Upgrades to American's domestic premium economy (Main Cabin Extra) foreshadow a better experience for elite travelers — but also the potential beginnings of an entirely new class of service.
The memo, which was leaked by the blog The Forward Cabin and picked up widely, reports domestic passengers in American’s Main Cabin Extra cabin will soon be given a free premium (i.e. alcoholic) beverage of choice as well as dedicated overhead bin space.
Most passengers currently traveling in American’s economy or premium economy sections are required to pay for alcohol.
American’s move is the latest among the U.S. carriers to better fortify and segment domestic premium economy cabins from the rest of the aircraft. In flights with Delta’s Comfort+ cabins, for example, travelers also get amenity kits, blankets and headphones.
In adding the new perks, airlines hope to better entice travelers to book the premium cabins and — more importantly — pay for the privilege to do so. It won’t be cheap, either. A typical round-trip flight on Delta from San Francisco to JFK could cost around $280 in economy, but Comfort+ costs nearly twice that at $478.
American’s Main Cabin Extra isn’t like Delta’s Comfort+ (yet). Main Cabin Extra seats are booked during seat selection and for elite members of the AAdvantage program, selection is free. But as Gary Leff at View From the Wing points out, as American’s premium economy becomes more segmented, it may soon end up being its own costlier class of service like Comfort+.
Despite the looming out-of-pocket costs, passengers also seem to be willing to absorb them — largely in an effort to escape the tightening confines of economy cabins. And airlines are responding. Last week, United rolled out plans to launch international premium economy cabins in short order behind American and Delta. As demand for the cabins grows, more routes will surely show up with premium economy seating.
As for American, the memo didn’t reveal a timeline for its Main Cabin Extra updates, but it did indicate that they would be in place by the end of the year.
— Grant Martin
Skift Stories and More Expert Insight
Travel Loyalty Programs May Become Smaller With More Perks in 2018: There’s a smaller and perhaps more rewarding world facing frequent flyers in 2018. To reap the rewards, though, those elite travelers will have to pay up.
American Airlines CEO Insists Growth Plans Won’t Start a Fare War: American Airlines will engage in “smart, efficient growth,” mostly in markets where it maintains a competitive advantage, CEO Doug Parker said Thursday, responding to investors who fear U.S. airlines will add too much capacity to an already mature market.
Ace Hotels’ New Sister City Brand, Explained: Ace Hotels‘ newest property, the 200-room Sister City hotel in New York City, which is set to open this fall, will have a very different look and feel from its nine existing urban hotels.
JetBlue Has Started Shrinking Legroom and Upgrading Interiors on Its Older Aircraft: JetBlue Airways is finally modernizing interiors on its older Airbus airplanes, adding new seats with adjustable headrests, in-seat power, better televisions and LED lighting — a welcome change, considering many of its aircraft have barely been updated in a decade or more. But it’s not all good news.
Why Expedia or Priceline Might Just Be the Next Great Hotel Brand: What if Expedia, Priceline, and TripAdvisor had their own hotels? What if there were less need for hotel owners to rely on hotel management companies like Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, Wyndham, Choice, or IHG?
Business Class Fares to Europe Will Get Even More Expensive in 2018: If you are a business traveler flying business class to or from North America in 2018, you should expect to pay higher airfares.
United May Finally Be Frank About Why Flights Are Delayed: Travelers often think their airlines lie to them about flight delays. While that could be true sometimes, it’s almost certainly not the norm.
China’s Three Largest Airlines Will Benefit From a New Ability to Raise Fares: China’s top three airlines saw their Hong Kong-listed shares surge last year, but there is still potential for more gains.
The Real Reasons Behind the Struggle at Plenti: Based on the accumulated body of news and announcements about the Plenti loyalty program, there is shared opinion in the loyalty marketing industry that the program is destined to close sometime during 2018.
Alaska Airlines Considers Introducing Basic Economy: Alaska Airlines, after finally completing its takeover of Virgin America, may now follow in the footsteps of the big three legacy U.S. carriers.
You Can Move to a Main Cabin Extra Seat on American Airlines for Free After Takeoff: American announced new benefits to its Main Cabin Extra seating, including free alcohol and dedicated overhead bin space. Here’s what you didn’t know, and what wasn’t openly announced, however.
Have a confidential tip for Skift? Get in touch
Photo credit: Pictured is Main Cabin Extra seating on an American 777. American announced new benefits to its Main Cabin Extra seating. American Airlines