American Airlines Introducing Roomier, Pricier Class Of Coach Seats

More than a decade after offering — and subsequently scrapping — a better, more comfy class of economy seating, American Airlines announced today that it will begin rolling out something with the unfortunate name of Main Cabin Extra, which translates into extra legroom for extra money.

American says the new class of seats, which will require the removal of a yet-to-be-announced number of existing coach rows, will offer anywhere from 4-6″ of legroom for passengers, who will pay anywhere from $8 to $108 for each leg of a flight. The cost will vary depending on the duration of the flight.

Main Cabin Extra passengers will also receive priority boarding privileges.

Members of the airline’s Executive Platinum, Platinum and people who book a full-fare economy ticket will have complimentary access to these seats.

The seats will be available on all the new Boeing 737-800 jets being delivered this year and the airline hopes to have Main Cabin Extra available on most of its other planes within the next year and a half.

A better class of coach seat is nothing new. United has been offering Economy Plus since 1999 and began putting those seats in Continental jets last year. Meanwhile, Delta recently began expanding its similar Economy Comfort seats.

American had tried this approach in 2000 with its “More Room in Coach” program, which it scrapped a few years later in an attempt to squeeze more passengers onto its planes.

But now the business of air travel seems to be less about cramming passengers into a tin can and more about selling as many add-ons as possible, so out go those economy seats and in go the Main Cabin Extra rows.

AMERICAN AIRLINES CONTINUES FLEET MODERNIZATION WITH PLANS FOR MAIN CABIN EXTRA [aa.com via wsj.com]

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  1. The Lone Gunman says:

    With the sheer number of Platinum and above members out there, good luck getting those seats unless paying full fare for the privilege.

  2. Phil Villakeepinitrreal says:

    This ad is incredibly misleading. Standard coach seating would actually have the knees of the guy in the back row pressed up against the back of the Extra row.

    • sibelius says:

      I was thinking the same thing. If you look at the graphic, all three people shows should be able to extend their legs out the same as the person in the middle. Very misleading. When I travel I have to make sure to get an isle or window seat so I can uncomfortably lean away from the center seat so it’s not too uncomfortable for that person. Using a laptop on a flight is near impossible, unless I’m in first class or an emergency exit row. The last few flights I’ve been on I’ve taken photos down the walkway — and the one thing you’ll notice is that you’ll never be able to see any “seats” in those photos, as everyone is ‘spilling out’ of the isle seats. Not my favorite form of transportation, but still beats a 12 hour car ride.

    • Stickdude says:

      The people in the graphic are 4 feet tall.

      Of course they fit comfortably in a standard airline seat.

  3. Cat says:

    Graphic is wrong.

    “Standard Main Cabin” passenger should have his knees embedded in the back of the seat in front of him, with little hurty “lightning bolt” graphic thingies on the kneecaps.

  4. eturowski says:

    Note that despite the extra pitch in the fancy seats, there is still adequate opportunity for the person in front to rocket-recline and smash the person in back’s laptop screen. AA should have extended the reach on the tray tables.

  5. lifesmyplaypen says:

    Can we get a comparison chart of airline seats 10 or 20+ years ago to seats now? I understand that prices have remained “low” in comparison to the other rising costs of transportation so sacrifices must be made, but how much leg room have we lost in recent years?

    • frenchman says:

      You raise a good question, this is something I would like to see.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      That is a good question. I suspect that there was a significant difference in leg room 20 or 30 years ago.

      But when it comes down to it, as much nostalgia that most of us have for the flying experience of the 70′s and 80′s, I doubt anyone would want to pay those kind of fares. The good food, liberal leg room, refundable tickets, etc. came at a pretty steep price.

  6. humphrmi says:

    “who will pay anywhere from $8 to $108 for each leg”

    I have two legs.

    • belsonc says:

      You’ll have to foot the extra money for this if you want it…

    • SharkD says:

      “Sir, you only paid for one leg. Do you want to fly, today? If so, either pay for both, or discard one in the trash bin.”

  7. TheSpatulaOfLove says:

    The last time American did this, it drove me to use their airline (albeit, there was no charge for it). Then they took it away. Now they’re back again looking for a little extra cash for the ‘privilege’ of being able to ergonomically sit.

    Guess what? I do everything I can to avoid flying because of crap like this. I’m just waiting for them to allow livestock to run up and down the aisles like the rest of the 3rd world travels…

  8. Dallas_shopper says:

    One major bonus of my crippling fear of flying is not having to deal with the indignities of modern airplane travel.

  9. pythonspam says:

    I notice that they always make announcements about adding legroom but never about taking it away.
    This leads me to believe in recent history, the seats were actually flush with the seats in front of them with cutouts in the foam in which your legs would be locked. Thank goodness they have only increased the distance between the rows.

  10. padarjohn says:

    I assume they get the extra space for those seats by squeezing the regular seats even closer together…..

