American Is Introducing Free Alcohol In Main Cabin Extra

Main Cabin Extra is American’s extra legroom economy section. Passengers can pay to upgrade to these seats, and elite members are able to select these seats either at the time of booking or at some window prior to the flight, depending on their status.

In many ways American is lagging behind Delta when it comes to their extra legroom economy seating (which they call Comfort+). That’s because Delta offers free alcohol and snacks in Comfort+, while American doesn’t. Instead, American only offers Executive Platinum members in economy a free alcoholic drink and snack.

The Forward Cabin notes that American will be introducing new features in Main Cabin Extra, per an internal memo sent to employees. Here’s how the memo reads:

Coming this Spring, we’ll be introducing enhancements to Main Cabin Extra (MCE) on widebody, narrowbody and regional fleets. In addition to extra legroom, MCE includes:

  • Complimentary beer, wine and spirits — In addition to normal Main Cabin snacks and soft drinks, customers in MCE seats will enjoy complimentary beer, wine and spirits.
  • Easier overhead bin access with preferred boarding — Beginning February 1, 2018, new onboard placards will be installed to identify MCE seats and reserved overhead bin space. Flight attendants are not responsible for monitoring MCE overhead bins.

On the surface these are welcome changes. It’s interesting that American is introducing free alcoholic drinks in Main Cabin Extra, but isn’t matching Delta by introducing enhanced snacks in the cabin. I’d note that we also don’t know when exactly free alcohol will be introduced, other than “this spring.”

My concern is that American stops offering Executive Platinum members a complimentary snack item. Now that American is offering everyone in Main Cabin Extra complimentary alcohol, I could see them no longer offering Executive Platinum members complimentary snacks no matter where in economy they’re seated. That would be a shame.

Personally I wouldn’t place too much value on the enhanced overhead bin access and preferred boarding. The flight attendants won’t be policing overhead bins, and American has so many boarding groups nowadays that preferred boarding goes all the way up to Group 5.

Still, overall I’d consider this to be a mildly positive change, assuming they don’t take anything away for now. Of course American’s goal here is to actually sell more Main Cabin Extra seats, so maybe it’s not all good news for elite members. If more seats are sold to non-elite members, then that leaves fewer free Main Cabin Extra seats for elite members.

Comments

  1. Not sure how I feel about this policy. It is obviously trending towards making MCE/E+ a separate cabin a la Delta. The problem with that is one I am sure many frequent fliers are familiar with, what do you do about middle seats. Would you rather have a middle with more leg room or an aisle or window in regular Y? It’s not an easy answer and to me personally depends on lots of factors like the propensity to get an empty middle further back and the length of the flight.

    To add to that, how does this impact the way seats are assigned at the gate. Does a basic Y customer who is waiting until boarding to get their seat assignment get an MCE middle (and the perks of that) or is there now going to be an active upgrade to MCE list to prioritize other folks (but then you fall in to the conundrum listed above). Will the free alcohol be redeemed via a voucher similar to WN full fares and only given out if you buy an actual MCE seat?

    Anyways, I just don’t see this being a huge net positive for all parties involved.

  2. I raised hell at AA a couple times because I paid for Main Cabin seats, boarded late because I hate boarding early on coach. Who wants to worsen the leg cramps that you know you will experience. Basic economy passengers were using overhead bins which is prohibited. Told them to stop charging for something they cannot enforce which is the overhead bin space. I’m guessing I’m not alone. I’m Ready to go to Capitol Hill on this one

  3. “Flight attendants are not responsible for monitoring MCE overhead bins.”

    So what’s the meaning of reserving them?

    AA is being so ridiculous recently …

  4. As much as I like this improvement, I am still waiting for what South African offers in 320’s (or is it 737’s) – a five across premium economy/business class.

    I do not need the fuss of first class, but a little comfort would be nice

  5. I have been Platinum with American the past couple of years. It is nice that I was able to get Main Cabin Extra at time of booking. With this change, I would not be surprised if that goes away and it becomes an “upgrade” like Economy Comfort is on Delta.

  6. I’d like to see a free checked bag with these E+ seats. It’s a kick in the ass to pay $70+ for the privilege and then hafta fork over another $25 for a bag.

  7. AA Platinum here. I imagine these seats will either remain free or they’ll change the benefit for platinum members (not sure how Delta) does Comfort+ with people with frequent flier status), but free drinks are awesome when I travel with friends/family. I personally do not drink, but it’d be fun to impress friends/family who travel with me with these seats!

  8. No reason to take away the free snack. You seat position shows green for EXP and CK in the hand held device the FA’s use.

    Concern is drinkers may pay for it now with free drinks. Plus AA is eliminating most MCE seats so doesn’t make sense. I guess they are just do this to compete with DL B6 etc.

  9. Giving free drinks to AA ExPlat folks in Economy is a tad divisive, sending a snotty message to others in that cabin that somehow they’re not good enough. Better to reward those who paid more.

  10. The fact that people complain about an airline doing something positive is an absolute joke. I love MCE seats and as AA platinum I love getting free exit rows and bulkheads. Especially the double exit rows on the A321s with unlimited legroom. Now I get a free drink too! Love it.

