American Airlines now offers free drinks in Main Cabin Extra seating. First class and Main Cabin Extra also have reserved signs on the overhead bins, though this isn’t something flight attendants are expected to enforce and I watch customers walking to the back of coach storing their backs up front all the time.
Last week at an employee town hall a flight attendant brought up to the carrier’s CEO Doug Parker that they’re having difficulty delivering the free drink benefit to customers in extra legroom seats.
We have our premium economy people have unlimited liquor, beer wine. My EP gets one drink comp. We’re running into issues with.. what we’ve been told is ‘how much do we get? how many free drinks do they get? Well use your discretion, they can have as many as they want, use your discretion. My discretion may be 8, Ann’s may be 4. Well the other flight attendant gave me 8 why are you giving me 4? You’re putting us in a really tough situation with our customers. And our EPs like I said they’re seeing what’s happening and it’s gonna be difficult for us.
Parker responded, “how is that different than the first class product where there’s no limit on the amount of drinks we provide?”
It turns out that the flight attendant isn’t mostly talking about Executive Platinum customer expectations.
- She’s assuming Executive Platinums sitting in regular coach seats, where they seat Main Cabin Extra customers getting unlimited drinks (“they’re a row behind”). Parker mistakenly says “if you pay for that seat, and by the way that seat costs more than the customer you’re talking about who’s a row behind them who happens to be an elite customer chose to pay.”
He seems not to realize that Executive Platinums get complimentary Main Cabin Extra seats, and if they’re not seated in Main Cabin Extra it’s because the extra legroom seat they wanted wasn’t available and the new domestic standard cabin has reduced extra legroom seating.
- It’s not about seeing customers get more drinks than they’re entitled to, it’s about flight attendants actually providing the service customers expect. There’s dedicated crew for first class offering drinks (who do or do not offer the service) but flight attendants have to serve drinks in Main Cabin Extra.
The Executive Platinum benefit of a free drink and a complimentary snack, regardless of where they’re seated in economy, remains in place. If they’re seated in Main Cabin Extra it’s multiple drinks. And some flight attendants offer more than one to Executive Platinums seated farther back, too (even on a basic economy fare).
We got some clarity on the issue crew are having delivering the promised drink service. This flight attendant wanted to limit the number of drinks offered to customers, because they have to serve the entire cabin and it’s too much to do while getting back to offer additional drinks. Customers are ringing their call bells!
It would be nice if the customer knew there was some sort of limit. Let’s say on the 321 that’s a long airplane to work. So by the time we get back up to them in that section they’re either ringing their call bell or their expectations are not getting met therefore they’re getting disappointed because they wanted another drink 20 minutes ago. I’m only in row 21 you know because it’s a full airplane with crying babies and whatnot.
Parker acknowledges it’s a harder product to deliver. He said, “What we don’t want to have is confused customers, we’re not delivering to the customer what they expect with what they bought.. there is a dedicated flight attendant in first class and in this case we have the rest of the complement working the entire main cabin.”
He said no to the idea of an extra crew member, “if we can’t deliver the product we won’t sell the product.”