  11. brandonsavage says:

    They’re going to remove seats? I call bullshit. They’re going to just cram everyone closer together who doesn’t pay the “I’m not a sardine” bribe.

  12. gman863 says:

    Why is it no airline will openly address the issue of charging extremely fat people their fair share for two seats?

    “Main Cabin Extra” puts a premium price on comfort for tall people; yet everyone screams the moment Southwest (or any other airline) tells Jabba the Hutt he/she has to pay extra since their ass won’t fit in a single seat.

    Fees for “extra baggage” should apply to junk in the trunk as well as junk in the suitcase.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      When I was in the Army, we were typically alloted a certain total weight for ourselves and our belonging and if you went over, you were told “tough shit” and either had to toss stuff or get your skinny buddy to carry it for you. While it sucked for those who were machine gunners or RTOs, it kept us from carrying too many excess personal belongings with us.

      Maybe the airlines need to instate a similar policy.

    • TsuKata says:

      There’s a difference between giving people an option to buy a larger seat and forcing people to buy a larger seat.

      The part that makes us fat folk upset is when airlines say:
      a) we have a rule
      b) but even if you meet the specs of our rule, even if you’ve flown with us many times before without issue, we may still arbitrarily pull you out of line and force you to buy an extra seat
      c) and we’ll do this to you for being fat even though we won’t do it to that guy over there with wide shoulders, or the person over there who is so tall that he’ll surely be shoving his knees into your lumbar for the whole trip
      d) Oh and btw, that extra seat will cost you at least twice what you paid for your first seat, vs. what we charge for extra leg room which is 1/10 to 1/5 the cost of a seat. That’s true if you want to buy it in advance or if we force you to buy it.

      So yeah…it’s a bit of a different situation.

      • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

        And then there is the possibility that you won’t even be able to sit next to that extra seat you had to buy. Yes, it has happened. You are required to buy two seats b/c of your girth, but they are not together and one sits empty.

        Now, if someone is large enough to legitimately take up two seats, then they should have to pay for two if their body fat encroaches on a stranger’s seat. They paid for their seat too. They didn’t pay to share it with the neighbor. But, if an extra large person were sitting in a row with their wife and child, who don’t mind the spillage, then forget it. They shouldn’t make them buy two. This is coming from someone who was once morbidly obese and is still overweight.

      • unchainedmuse says:

        There was a time when I was 350 lbs. My husband and I had booked a trip. At the last minute, he couldn’t make it. Rather than allowing me (and the person next to me) a little more comfort, they resold the seat that we had already paid for. I wasn’t happy, but was too shy to say anything.

      • gman863 says:

        TWICE I’ve been stuck next to a Fat Bastrad look-a-like who actually DID take up two seats. Naturally, due to their oversize load, they always take the aisle and middle seat. Although I usually enjoy a window seat, since it takes about five minutes for Porky to stand up, any trip to the lavatory on my part is impossible during the flight. There’s also a legitimate safety issue: If the plane had to be evacuated quickly, I’d literally have to jump over my seat into the next row for any chance of escape. I don’t want to end up on 1,000 Ways To Die as Way To Die #737: “Fat Chance”.

    • Jillia says:

      I hate that. I’m 5’8″ and my boyfriend is 6’4″. We can’t help it that we’re tall, but (in most cases, not all) you can help it if you’re fat.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        If someone takes up more room, they take more room. It doesn’t really matter why.

  13. mantari says:

    4-6″ inches really isn’t very satisfying.

  14. dicobalt says:

    I’ll sit in a beanbag on the floor for all I care.

  15. Stickdude says:

    These seats should be free to anyone 6′ 5″ or taller.

    Like me.

  16. TsuKata says:

    If they’d just take at least some portion of the cabin and have wider seats that you could buy for a minimum upcharge (vs. 1st class with comes with all sorts of extra perks that run up the bill), I’d be thrilled. If they’d take six rows of one side of a cabin and make the seats wider, that’d be the same effect as the extra leg room section, in that they lose six seats of sale (that they more than make up for with the upcharge for the premium seating). If they did this while making the seats wider but not changing legroom, it’s actually less of an impact to the bottom line than extra legroom seating is.

    Short people want more comfort, too. Extra legroom does almost nothing for me, except make it harder for me to reach the seat pocket to pull out my Kindle once electronics are allowed. Width, though, would be nice.

    (FWIW, I have seen United occasionally offering a bump up to first class at a reasonable amount of ~$80, and that included the other first class perks. If the difference between first and main was always that low, with or without the other perks, I think first class type seating would really take off, no pun intended.)

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      For a 737, it’s six across in coach, with each 17 inches wide (and the rest the aisle), so 102 . To go to five across, each seat could be a bit more than 20″ wide. To get the same amount of revenue, each seat would have to sell for a 20% premium to a regular coach seat. I doubt you could get that kind of upsell potential. In addition, there might (probably would, actually) be issues with having the aisle all of a sudden zig to the left or right, when you hit that section.

