Bottom-tier Elite Members Will Lose Complimentary American Airlines Extra Legroom Seating March 17

American was an early pioneer of extra legroom coach seating with their ‘More Room Throughout Coach’ product. This blog took its original name from that product, with an overly lofty goal of helping people achieve more space and freedom in their travels and lives. I changed the name to View from the Wing in early 2003 and American started adding seats back into their coach cabins in 2004.

It was a product before its time, but since then extra legroom coach seats have become standard. Far from eliminating United’s “economy plus” seating with its Continental merger, Continental executives learned that they could make money upselling it. And Delta has added extra legroom seating as well.

So American launched its own Main Cabin Extra product two years ago.

United removed the ability for their ‘Premier Silver’ 25,000 mile flyers to reserve extra legroom coach seats at booking. (It may have been these flyers that United had in mind when calling their members over-entitled). Now Silver members get to reserve these seats only at check-in, while higher level elites get to reserve them at booking.

American took a similar approach, announcing that their Gold 25,000 mile flyers could have the benefit at time of booking through the end of 2013 only. Then they extended this benefit through March 1, 2014.

Here are updated details of the new policy.

Flagged by another page that I track, it appears they’ve gotten around to updated things effective March 17.

American Gold, US Airways Silver, Alaska MVP, and oneworld Ruby — in all cases first-level elite members of their respective frequent flyer programs — will be able to reserve the extra legroom seats:

  • In advance at a 50% discount
  • Complimentary within 24 hours of departure

It’s nice that extra legroom economy seats are offered to oneworld partner elites and Alaska Airlines elites at all — something United doesn’t do.

And I admit I do not mind one bit flying coach on American when it’s just from one of the Coasts to Dallas, with extra legroom and internet, and as an Executive Platinum 100,000 mile flyer where they give me a complimentary cocktail and snack.

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. I’ve wondered for years why UA didn’t soften the blow of eliminating coach food by providing it free of charge to top elite members — the way AA does. Like you, if I got free food, drink, legroom and internet (yeah, that one’s probably wishful thinking), I would almost NEVER mind missing a domestic upgrade.

  2. I like that AA is still including Alaska MVP in their elite benefits. Being MVP Gold, it’s nice to pick some really nice seats 🙂

  3. I booked an upcoming award ticket (MAD-JFK) in Main Cabin Extra (as an AA Gold) but our flight is not until May. The way I read the above passage suggests that we can keep the MCE seats we already have assigned to us, we just can’t make any changes without losing them. Is that correct?

  4. A much larger proportion of United’s top elites fly coach, a typical 1k these days flying busy routes will be lucky to achieve a 50% upgrade rate. So the cost would be much greater to United and would offset the benefit they derive from selling the upgrades cheaply to those with no elite status. The 1K’s are the over-entitled ones really, but their have been changes which are actively reducing their numbers. As of late

  5. My bet is that lifetime platinums get dropped a notch when the new AAdvantage is launched, which will mean (per the new policy mentioned in this post) no more free MCE seats and no more free exit rows. I’d love to be talked out of this hunch. Gary?

  6. @Ron – I’d be surprised, because their competitors offer the benefit at a similar level. The industry is pretty monkey see monkey do. Doug Parker and Scott Kirby can squeeze revenue out like the best of them, but it’ll be a tough sell for American to charge for something that their competitors provide elites for free.

    And while there are lots of lifetime Platinums, lifetime Plats won’t get fewer benefits than annual Plats.

    Of course that’s just my guess and you could be right… but it would really surprise me. (Even though US Airways charges all elites for some coach seats they might select currently!)

  7. As an over-entitled UA silver I can say this: this is a royal PITA but I have literally flown in an exit row seat every flight for the two years they have had the policy. I keep trying to get back to 50k but have been at 40 for the past 3 years with way too much SAN/SFO/DEN travel and not enough transcon.

    Basically, it’s SWA flashback because I have to set an alarm to check in at exactly the 24 hour mark. And I don’t always get the exit row aisle I’d like. But I always get a decent seat (better seats in the non-reclining exit row).

    Anyway, I remain worried that some day people will buy all the seats out, but they are always there for the taking. If you’re diligent.

  8. ” as an Executive Platinum 100,000 mile flyer where they give me a complimentary cocktail and snack.”
    Never been offered that. Is this the case for American Eagle too?

  9. @ABC, I’m not Exec Plat (only lowly US Silver) but I’ve flown with Exec Plats that get this offered to them. Usually the FA will try to keep in on the down low and say something like “Mr/Mrs. so and so can I offer you a complimentary cocktail or snack”. So if they address you by name they know your status is my guess.

    Gary nice write up but I’m disappointed as I’m US Silver and just recently started throwing business at AA. Oh well I guess it will give me a chance to work on a high status level 🙂

  10. Does anyone know will this also affect Gold Advantage members that reached Gold because of reaching 1,000,000 miles?

  11. The day MCE was announced it was said that AA Gold would get it free for an introductory period. Not a shock. Also the end date was announced months ago it just wasn’t implemented on schedule.

  12. I think it is very unfortunate that AA treats those who flew 30 segments last year the same as those of us who are lifetime Gold. As a frequent and loyal AA traveler I am close to lifetime Platinum. Because of a job change last year I did not requalify for Executive Platinum or Platinum. This year I have already flown 44 segments with ten more segments currently booked. If you feel like those with lifetime status deserve to be treated better, please submit a respectful post to indicate to AA that lifetimers would like to receive the same loyalty to which we have shown AA.

  13. Agree with you Angie. I have 1.4 million miles (lifetime gold) on American and now I’m asked to pay for exit row seats because I don’t travel as much with my new job. Nothing like slapping a 15 year loyal customer in the face AA. Thanks a lot….

  14. @Brad – you didn’t have main cabin extra legroom seats though until 2 years ago at all, and it was initially announced as limited-time only for Golds, they gave you more than promised…!

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