American Delays Plan for Free Alcohol in Extra Legroom Coach

At American Airlines Investor and Media Day we learned that the airline had plans to roll out additional benefits for Main Cabin Extra seats that have more legroom than regular coach. The plan was to:

  1. offer beer, wine, and spirits to passengers in these seats starting ‘in the spring’ (there won’t be a complimentary snack for Main Cabin Extra passengers besides the same pretzels or cookies given to economy passengers).

  2. also put a sign in overhead bins indicating they’re for Main Cabin Extra passengers only starting February 1 with a roll out lasting a few months. Other premium cabins will get similar signage.

The signs have been going in. Here’s one from first class.

Although it turns out the new signage designating Main Cabin Extra wasn’t installed correctly on all planes. Eleven aircraft got seating reversed, though that’s supposed to be fixed this week and next. (Hint: D is an aisle and F is a window.)

However the new service standards — free booze — has created some consternation. Employees were told it wouldn’t mean more work for them, they wouldn’t have to police who sat where. But they also didn’t want customers just moving into seats that would give them free alcohol. So they went on an employee listening tour.

And the result is that free alcohol for passengers in extra legroom seats gets put off until summer.

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, 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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  1. My goodness, how did that plaque for the seats ever even get through the approval process during the DESIGN phase?! These should have never even made it to production!

  2. Signs that communication between different departments and overall oversight is really lacking as a whole in a company.

  3. Do AA flight attendants just actively seek out new ways to avoid work? Talk about paycheck collectors…

  4. lol … dumpster fire … these things have been features on Delta as long as I can remember and staff still manages to smile and seem happy all the time

  5. The incorrect, “amateur” looking sign where the windows are the “D” seats and the aisles are the “F” seats is as much a metaphor for how crappy and unprofessional American Airlines has really become, as it is an obvious sign (pun so not intended, but hey, sure does work perfectly!) of how little attention is paid to quality control, and how the budget for this item, just like the poor condition of working electrical outlets that are so worn out, the charger/adapter prongs are loose/fall out – if they work at all; seat backs are broken/missing with seats taped off like crime scenes; or just days ago, ceiling panels and oxygen canisters are in such a bad state of (DIS)repair they’re falling off of their mounts and onto passengers, is so badly defunded, it begs the question:

    Where else are budgets at American Airlines now so badly cut that ordinary repair and maintenance is being “deferred” or “stretched” to the absolute legal limits?

    And if/what other corners are being cut?

    Sure, we can rationalize that a mismarked sign is “no big deal”; or even joke about how totally unprofessional and lame it is.

    But, if we walked into most businesses we patronize, let alone one where we’re entrusting our health, safety, wellbeing or literally our, our children’s or other beloved family and friends’ lives, and saw mismarked, unprofessional signage, broken seats with missing backs and taped off like crime scenes, or pieces of the building/fixtures fell on us our our children as is happening at this airline, how inclined would we feel continuing to patronize that business?

    I mean seriously, if we went to a used car lot and the signs were as obviously mismarked and unprofessional as this, the conditions of the interiors of the cars were in a such a bad state of disrepair, and pieces of the cars we “test drove” were raining pieces of their interiors on us, would we still stick around to buy cars from such a clearly third rate used car dealer?

    And yet, this is exactly what American Airlines gets away with!

    I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again:

    At their absolute worst, airlines like Eastern, Pan Am and even TWA after Carl Icahn RAPED that company and stripped it bare of everything of value he could get his hands on, WERE STILL NEVER AS AMERICAN AIRLINES NOW IS!!!

    And I flew Eastern very often, right up to three weeks before that storied airline died.

    And TWA throughout the 1990s while that airline was dying.

    And Pan Am, too, during its years of decline.

    And NOT once were taped off broken seats ever encountered, or were pieces of those airlines’ worn and tattered interiors known to rain down on passengers.

    The set of broken and overflowing toilets that oozed onto the carpet of an ancient, and packed TWA 747-100, were definitely among the crappier flights ever taken, but by that time Uncle Carl had already raped and pillaged that airline, and cash to rebuild that airline was already long gone from the kitty and never destined to come back.