      • Jevia says:

        Obviously, it depends on the plane what is feasible. Its certainly true that in many airplanes, its easier to widen the distance between the seats without disrupting other seat configuration, than it is to remove a seat or two from row and adjust the aisle. But that isn’t necessarily the case all the time.

        For example, take one of the big international planes that have seat configurations of 3-5-3. You take 4 rows of that. Take out one seat for a 2-4-2 over 4 rows, you lose 12 seats and spread that cost among the remaining 32 seats. Compare that to losing an entire row to lengthen the distance of those 3 rows, a loss of 11 seats and spread the cost to the remaining 33 seats.

        Yes, wider seats may cost a little bit more, but not much more that lengthening the distance. In neither case, does the aisle configuration have to be changed. The two sets of “window” area seats may get to be a little wider, so charge those slightly more than the middle 4, which still get to add an extra 3-4 inches. Or make those wider seats near the front/back of the section so there’s a little more aisle room near the bathroom and/or flight attendant area.

        Wider seats also have the advantage of providing comfort to those passengers who would otherwise have to sit next to someone who overspills their seat, but isn’t forced to buy a second seat.

        It would be nice if airlines addressed both ways of being larger.

        • NeverLetMeDown says:

          Typical seat pitch is 31-32″. To increase that to 34″ (typical of United economy plus), you need to remove slightly less than 10% of the seats. So, you go from 10 rows of 11 (110 seats) to 9 rows of 11 (99 seats). To be revenue neutral, you need to raise fares 11% for those seats. To make the configuration change you’re talking about (3-5-3 to 2-4-2), you’d be going from 11 to 8 seats across, so you’d need raise fares by 11/8-1, or 38%, to make it balance out.

          • Jevia says:

            Yet American is saying that they are adding 4-6″ in leg room, more than the 2-3″ in United’s. So that would necessitate removing even more rows.

  17. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    I’d totally pay for this. I have restless leg syndrome, and when the person in front of me decides to get comfy by leaning the seat back, it results in them thinking I am being passive aggressive and getting annoyed by my constant leg movement. It’s also extraordinarily uncomfortable for me to be in that situation having to move my legs, cross, and recross constantly b/c it is a tight fit with the seat back. This might really help with that.

  18. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    Maybe a solution would be to offer bare bones service, akin to flying in the military.

    Instead of having front facing, bucket seats…

    Have long benches along the fuselage of the plane, facing towards the inside, and in the inside have two back-to-back benches facing outward. And instead of checking luggage and having overhead compartments, you stow everything under your seat or along the interior walkways.

    It’s already a given that flying sucks, so why not just make it as cheap as humanly possible?

    • Kuri says:

      That actually sounds like fun.

    • rmorin says:

      I’m with you. I go into a flight knowing it is not going to be a great experience, and would much rather pay for bare bones experience.

      Aside from transcontinental flights (or MAYBE coast to coast), I’m fine sitting on a bench or whatever the bare-bones would be if the price reflected it. Heck, I’ve sat two hours on a DMV bench waiting for my registration, why not do that on my flight if it is cheaper?

  19. nbs2 says:

    AA didn’t dump MRIC to squeeze in more folks. They did it because it wasn’t attracting customers – their prices were a little higher, and people were price shopping. So, really, this is a compromise – higher fares for people who want more space, lower fares for people who want cheaper tix.

  20. Ask about my easy lay away plan says:

    As a 5’4″ 310lbs woman, I would like to see WIDER seats rather than more legroom.

    When flying for pleasure, I always book two seats. That is because I take up more than the allotted 17inches. If I can’t get two seats, I will fly American and pay for a preferred aisle seat where the aisle arm rest can be raised. That way I spill over on the aisle and not the poor guy sitting next to me.

    However, I was just promoted at work (yay!), but now I occasionally have to travel. My corporate overlords WON’T let me buy a second seat. (Boo! Hiss!) I’ve been told by my managers that if the airline refuses to let me fly, we can cross that bridge when we come to it…

    So, my appologies if you are flying from Tampa to Chicago on Monday, because not only will they not pay for a second seat, they won’t pay for an upgrade to a “preferred” seat. So all the available seats left were middle seats. I get to board a plane Monday knowing I will be squashing the people unfortunate enough to have booked seats in the same row as me.

    So for all you fatty haters out there, go ahead and pile on with the comments about how disgusting and awful I am.

    If I could lose 150lbs in a weekend I would.
    Since I can’t, I will squash myself into that middle seat with as much dignity as I can manage and I will pray the time passes quickly.

    • pamelad says:

      Thanks for your candid response. Like many, I hate it when a “fatty” sits next to me on a plane. I really appreciate your comments. I wish the airlines and your company would be as compassionate as you.