitching sessions from lazy employees

    This would make listening sessions even more important
    Good management (which AA lacks) can turn those around on the whiners
    Also “feeling like you were heard” is often more imortant than the other party actually changing

    And if employees bring up non related problems… even more fantastic!
    We get TONS of fantastic ideas ths way

    A fish rots from the head

  7. Why are people so obsessed with free drinks? Nothing is really free. If an airline starts offering “free” drinks, they will find a way to recover their cost through higher MCE seats costs or higher fares overall for example. If you want to stay hydrated during a flight drink water. Alcohol and sodas are not recommended anyway. If you really need a drink, then pay up. I am sick and tired of freeloaders and alcoholics trying to have others subsidize their drinking habits.

  8. I was just on an American flight yesterday and I asked the FA in F about this.

    He specifically said sometime in the summer which seems to be in alignment with this release. He said it was partly due to American eagle and other subsidiaries moving to a cashless system and there needing to be a way to document them etc.

    Don’t totally buy it but that’s one DP at least. I agree also with others about getting larger buy in as well.

  9. @Doug You sound like a very bitter person! I betting alcoholic family member…am I right? You are very…….passionate about this! By the way, alcohol doesn’t hydrate, so yes, drinking water is best for hydrating.

    Its not about “freeloaders or alcoholics”, its about getting something you enjoy for an increasingly stressful and unpleasant experience. Compared to 5 and 10 years ago, there is very little pleasure associated with flying, I’d even go as far as to say a neutral experience would be nice! So giving me a free drink instead of charging me $9 makes me a happier customer. As for freeloader, what is a fair charge for that water you are drinking? It sure didn’t get into your hand for free!

  10. @Doug – totally agree with you. Can I just pay for a seat with some legroom please?

    As much as like to be wined and dined, I’d rather stay hydrated. Now I’m going to pay for someone else’s alcohol through higher MCE seats.

  11. @ Tim – Right, the main purpose of getting an MCE seat is the legroom. I am 6’4″, so leg room is very important to me, that’s why I’m willing to pay extra for it. We all like to be wined and dined, but let’s be honest, the AA meals are not that great even when we fly international in biz class. If I am willing to pay a couple of thousand dollars or pay twice as many miles to fly business is mostly for the lie flat seats and not for the food. I can have a much better dining experience at my destination for less money.

  12. @ Happy Dayz – You missed the whole point. It’s not going to be “free”. The demand for the MCE seats will go up because of the “free” drinks, which means the price of selecting an MCE seat will go up. American will find a way to recover their cost of “free” drinks. And BTW, you are so wrong about me, but I expected this kind of feedback when I submitted the original post. I’m not going to make any quick and most likely wrong presumptions about you based on a quick post.

  13. These policies vary by carrier. As MVP Gold on AS I’m frequently seated in premium econ where the ‘drinks are free’. It’s not an open bar. Rather, they’ll give you a free drink during service, which means 3x on a transcon. One time, in need of a refill, I made the long trek back to to galley. Upon hearing my request for ‘more please, sir’, I was told that a service would be coming through in a few minutes. I returned to my seat thirsty, with my tail between my legs.

    Horizon flights still give everyone free beer/wine – but there is no selection; only one of each. Only one service, too.

  14. The main issue was FAs said they would not enforce the dedicated overhead bin space, not in their contracted duties. Some planes started getting the stickers.

  15. Let’s get Rid of Booze in the Airport and Flts except on First Class or lounges then TAX THEM TO DEATH ..
    Bernie rules..


  16. As Dmodemd astutely mentions above it’s about the FA’s and enforcement. Though in this case it’s about self upgraders to MCE. When this was announced there were a slew of posts about how you just had to self upgrade yourself within the same cabin to get free drinks. Lucky lustliy pointed out that the FA’s were non plused as long as you stayed in the same cabin.

    Fast forward and the FA’s realized that once the word got out they’d have fights on their hands when the door closed as the drunken hordes rushed forward into the empty MCE seats. So, this is about “buy-in” for seat enforcement within the Y cabin. They don’t care about who pays and who doesn’t. Their tablets are all now color coded so they can see who and what status is sitting in what seat. Once they figure out how to enforce seats in Y everyone will be happy.

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