    So, what’s a VERY profitable and flush with cash airline like American’s excuse for such dilapidated planes with cheesy, unprofessional, amateur looking signs?

    What with record profits in the billions, obscenely huge stock buybacks every year measured in the BILLIONS, an era of limited, if any, meaningful competition that for all intents and purposes has become so assured of NO COMPETITION likely to emerge that its CEO, Dougie, boasted that his airline will NEVER lose money again (most people would view outrageous pronouncements like this as all but admitting his company faces no competition and has shifted to an oligopolist managed business model like a utility…but ah, I digress…), wouldn’t one normally expect to see planes that reflect an enormously profitable, world’s largest, world’s best in class airlines to match those windfall profits?

    I mean hey, TWA’s literally crap filled crappy 747-100 was at an airline that was not just broke, but desperately broke after a notorious corporate raider (nb: that’s a dainty 1980s/1990s term for white collar criminals who pretend to be better and smarter than common criminals and thugs by wearing suits and ties when the do their thieving instead of simply flashing a gun and demanding money…) looted and bankrupted that airline…

    …whereas per Dougie’s declaration, American is so big, powerful and profitable, it will NEVER lose money again!

    So, what’s the dealio Dougie, for those broken down, third rate, dilapidated planes of yours that apart that seem to have more in common with the poopy TWA 747-100 I was once stuck (for what seemed like endless hours) on than what one would expect at an airline SOOOOOO RICH AND SUCCESSFUL that, according to you, it will NEVER lose money again?

    TWA had an excuse.

    What’s yours?

    And how come you’re not embarrassed and ashamed that the planes your airline flies are WORSE than Eastern and Pan Am’s were even as those two airlines were in their dying years – and better resemble the dilapidated TWA 747-100 I was on, than what one should rightfully expect from an airline that has so much money it has nothing better to do than shovel billions of dollars OUT OF THE COMPANY as American now does year in and year out?

    Inquiring minds would LOVE to know!

    The conditions of AA’s dilpidated planes are a disgrace. If Eastern or Pan Am were still around, and even at their worst, I’d gladly choose them coz as bad as they were in their dying days, there weren’t HALF AS BAD as AA is now.

    But, of course, we don’t have much to choose from these days, so many/most of us are stuck with whatever crap you stick us with…just like those in “less important” cities in Latin America get stuck with those old, crappy 767s…right?

  6. Because the one thing airlines want to do is encourage more people to drink while on the plane. ROFL

  7. “Listening sessions, roundtable discussions……”

    What’s next, AA? “Collaboratives and debates”?

    Why not just place Doug Parker alone in a room and call it a “circle jerk”…

  8. the seat signage is absolutely mind boggling. How many idiots approved this. its just .. ah…. i just have no words.

  9. RE: the seat signage is absolutely mind boggling. How many idiots approved this. its just .. ah…. i just have no words.


    So true!

    But, it sure does suggest that the emphasis on quality, or rather a LACK thereof, which most people agree, is readily apparent in the customer service experience, or again, the lack thereof (fares/fees, successive FF mileage devaluations, etc.), and onboard product (extreme densification, mini/micro bathrooms, etc.), exists elsewhere in the company.

    Is it low employee morale?

    Is it low budgets for critical repair and maintenance items?

    Is it a case of “managment could care less, so why should I?” sort of thing?

    Who knows?

    But one thing is for sure:

    Dilapidated planes with underrepaired, (DIS)repaired, or not working at all charging outlets; planes with broken/ missing seat backs and malfunctioning seats that are so bad they’re taped off like crime scenes; ceiling panels and oxygen cannisters falling off their mounts and onto passengers; and finally, a third rate/amateur looking, mislabeled sign for something as basic as the order of the alphabet for “D-E-F” itself, let alone the commonly used letter designations for aisle (D), middle (E) and window (F) seating configurations on most narrowbody, mainline airplanes around the world, suggests a pattern where quality control is desperately lacking.

