It used to be that when the doors of the aircraft closed, passengers could re-arrange themselves freely. If there were empty seats, you’d see passengers spread out for more room. That made sense.
However airlines now charge for seats, and they don’t even just charge for extra legroom seats. An aisle seat and even a window can cost more than a middle. A seat towards the front of the cabin might cost more, too.
I’ve seen United Airlines flight attendants policing this for awhile, although enforcement varies. Five years ago American Airlines had no real policy, and passengers could mostly still move freely unless a flight attendant told them not to (and of course moving to an exit row seat required being eligible to sit in one of those seats).
Four years ago American started offering free alcohol to passengers in their extra legroom coach seats.
The ability to change seats took on added significance (and cost to the airline). Still, the policy allowing customers to move remained in place.
That policy is no longer in effect, and American is telling flight attendants that they should police passengers moving from regular coach up to extra legroom seats (“Main Cabin Extra”), as shared by aviation watchdog JonNYC. Not all flight attendants will enforce this, but some may.
It’s not unusual for Main Cabin (MC) customers to ask to change seats after they’ve boarded the aircraft – to sit next to a family member or get out of a middle seat, for instance. However, customers may not be familiar with our seat change policy; particularly when it comes to Main Cabin Extra (MCE) seats. While you may allow a customer to move to an available Main Cabin seat after boarding is complete, they’re not permitted to move into an MCE seat unless they are booked in that class. So, if a customer asks to move to a seat in a different seat classification (i.e., MC ot MCE, MCE to First, etc.) politely decline their request unless there is a customer service or regulatory conflict present. If a customer asks to change seats before the boarding door closes, work with the gate agent to accommodate the request. As always, please remain on the aircraft to avoid a minimum crew violation while assisting the customer.
— 🇺🇦 JonNYC 🇺🇦 (@xJonNYC) November 11, 2022
It strikes me that American specifically talking about Main Cabin Extra as a class and not merely as different coach seats, with different attributes, means they ought to be paying a higher UK Air Passenger Duty for customers in those seats on London transatlantic departures, since the charge is higher for anything other than economy. Yet Delta has been formally treating its similar Comfort+ product as a separate cabin for some time and doesn’t charge higher taxes than economy, so they seem to have figured this out.
I also wonder about flight attendants sending customers off the aircraft, back to the gate, to pay for Main Cabin Extra seats. Especially with single agent boarding this seems like a recipe for risking D0 exact on-time departures.
Regardless, don’t expect to stretch out into empty extra legroom seats on American Airlines anymore if you have a regular coach seat assignment, because the airline is asking cabin crew to serve as auxiliary revenue protection staff.