American Taking Away Free Premium Coach Seats From Full Fare Passengers

When United first introduced Economy Plus extra legroom seating, it was available complimentary to United elites — but also Star Alliance Gold members (partner mid- and top-tier elites) and to customers buying full fare tickets. If you spent a couple thousand dollars on a roundtrip cross country ticket you wouldn’t get nickel and dimed for the extra legroom seat.

Over time they tightened things up. It got to the point when they had one-cabin “Ted” aircraft flying Washington Dulles – Las Vegas that a non-elite customer could buy a 3-cabin first class ticket London – Las Vegas and for the domestic segment they’d be sitting in coach and asked to buy up to Economy Plus. Sick.

With the eventual (in some sense re-)introduction of American’s similar “Main Cabin Extra” extra legroom seat product they provided it complimentary to elites and full fare customers. And “AAnytime” extra mileage award tickets counted as full fare.

Main Cabin Extra Seats

Under the new regime, though, whether it bolts down onto the plane or not it’s for sale and nothing’s free. American has changed their policy, and effective August 30 full fare customers and AAnytime awards no longer receive complimentary Main Cabin Extra and they no longer receive complimentary preferred seats either. No free extra legroom, no free seats closer to the front of the plane. Buy up, sit in back, or take what’s left.

For travel ticketed in booking code Y on or after August 30, 2017, you’ll no longer get complimentary Main Cabin Extra or Preferred seats. This includes AAnytime awards booked in Main Cabin.

We’re not talking about taking away benefits from Basic Economy customers here. We’re talking about taking away benefits from full fare customers, precisely the kind of high yield passengers that the airline claims to want to reward.

How big a deal is this? Here’s a Boeing 737 seat map. X’s are blocked. If there’s a “P” on the seat, American will charge for the seat assignment.

If you’re likely to need to book an extra mileage AAnytime award and do not have AAdvantage elite status, you might as well do it before August 30th to get a better seat assignment.

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, 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. When the question is asked on Flyertalk, should I grab an Anytime seat now or wait for a Saver seat to open, my usual advice has been to wait, since unless fully sold out you can always get an Anytime seat later if no Saver comes available. That advice might have to change now, at least for non-elites, since late-booked Anytime tickets will have no decent seats available. 🙁

  2. Are you sure you can even buy up? One annoying idiocy is that saver awards cannot even buy preferred seats. So even things that make them money must be ruled out if they are logical, convenient and don’t inflict pain.

  3. An aisle seat in the 4th the last row of the plane being a premium seat is one of the most despicable things I’ve seen in pricing. For families travelling together, they’ve made this where it’s nearly impossible to sit together without significant upcharges.

  4. Pretty disgusting. If only there was competition so more flyers could shift their dollars towards better full service airlines in the US…

  5. I keep getting garbage in the mail from aa to get their CC. I keep throwing it in the trash, why would I want to build up miles with an airline that nickel dimes to me death and from most of what I have heard you can never use their miles and if you do use them you get the worst of the worst of seats.

    But you know this is a good thing because when finally do fall maybe it will be a lesson to the other airlines. Oooooooooooooops sorry I was dosing off, no it will not, it was not a wake call to the big auto companies it will not be for the airlines, what we need is for the big to be forced into splitting because they are too big fail.

  6. I think doing this is somewhat risky. For every 10 non-elite people who pay the extra $20 to get a seat, you risk the 1 guy who is put off by the extra nickle and dimeing and take their $1,000+ last minute ticket elsewhere. Seems like the risk isn’t worth the reward.

  7. It’s just a matter of time before everyone including elites will need to pay more for better seating.

  8. Are you reading this American? You are held in as much contempt as Trump supporters, who are both beneath contempt and shameless enough to not even realize they’re reviled by all decent people on the planet.

    Has anyone even heard a favorable comment about any of the Big Three for years? Meanwhile I’m so pampered by their superior competition Virgin Alaska who give full miles that they can’t wait to give me something almost every time I call to ask a question or give feedback, and I am returning the favor in spades giving them all of my commuter and vacation travel.

