American Airlines Will Sell Flights To Max Capacity Starting July 1

Southwest, Delta, and JetBlue are limiting the number of seats they sell on each flight so there’s no need for passengers to occupy middle seats.

American Airlines does not. They cap capacity, but still sell enough seats so about half of middles might be occupied. Delta is working hard to gain customer confidence and their seat blocking commitment runs through September 30. American’s much lesser restriction will end July 1.

Bizarrely this news comes out right as the airline seeks to promote traveling with greater confidence.

American is copying United’s earlier move to allow customers on full flights to change their plans without a fee. Spirit Airlines also books to capacity. As American’s President Robert Isom said in 2018,

[T]oday there is a real drive within the industry and with the traveling public to want to have really at the end of the day low cost seats. And we’ve got to be cognizant of what’s out there in the marketplace and what people want to pay.

The fastest growing airlines in the United States Spirit and Frontier. Most profitable airlines in the United States Spirit. We have to be cognizant of the marketplace and that real estate that’s how we make our money.

We don’t want to make decisions that ultimately put us at a disadvantage, we’d never do that.

Delta (along with Southwest and JetBlue) are hoping you make a decision based on which airline offers you the greatest value.

Meanwhile American’s pilots want the government to buy all middle seats so they stay empty, and six other major airline unions are asking Congress for another $32 billion bailout.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I haven’t flown since April 10th but with raising numbers and travel limitations, the planes are rarely hitting 50% capacity, with a few exceptions. I know a few people who have flown DL and SWA recently to fairly full flights as well so I think these – no middle seats chest puouding is a bunch of BS. Let’s just be honest and do the right thing. Wear a mask, wash your hands and social distance when you can are the playbook.

    The bigger issue is the millennial’s and the far right – shut your mouths, wear a mask and stop thinking everyone is trampling on your rights. Right now, you have trampled on my right to see my Mother in hospice and my 95 Father dealing with it alone. I hope you get to go through what my family is going through now, selfish children!

  2. The country hit the highest daily infection rate ever yesterday. Seems this is poorly timed.

  3. Sunviking – I’m not a millennial but a gen x but no one is tramping on your rights. You could always drive or use other means to see your parents. And if you care that much, maybe move your poor 95 YO father a little closer to you.

  4. This was obviously planned before the new rise in infections, but the timing couldn’t be worse.

    UA and AA leadership are cut from the same cloth. AA continually follows UA into the gutter decreasing passenger value, while Delta at least appears to be increasing passenger value. Delta and Southwest are kicking AA’s tail by taking a different approach and are winning. Wouldn’t you think that AA management would try a different approach (or the board would make a leadership change)?

  5. In real world experience, AA has filled flights to 100% capacity. My husband flew SAN-ORD last weekend. The plane was 100% full. On the return, there were roughly 10 empty seats toward the back. AA used to have 7 flights a day between the cities and now has one.

  6. I have a flight on Sunday and just received an email “We’re expecting your flight will be busy and are giving you a chance to change flights at no charge. You can move to a flight that currently has more space if your plans are flexible.” It allows me to change up until Tuesday, June 30. I was hoping I could change to Thursday, July 2. I called and was told agents cannot make any free changes – it must be done online.

  7. Shawn – “I’m not a millennial but a gen x but no one is tramping on your rights. You could always drive or use other means to see your parents. And if you care that much, maybe move your poor 95 YO father a little closer to you.”

    Shawn, I suppose you can’t see the difference in (I use this term figuratively) order of magnitude with the “solutions” you “suggest” versus social inconvenience?

    Your response is oh so typical. It’s representative of why certain generational brackets, those of certain political persuasions, and individuals affiliated with such are both lamented and loathed.

    Therefore, this morning, I offer to you one big & raised middle finger.

  8. Thanks aaway, you get it and appreciate the support and understanding.

    Shawn, I live 3,000 mile away but whether I fly or drive, I still have to quartine for 14 days before I can see them. My father can’t travel and I wouldn’t ask him to leave my Mom’s side to begin with. Plus he is 100 feet away from her but can only see her 1 hour a day.

    YES. . .you non-mask wearing moran, going out to party idiots HAVE impact my rights and rights of millions of American who are in similar situation, having their parents and loved ones die alone. God have mercy on your soul.

  9. Profits over people!!! To add insult to injury, AA planes use standard turnaround operations and do not have enough time to spray fog disinfectants in its cabin. In contrast, DL ground staff cleans every mainline and regional plane before every flight. They also avoid scheduling their flight crew on multi-day working trips, ensuring they minimize exposure around the country.

    ShAAme on you!!!

  10. Further to my comment above, relying on the email I received offering a free change to a different flight, I first checked if I could travel on Tuesday instead of Sunday. After changing my plans, when I went to change the flight I received a message that “This offer is no longer available”. Unbelievable.

  11. My daughter flew Jet Blue today from JFK to LAX. She had an entire row to herself, and noted that they threw someone off the plane for refusing to wear a mask. I say, bravo!

  12. Based on my experience of 4 segments a week most weeks recently, United is also selling to full capacity – then they text you and tell you your flight is filled more than usual and provide you with a link to change flights. I guess “usual” is a relative term. Was in O’Hare yesterday around 4:30-6:00 PM and it looked to me like, at least in the United concourses, the number of passengers was close to 50% of normal. Of course that is one of their main hubs as we all know.

  13. How hypocritical of AA and other Airlines. I guess this is why they pushed the mandatory mask

    I guess it’s so they could ignore the “Social distancing” by selling every seat – granted it’s not feasible to do the 1-2M spacing but leaving an open middle seat ( except for families – and allow free seat selection for families)..

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