American Airlines Is Now Selling A New “Main Select” Fare With Special Perks

When American Airlines announced the end of the ‘Shuttle’ product in November they shared that they would turn over New York LaGuardia – Boston flying to JetBlue and introduce Shuttle-like fares to several markets.

New “Main Select” fares would be refundable, bundling priority boarding and check-in, free seat assignments for any coach seat (including extra legroom) and free same-day confirmed changes. According to a spokesperson these fares are now available on several routes:

  • New York LaGuardia – Washington National
  • Boston – Washington National
  • New York LaGuardia – Chicago O’Hare
  • Dallas – Fort Worth – Chicago O’Hare
  • New York JFK – Los Angeles

American is reimagining travel for business customers with the launch of Main Select, a new fare product available in select high-frequency markets and offered only on aa.com and through NDC-enabled travel agencies.

Announced last fall, Main Select takes the stress out of business travel with refundable fares, same-day flight changes, priority boarding, priority check-in, and the choice of all seats in Main Cabin at the time of booking, including Main Cabin Extra.

This new fare is available on American-operated flights on BOS-DCA, DFW-ORD, JFK-LAX, LGA-DCA and LGA-ORD routes starting today [June 21] with plans to expand to additional markets later this year.

At an employee town hall in the fall, a recording of which was reviewed by View From The Wing, Chief Revenue Officer Vasu Raja explained the rationale for replacing the shutttle product with these fares and expanding the fares to other business routes.

On the Shuttle, he said, the product was no longer relevant,

When the shuttle was created, there were a few things we would differentiate. Rear door deplaning, free alcohol on board, newspapers at the gate. Many of those things don’t simply apply anymore.

The reality is business customers stopped day drinking about 25 or 30 years ago. People don’t really take newspapers anymore. And in the pandemic we’ve more or less gotten away from it because most people get that on their phone.

In fact Raja misrepresents the core elements of the Shuttle, perhaps because those are mostly long gone – hourly schedules ‘show up and go’ with shorter check-in times and guaranteed availability.

One remnant American had retained was closer-in bag check-in cutoffs for shuttle flights. And free alcohol? Still a nice perk on 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. flights, but a pale reflection of what New York Air brought to the market 40 years ago (‘nosh bags’) with bagels in the morning and sandwiches in the afternoon.

Nonetheless, Shuttle was all but dead in name only anyway. There was no longer a dedicated fleet of aircraft. What’s new is the way American is bundling perks with fares and aiming those at business customers. Raja explained,

Main Cabin Select is a lot less about how we go and differentiate the airport, or figure out how we rear door deplane in markets like Boston or LaGuardia, where in the new construction idea we won’t be able to do that in the same way. As our customers evolve we’ve got to evolve too.

For customers willing to pay more money – and the airline sees those as business customers on business routes – they can get:

Business travelers buying these fares become mid-tier elite for a day, in essence, without the bonus points when they buy up to refundable tickets.

After several cursory searches I’ve yet to find these fares for sale on the American Airlines website, so it’s unclear what the upcharge will be. My guess is it will be pricier than the cheapest refundable fare (“Main Cabin Flexible”) but potentially lower than full fare (“Main Cabin Fully Flexible”).

Update: these fares do not appear on the initial comparison screen during search at AA.com. Instead they’re offered as a buy up after you’ve selected flights. A spokesperson explains,

To see the Main Select fare offered, you need to go further down the booking path. If you choose a Main Cabin fare on one of those routes and then choose flights, it will then offer you the option to purchase Main Select or the Main Cabin fare that was initially selected.

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. American also has a main cabin plus fare which, even after flying them over 3,000,000 miles, I had never seen before last week. I was booking my daughter to fly CLT-DEN after Thanksgiving to return to school (got 25K saver first class on UA DEN-CLT the week before) and a 1 way ticket on AA was $405 (which was best price/routing available). I went to book it and was given the option for $49 to upgrade her to main cabin plus. This included most of what you listed above plus 1 free checked bag. Since she doesn’t have any status (and I’ve burned by AA airline credit this year on my Amex Platinum card) I paid it. The bag would have been $30 and I booked her a main cabin extra seat near the front that would have cost $70. Yes there were “free” seats near the back but felt for a little extra room and ability to get off sooner it was well worth it. Overall I actually saw value in this for her (I have lifetime status so would have gotten all this anyway) but had never seen this fare offered before (maybe again because with my status there was no benefit so AA didn’t try to ever upsell me to this product).

  2. I feel personally attacked about the “business travelers no longer day drink” thing. I mean, it really kinda hurts. Am I not supposed to do this anymore? It seems pretty unprecedented to ask me to stop.

  3. Hang on. Jet Blue just upped their bid for Spirit. No doubt part of any approval will include a voiding of the AA/Jet Blue agreement and AA will be left holding the bag….again, just like the South American partnership. More executive blundering.

  4. Love this idea for business. Hope to see it expand LAX-PHX; LAX-SFO; PHX-DEN; DFW-HOU; DFW-AUS. . . .Lots of options for this on heavy business frequency routes.

    As for Jet Blue. . .the increase in the NE will be minimal so the NE alliance will either stay or be slightly restricted. Also, if it doesn’t go through, AA and buy JetBlue.

  5. I actually appreciate that they offer this now that I don’t fly AA as much and lost AAdvantage status. When I went to book a flight from MIA and went to apply a flight credit, it made me call reservations. And then reservations wouldn’t let me book the Main Extra bundle because “it’s web only.” So I ended up paying $8 more for a MCE seat having to book over the phone and use my flight credit. And the MCE seat by itself doesn’t come with the bag included, which if I didn’t have an AA credit card would have been another $30 out of pocket missing out on the online deal.

    It wasn’t substantial, but because it’s still American’s system’s problem that I couldn’t apply my FC online, it would have been nice if they had honored the web price or credited me back the paltry difference. But whatever. To his credit, the agent was incredibly nice- the airlines need to really recognize how much these better employees help smooth over so many snafus stemming from the corporate’s own inadequacies.

  6. Hopefully this fare still lets me uncomfortably force staff to take photos with me. I have the Victoria’s Secret gift cards waiting for those pretty flight attendants.

  7. I’m a very important CK flier. The airline knows me as “the Razzhole” but you can just call me “Uncle Razz.” I’m going to buy this fare class because I publicly approve of everything American Airlines does. I think they are the best and I love them. I flew to Doha recently on American because I want to tell everyone they are the best even though we all know Qatar is much better. Come see me in Tucson soon!!

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