American Airlines Gold Members Losing Discount on Extra Legroom Seats Midway Through Benefit Year

Customers flew throughout 2017 for their elite benefits this year. They’ve been flying all this year on the promise of benefits they’d have for the remainder of the year (if a higher status) and next year. That’s why it’s terrible when a program takes away elite benefits during the program year.

American Airlines even sells elite status renewals. AAdvantage Gold, for instance, can sell for $699. They’ve been selling that status throughout 2018, and will continue to do so through July 31.

I’d be very angry if I had just paid American Airlines $699 for Gold status, because they’ll be taking away a key benefit of Gold on September 5.

Beginning September 5, AAdvantage® Gold members will no longer receive 50% off the purchase of Main Cabin Extra seats at the time of booking. You will continue to receive complimentary access to Main Cabin Extra within 24 hours of your flight.

American Airlines has added a free drink as a benefit of sitting in extra legroom coach. And they’ll no longer allow Golds to buy into these seats at a discount.

Executive Platinum members still get a drink and a snack in economy regardless of where they’re seated. That’s nice because American’s planes have fewer and fewer Main Cabin Extra seats (the new standard 737 and Airbus A319 configuration is just 3 rows at the front of the plane plus exit rows) and I’m not always able to get Main Cabin Extra when booking close to travel.

Platinum members and above can still confirm Main Cabin Extra seats at time of booking if available for no extra charge. Golds will have to pay full price or wait until check-in. The hope there is that higher tier elites who had been occupying these seats might get upgraded freeing up an extra legroom seat for a Gold member.

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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  1. I am embarrassed to say that I did “buy up” to Gold as the MCE benefit was the main reason. This is outrageous. Is there anything that can be done?

  2. IF I were a Gold this wouldn’t bother me as much. Why? Because paying for a seat selection in MCE costs extra money. They are only losing the option to pay extra money for a seat assignment in MCE, not actual access to MCE.

    They still retain the right to select an MCE seat 24 hours in from the flight for free. This is likely a wash for gold members as I bet MANY were not paying for an assigned MCE seat and waiting for that 24 hour window instead.

  3. Hahaha Hohoho AA continues to decline. They’re in an awful state right now with no sign of improvement. And if they don’t fix those new 737 layouts they’ll be stuck for years in the current mess.

    I gave up going for status years ago, I’m good with price and product now. And I’m good avoiding AA whenever possible.

  4. Who cares! I prefer to sit in first class and pay for it. Too many freeloaders on AA. It also tends to be the freeloaders and use the FC bathroom when they are sitting in basic economy. It’s becoming like Spirit these days.

  5. “#RoloT says:
    June 5, 2018 at 2:29 pm
    I am embarrassed to say that I did “buy up” to Gold as the MCE benefit was the main reason. This is outrageous. Is there anything that can be done?”

    Yes, there is something you can do about it. You can ask for a refund from AA and if you are refused, go to small claims court.

  6. Dmg, I’m sure the T&C say that they reserve the right to change the program at any time, so he would lose in small claims.

  7. #Aviators99 Dmg, “I’m sure the T&C say that they reserve the right to change the program at any time, so he would lose in small claims.”
    Although the terms may say that AA has the right to change the program at any time, in the case of purchasing AA “status” it specifically says the status is valid until 1-31-2019, That is not changing the terms, that is short changing the person who bought status for a specific period of times. I think most judges would agreed that AA is wrong to change during the period the offer says the status is valid.

  8. As an AA Gold this is a bigger deal than AA might think. They will lose what revenue they got drom Golds paying the 50% at booking as we’ll mostly wait until 24 hours out now, just like flying Southwest. They won’t generate that much additional revenew from nonelites and certainty not enough to make up for free drinks. They alienated loyal Golds. Anyone paying foe Gold can now just buy an economy plus subscription on United. Pair that with a United card basically gets you better treatment than Gold on AA except the honor of seeing your name at number 25 or above on the upgrade lists. As a non-hub captive AA Gold that flew 56 segments on AA last year I think it’s time for me to move on sadly.

  9. The next gold who complains, I’m cutting it back to 2 rows on the 737, cutting the discount to 24% and the window to 24 minutes.

  10. I’m with Mark – I just buy the 1st class tic and not deal with the 20 + people on the upgrade list. Even being EXP for years as well as lifetime PLT w/almost 6 million miles so would generally be at the very top of the upgrade list, flights are virtually always full up front and I’m not about to deal with playing that game any more. Quite frankly, the only AA planes that have an advantage over other airlines are the 3 class transcons. They’ve converted most of their Int’l planes to 2 class, completely doing away with 1st class and the service continues to degrade. I’m sure it’s slowly killing Bob Crandall’ to see how Doug Parker is destroying AA

  11. @Ryan – what I wrote in April 2014 was that one punch to the gut put everyone on notice, that a second one would fundamentally undermine trust. and that was FOUR years ago, a LOT has happened since then.

  12. @dmg – under northwest v ginsberg you can only sue for actual violations of program terms, which “disclaim any duty of good faith and fair dealing as well as any implied contractual terms or obligations.”

  13. What I find most sad is those that continue to fly this s *hole of an airline
    I walked away after 20 years and give my revenue to a deserving carrier
    I will do anything to avoid them and while it may be more time consuming the customer service,rewards and hard product are generally much better

  14. Airline Execs: Lightbulb, Bright Idea. Elites are have no option. They are in a capture airport or are forced to travel for work. Why not charge Elites extra, rather than give benefits. I am only half joking.

    As for me, I was Executive Platinum on American last year. It was enough for me to slide into Gold (I had over 50K miles but not enough spending despite flying to capture airports). Have not flown American this year. But no matter, American does not need my measly flying.

  15. @gary – “@dmg – under northwest v ginsberg you can only sue for actual violations of program terms, which “disclaim any duty of good faith and fair dealing as well as any implied contractual terms or obligations.””

    Your quote confirms that customers have to have enormous faith in the integrity of AA to honor any offer they make to the public. That seems rather one-side. Who is looking out for the consumer?

  16. @dmg the supreme court says ‘talk to the dot’ but the dot inspector general says they improperly ignore complaints about frequent flyer programs. so, no one.

  17. Agree with Mark, which is ultimately what Aa wanted: Frequent flyers who pay for revenue first. But, given they decreased pitch, I’d often rather have an exit toe row aisle, or better yet just hook MINT. In fact I’d never consider booking AA transcon when MINT is available .

  18. I guess it is time to look into the status match program at United. The lack of service to the loyal customers on AA has gotten out of control.

  19. I never “bought” into Gold status. Mine was earned the hard way through the years by becoming a MM as I have always been a leisure flyer. Flying Economy, First, or whatever, when the mood suited me, or the distance merited the expense for my enjoyment. The accrual of miles was one flight at a time.
    I just feel sorry for the degradation of services which has been rapidly increasing as years go by. I am sorry to see the airline I’ve loved since the early 60’s go by the wayside. For shame.

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