    Customer loyalty is purchased, not tortured to death. Don’t accept less than the rewards we were promised as loyal customers from the start, and they willl come back around or lose us to those who are smart enough not to devolve.

  9. i was thinking about applying for the AA Citi Executive card this week but going to pass now. don’t often want/need Admirals Club access, but the 75k points are nice…until you realize there is almost zero saver award space on the routes I fly. i don’t want AA miles when it takes upwards of 40k to fly a domestic r/t and (going forward) i get stuck in the back of the plane.

  10. When does it stop!! Why not just eliminate the loyalty program altogether, there is nothing left to be loyal to

  11. Good.

    Free MCE is a elite benefit – let’s keep it that way. I am all for the airline protecting elite benefits instead of simply cutting them

    And they fixed the problem that prevented them from selling MCE/preferred seats on award tickets a while ago; for whomever was asking about that upthread.

  12. I think this is great. People DESPISE the airlines. This is just one more reason why. Every time the major US carriers turn the screws like this, they make more and more people loathe them. That’s gonna catch up with them eventually. I look forward to watching everyone gleefully applaud the next time something awful happens to American Airlines. The karma will get them eventually.

    Nobody works harder to screw their customers than American Airlines. NOBODY.

  13. Why is everyone complaining? This actually increases fare transparency (i.e “you get what you pay for”), manages customer expectations better (i.e. “no chance of MCE means no let down if you don’t get it at seat selection”) and helps free up MCE seats for status holders (people who potentially generate more than average significant revenue).

    The folks who buy last minute full-fare Y tickets are buying purely on convenience – they’ll continue to purchase these tickets as long as the route and timing are most convenient.

  14. @David

    Agreed this is ridiculous and I saw this just the other day when trying to book a flight up the east coast. I brought my money to Delta instead for a <$20 premium and picked a much better seat for zero extra dollars. Lost $400 in revenue by trying to squeeze me and my companion for an extra $50.

  15. @ADP You are completely missing the point. Shouldn’t someone who coughs up 60K or up to 90K for an aanytime award get a decent seat? Shouldn’t someone who coughs up $1,000 -$1,500 for a short domestic fair get to pick the best available seat. Sure, you’ve got them, because they have to pay, but do you have to put a stick in their eye, by asking them to pay another fee. Frankly, it’s fundamentally stupid, if they are going to charge full fare, include the cost of the seat.

    And for all those crowing about how this will leave more seats for elite flyers, you are deluding yourself if you think that benefit isn’t next on the list to go.

  16. @johhny (August 21, 2017 at 3:20 pm) – like anyone else I also like to get the most amount of benefit for the least price. I realize most people see this as a “loss” because it’s a benefit that was taken away. I also realize that AA as a business will monetize whatever it can and it’s up to us as consumers to purchase it or not.

    I know I sound like an apologist and I keep repeating this on most comments I post, but those who generate actual spend on the airlines are still good to go, and in many cases even better off.

  17. 3 whining posts in one day. Someones on a roll. Anyone who is buying Y full fare tickets is probably an elite. No regular run of a mill joe traveler is buying full fare Y for his leisure flight. Also most people who buy full fare Y are business travelers and thus they can probably expense the MCE fee anyways.

  18. Idiots. Thank God I do not fly AA. If this spreads to UA then I will abandon US airlines for international travel, which is most of the 20k I spend on them each year. .

  19. Can you please bar White Supremicist “Trump says ” from making every post about the KKK’S Trump?

  20. Terrific move!!! American innovation at its finest! I only fly private, but I presume any move by any company with “American” in the name is very good. They should make billions and billions with this creative move!!

  21. All my money goes to Delta now. SkyPesos may be worthless, but I get a great seat every time I fly.

  22. This might fly for a 25k award, but many domestic awards are commonly racked up to 60k roundtrip. It would be just outrageous to charge this fee on an AAnytime level 3.

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