American Reserving Fewer Seats for Elites on Some Aircraft

JonNYC reports at TravelingBetter that American has opened up more economy seats for non-elite to assign for a fee on their MD80 and Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.

These are seats that previously could only be booked by elites and full fare customers (for free).

To determine the demand of Q block seats, American Airlines is conducting a test and has adjusted the Q block levels on LAA S80 and 777-300 equipment types in all markets, effective July 29, 2014. These changes allow our non-elite customers the opportunity to purchase Main Cabin Extra seats that in the past have been blocked for elite customers.

“Q block” refers to what an agent sees on the seatmap. If a seat shows up as ‘Q’ that means it is available for assignment to elites and full fare customers. An assigned seat in this category shows up on the map as a ‘V’.

  • This applies to two aircraft types only
  • It is described as a ‘test’ so it might roll out to other aircraft types
  • Elites can still book these seats for free. It’s just that non-elites can also pay for these seats.

This doesn’t really trouble me, but still seemed worth noting.

Some late-booking elites could wind up without the better (extra legroom ‘main cabin extra’) coach seats to assign, if non-elites have paid to reserve them.

The strategy there is:

  1. Expertflyer seat alerts to let you know when seats you want open up.
  2. Keep checking for better seats within the upgrade window, as folks getting upgrades are likely to be upgrading out of the better coach seats.

The bigger concern, I think, is that reconfigured MD80 aircraft have fewer Main Cabin Extra seats to begin with.

What would be really troubling – and is not an issue here – is if American were to adopt the US Airways practice of not giving elites access to all premium seats in economy for free. US Airways elites get complimentary upgrades… but are charged for many coach seats!

I bet many elites didn’t even realize there were premium coach seats that they could book for free but that non-elites were not even allowed to pay for. There still are, just fewer of those on MD80 and 777-300 aircraft.


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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