Airlines are always looking for ways to segment their consumer base, in order to get as much revenue from each passenger as possible. Over the years, we’ve seen just about all major US airlines introduce extra legroom economy seating, intended both as a reward for elite member, and as an ancillary revenue opportunity.
In this post I wanted to take a closer look at Main Cabin Extra, which American Airlines’ extra legroom economy seating. I’ve written about similar products offered by other airlines, including Alaska Premium Class, Delta Comfort+, JetBlue Even More Space, and United Economy Plus.
In this post:
American Airlines Main Cabin Extra offers extra legroom
American Main Cabin Extra offers dedicated seating with three to six inches of extra legroom compared to standard economy seating. Main Cabin Extra is generally located in the first several rows of economy, and also at exit rows.
American offers Main Cabin Extra throughout its mainline and regional fleet. The only aircraft not to feature Main Cabin Extra are 50-seat regional jets, which make up only a small percentage of American’s fleet.
With airlines having continued to squeeze more and more seats onto planes over the years, the legroom in “standard” economy has become much more restrictive. As a result, Main Cabin Extra at least provides a more acceptable level of legroom, so that your knees aren’t pushed into the seat back in front of you.
American Main Cabin Extra includes alcohol & early boarding
In addition to extra legroom, American Main Cabin Extra offers two other primary benefits. The biggest perk is that you receive free alcohol, including beer, wine, and spirits. This is offered on flights with a full beverage service. There’s no official limit to how many drinks you can have over the course of the flight, aside from the crew’s discretion (in other words, if you’re showing signs of being inebriated).
American Main Cabin Extra also comes with Group 5 boarding. That’s after the priority boarding groups, and means you can board along with those who have an eligible co-branded American credit card.
Who gets American Main Cabin Extra for free
While American elite members receive unlimited complimentary first class upgrades on a space available basis on many routes, the reality is that those upgrades often don’t clear. One nice consolation prize is that elite members are also eligible for upgrades to Main Cabin Extra.
The following elite members can select Main Cabin Extra seats at the time of booking for themselves and up to eight companions traveling on the same reservation:
- American AAdvantage Concierge Key, Executive Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Platinum members
- oneworld Emerald and oneworld Sapphire members through Alaska Airlines, British Airways, Iberia, Finnair, Qatar Airways, or Japan Airlines
On top of that, the following elite members can select Main Cabin Extra seats up to 24 hours before departure, when checking in, for themselves and up to eight companions traveling on the same reservation:
- American AAdvantage Gold members
- oneworld Ruby members through Alaska Airlines, British Airways, Iberia, Finnair, Qatar Airways, or Japan Airlines
On most routes, you should have no issues finding a decent Main Cabin Extra seat at the time of booking. Also keep in mind that American blocks certain seats in advance, so there’s a trick to snagging those close to departure.
The cost to purchase American Main Cabin Extra
For those who don’t have access to complimentary Main Cabin Extra seating on American, it’s possible to purchase these seats any time from when you ticket your reservation until departure. The cost is dynamic, and varies based on demand. So you won’t find consistent pricing in any particular market, but rather it could change based on the day of the week, the time of day, etc.
American states that Main Cabin Extra starts at $20, though you’ll find pricing to be all over the place. For example, pulling up a random Miami to Tampa flight, I see Main Cabin Extra costing anywhere from $26 to $28.
Meanwhile pulling up a random Dallas to Seoul Incheon flight, I see Main Cabin Extra costing anywhere from $142 to $183.
Not only does pricing vary between flights, but Main Cabin Extra pricing also differs depending on the specific seat you select. Sometimes I can’t really make sense of the pricing differential between seats — I understand middle seats costing less than aisle or window seats, but otherwise the logic seems random.
Is American Main Cabin Extra worth it?
Obviously if you’re eligible for complimentary upgrades to Main Cabin Extra, you should absolutely take advantage of that, since it’s not costing you anything extra. But what about for those who have to pay for upgrades? I’d say it depends.
Regular economy seats are so tight nowadays, so for many people, an upgrade to Main Cabin Extra isn’t about some amazing luxury, but rather it’s about having a basic level of comfort while flying. If you’re at all tall and are in a financial situation to do so, I definitely think there’s merit to upgrading to Main Cabin Extra. If you’d otherwise buy a drink or two, the cost is also much easier to justify.
The only thing I’d recommend keeping in mind is that American also often sells first class upgrades for cash at a reasonable cost, so keep an eye out on that as well. In some cases it might not be that much more than a Main Cabin Extra seat, but it offers a lot more seats.
American Main Cabin Extra offers three to six extra inches of legroom, and it can certainly help make an economy flight more tolerable, given the limited pitch in “regular” economy. Fortunately most elite members are eligible for complimentary upgrades to these seats, but some might find value in paying to assign these seats, if they don’t otherwise have access to them.
What has your experience been with American Main Cabin Extra?