    That it is happening in aspects that better fit into the category of repair and maintenance…

    …instead of the horribly small seats, densely packed into “no legroom” rows, aboard planes with teeny tiny toilets for teeny tiny people, that are stripped of seatback IFE, etc., which are more about the passenger “experience” (or lack thereof) than safety…

    …is what concerns me most.

    SImply put, are dilapidated, undermaintained planes in revenue service, and mismarked, third rate, unprofessional signs signs of a deeper quality control problem at this airline?

    Bad seats, impossibly small loos and an overall “screw you” attitude in the passenger “experience” is one thing…

    …things that seem to suggest ordinary repair and maintenance is low priority, or is not subject to vigorous/relentless quality control is quite another…

  10. The decision to delay free alcohol in MCE seating is pathetic. As noted above, Delta seems to manage this with no problem, and so does Alaska. If these other airlines can provide free alcohol to passengers in premium seating while managing to ensure that passengers don’t skip into these seats for the free booze, then American should be able to do so as well. Why is this so difficult?!? This sounds more like unionized employees not wanting to do ANYTHING extra rather than improve the airline.

  11. Updating comments made on April 12th & 13th above discussing possible relationship between cosmetic maintenance and repair miscues/“lapses” as an indication of other possible impacts of excessive cost cutting/lack of resources in areas that would more closely fit the description of maintenance and repair matters, as opposed to passenger “comforts” and/or “amenities” (laughable oxymorons if ever there were ones at this intentionally, and now badly degraded, airline):

    On last Wednesday, May 9th, the Inspector General (IG) at the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) announced it was Auditing the Federal Aviation Administration’s safety oversight of American Airlines and Allegiant Air.

    The IG’s Memo stated, in part:

    “Our objectives now are to assess FAA’s processes for investigating allegations of improper maintenance practices at two carriers, Allegiant Airlines and American Airlines.”


    Seeing American Airlines being cited for possible maintenance “issues” alongside Allegiant Airlines, an airline whose safety record ain’t anything to crow about in recent years speaks volumnes about just how bad this onetime, industry leading shining star of the airlines has become.

    Just the same – no surprise given recent reports of broken down, taped off seats missing their backs, or seats photographed as literally being held in place with duct tape aboard American Airlines “under loved” airplanes.

    And while the IG has a ways to go before issuing its’ report on either of these airlines, American or Allegiant, and therefore any concerns regarding the maintenance practices are strictly ALLEGATIONS that may yet prove to be completely untrue, the fact remains that any allegations made were of sufficient credibility to warrant a closer look by the Inspector General of the DOT auditing the actions made by another federal agency, and something like that wouldn’t be undertaken absent credible allegations to do so.

    We should be concerned about under-repaired, dilapidated airplanes being flown in revenue service – say the way we wouldn’t want to stay at a hotel with dilapidated rooms and furniture, under repaired and/or dilapidated bathrooms, or eat at restaurants where the floors, tables, seats, walls and more are nasty and unloved such that tables and chairs are taped off, signs are badly mislabeled, electrical outlets don’t work, etc.

    Even if there’s no serious threat to safety, are these the type of businesses consumers should be rewarding with their hard earned cash?

    That Allegiant is named in this audit is not surprising at all given the many reported safety related incidents including multiple emergency landings over the past 2+ years…

    …but seeing American Airlines also named in this audit, while not exactly surprising given the fairly frequent reports of desperately unloved planes with cabins and seats bordering on dilapidated, is still kinda “eye opening” (even to a jaded cynic like me!) about just how low this once great American (as in the country) brand has actually descended in its breakneck pace to “Win” the industry’s “Race to the Bottom”.

    Call me crazy, but I still find that to be both sad, and a terrible shame, given the history of this formerly great, best in class, world renown airline.

    Anyhow, the IG’s audit of American and Allegiant was announced last week – but as my earlier comments in mid-April accurately reflected, there are, and have been, overt signs suggesting cost cutting has gone beyond simply cutting passengers’ “amenities” or other passenger experienced creature comforts such as seatback IFE at American Airlines – so the closer look announced last week by the DOT’s Inspector General is something flyers should welcome.

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