American Airlines has ordered its flight attendants to start policing passengers who try to upgrade from a seat in the main cabin to an extra legroom Main Cabin Extra seat.
In an internal memo, the airline acknowledged that it wasn’t unusual for passengers to try to move seats once boarding was complete and when there were spare seats available, the carrier hasn’t previously prevented passengers from switching to seats in Main Cabin Extra even if they hadn’t paid for the upgrade.
Passengers who have paid to sit in Main Cabin Extra not only get a few more inches of legroom but also get to enjoy early boarding and reserved overhead bins for their hand luggage. The cost to upgrade from the main cabin to Main Cabin Extra starts at just $20 per passenger.
But until now, passengers who hadn’t paid to sit in Main Cabin Extra could nab these seats for free if there was space available at the end of boarding. This was, of course, a pretty generous policy for the self-upgrader but left people who had paid for the upgrade feeling short-changed.
Now, however, flight attendants at the Dallas Fort Worth-based carrier are being instructed to stop passengers moving from the main cabin into Main Cabin Extra for free.
If the aircraft is still at the gate, flight attendants might be able to arrange for a paid upgrade, while inflight an upgrade might still be possible if a customer service issues arises or for a regulatory reason (such as a seat in the main cabin breaking).
In the same memo, first reported by Twitter user JonNYC (@xJonNYC), the airline also told flight attendants to stop requesting seat blocks unless the flight actually required inflight crew rest facilities as per the flight attendant contract.
In some cases, though, it appears that flight attendants have been asking gate agents to block off the last row of seats to act as an impromptu crew rest facility when there wasn’t any need. The airline said it wanted to “clear the air” on the subject before ordering crew members to stop requesting seat blocks.
As JonNYC noted, however, it remains to be seen whether flight attendants will care enough to stop self-upgraders, and the practice could go on unchallenged.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.