American Airlines Removes A Valuable Benefit For Oneworld Elites

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American Airlines has made some good customer-friendly moves of late and it has been great at telling everyone about them via social media, press releases, and email blasts. What the airline has been less good at doing is letting flyers know when it makes a negative change and at some point in the last few days, the airline has eliminated a key benefit it has been offering to select oneworld elites.

The Best Economy Class Seats Now Come At A Price

Generally speaking, American Airlines offers up to three types of seating within its Economy Class cabins (Main Cabin):

  • Standard (Blue)
  • Preferred (Green)
  • Main Cabin Extra (Orange)
a map of a seat
Example of an American Airlines 777 Economy Class Cabin Seating Chart

The best seats in the cabin are the “Main Cabin Extra” seats as these usually offer the most legroom in otherwise cramped conditions. “Preferred” seats may sound like they’re something special but they’re mostly just seats that are closer to the front of the cabin or, when they’re further back in the aircraft, they’re window and aisle seats. The image above does a good job of illustrating what the options look like.

Up until now, oneworld elite flyers with Sapphire or Emerald status (e.g. British Airways Gold & Silver, Cathay Pacific Diamond & Gold, Qantas Platinum One, Platinum & Gold, etc…) have been allowed to select these seats at the time of booking without charge. Not any longer.

Here’s what the American Airlines website now shows when you check to see who gets complimentary Main Cabin Extra seating:

a screenshot of a white card

There’s no mention of oneworld elites.

The cost to reserve a Main Cabin Extra seat varies according to the length of the journey that’s being taken so to give you an idea of what difference this can make to a price of a flight, here are four examples showing how much a Main Cabin Extra seat costs (one-way):

a screenshot of a website a screenshot of a website a screenshot of a flight a screenshot of a flight ticket

Essentially, the cost of a Main Cabin Extra seat will vary between approximately $32 and $112 for one-way travel.

Quick Thoughts

While this is going to be good news for American Airlines elites (less competition for the better seats) this is clearly bad news for oneworld elites as a Main Cabin Extra Seat on a long-haul flight is often the difference between a tolerable experience and one that you would only inflict on someone you don’t really like.

I cannot imagine ever booking a long-haul Economy Class fare where I didn’t have access to an exit row that I can stretch out into so were it not for my AAdvantage Lifetime Platinum status (which has just become significantly more important to me), the cost of some of my long-haul economy class fares would have just increased considerably.

For flights across the Atlantic, oneworld Sapphire and Emerald elites will still be able to select exit row seats on British Airways without being charged a fee (competition for those seats will now probably increase) but any flyer who doesn’t have American Airlines Platinum status or above will now have to pay extra if they want the more comfortable seats when flying on American Airlines aircraft.

Bottom Line

American Airlines doesn’t appear to have put out an announcement about this (let alone given us any notice) but as of right now, oneworld Sapphire and Emerald elites no longer get complimentary access to Main Cabin Extra seats on American Airlines. If you don’t have mid-tier AAdvantage status or higher you now have to pay extra for the better seats.

[HT: Executive Traveler]


  1. As an AA LT PLat/current EXP, I think this is great news (although I never intend to sit in economy, it is good just in case of an emergency).

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