  11. On a flight now, I asked the FA’s about the free MCE drink. They are aware of it, not sure when.

    Current code is:

    CK Half Green / Half Purple
    EXP Green
    NonRev Yellow
    Othes Blue

    So what will be the code color for MCE?

    Free drink and snack is benefit to CK and EXP who spend the most overall.

    What happens to a Plat Pro that buys a last minute expensive ticket but can’t get MCE?

    What they should do if give one free drink to Plat and Plat Pro even it they don’t make it to MCE.

    Only give drink to regular or Gold if they are in MCE. Gold get MCE 24 hours before., if they make it – yes, otherwise no

  12. Thought – make MCE half green and half blue. You get that code only if you are in MCE and either paid for it or got it by status.

    Last minute person that gets MCE by oversold non-MCE – doesn’t get the color code and doesn’t get the free drink.

  13. Three flights on AA before Christmas in coach. Free drinks on all flights- on one of them a lot of spirits. How? I’m australian and when I hand over my cc to pay I attach a cute furry Koala to it- which provokes a conversation. cc comes back uncharged, koala goes to the FA. These 50 cent critters have got me car, room and even F upgrades in the past. Its not bribery- its actually recognising someone for the work they do and having a chat with them- makes their day when someone treats them as a human being and not a robot. In truth I probably don’t even need the koalas- just a willingness to be nice to someone working hard.

  14. My experience is that Delta Comfort+ doesn’t really give “free drinks.” You get one free drink for the entire flight, and then, if they even come around a second time, rather than asking if you want more to drink, the FAs will specifically ask, “Water or juice?” and if you ask for more wine they act like you’ve asked for a hot stone massage and make a big show of being flustered before announcing, without looking, that they’re “all out.” Blah.

  15. @rose – after dozens of Delta Comfort+ flights last year, that just isn’t true overall. Maybe you take very short flights on small aircraft with a small galley stock?

    I agree the frequency of drink refill opportunities (carts passing by) is no greater than in main cabin, but you can always ask for more when they do come around, and the trick is to order a double the first time. Two wines even. It’s all free.

  16. @Randy, you don’t need a code color for MCE — the flight attendants will just know who is sitting in MCE because they will be sitting in MCE…

    I generally think this is positive, although as a Gold, I do worry that this will drastically lower my chances of free MCE at check-in due to more people actually paying for it. I’ve been able to get MCE at check-in over 75% of the time (generally upgraded to first about 25-30%, depending on route). Personally, the one thing I really, really wish AA would do is revisit their plan to not install personal screens.

  17. Wow, only 7 years after Delta introduced a similar concept! And for those of you who “don’t drink,” ok, fine, congratulations? Just because something doesn’t benefit you personally doesn’t mean it doesn’t absolutely provide a benefit to others. But, what else would you have to complain about then?

  18. “I have been Platinum with American the past couple of years. It is nice that I was able to get Main Cabin Extra at time of booking. With this change, I would not be surprised if that goes away and it becomes an “upgrade” like Economy Comfort is on Delta.”

    Yep! I decided to cash in 60,000 miles today and likely 40,000 miles next week before my Platinum status expires on 1/31. This past year has been an endless roller-coaster ride with AA. I’m over it. All future miles will go to OneWorld partner redemptions.

  19. Finally!! United offers free alcohol in economy on long haul flights, about time AA caught up. not familiar with Delta though, never flown with them.

  20. Richard

    When you fly in a premium cabin, probably at least $100 of your fare is paying for the free drinks in the lounge and on the plane

    So, from someone who drinks, thank you for subsidizing me

  21. This report omits the most important thing (Free booze? Meh, Placards suggesting do not use this overhead bin unless you’re Main Cabin Extra…. like that’s going to work)

    But “Because American says that when passengers from ‘REALLY coach’ spot empty seats in Main Cabin Extra and rush to grab them, they won’t be stopped.

    Instead, they’ll be allowed to settle into the roomier seats, and enjoy the free booze and the baggage space, even though they didn’t pay for any of it.

    This isn’t really a matter of turning a blind eye, either. In fact, American’s specifically says passengers are allowed to improve their station in life by moving up to Main Cabin Extra (aka, “MCE”)–at least according to a copy of the guidance it issued to its flight crews, which was obtained by View From the Wing” (http://a.msn.com/00/en-us/BBIjMle?ocid=st)

    So I am going to spend about $225 to upgrade 4 legs of a round trip only to now have other passengers fighting for the empty seat next to me and they didn’t pay a dime? This is not going to end well but what is ending is my patronage of AA. Luckily I have enough miles to grab a free flight (no MCE option for me but I will perhaps lower myself to fight like Hunger Games contestants and may even just sit up front before the door closes – checking seat availability from my phone just as boarding starts – this is going to be brilliant American – WAY TO GO!).

    Why not continue to offer the upgrade at a deep discount during check in – supply and demand, you know, capitalism 101?

    Even if they only get $20 on the day of the flight instead of the $65 I paid two months earlier at least they are getting something and not causing chaos and fights in the cabin that will lead to hostility for the entire flight.

    This will result in newsworthy, cell phone recorded in flight fights just like those now banned anti recline devices passengers were bringing on a few years ago to restrict the passenger in front of them from being able to recline.

    Let the fights begin!

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