American Is Barring Passengers From Doing This on Flights, Starting Now


Traveling by plane may always involve getting to the airport and going through security, but the overall experience can differ based on which carrier you're flying. And as one of the largest airlines in the world, American stands as one of the most well-known options when it comes to getting to where you need to be. Some stay loyal to the company thanks to its rewards program that makes it easy to earn free airfare and upgrades to comfier seats, while others simply appreciate its attention to detail and reliability. But now, American Airlines has announced that it is barring passengers from doing one thing during flights. Read on to see which fairly common practice is now off-limits.

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Passengers can choose to purchase premium seating when flying with American Airlines.

For most passengers, the only thing that really matters when getting comfortable on a flight is whether you could ultimately landed the aisle or window seat you prefer. But even though American just announced it would be phasing out its first-class section on many of its long-haul flights in favor of business-class seating, it still has another premium option for passengers.

Economy travelers can give themselves a slight upgrade to Main Cabin Extra seats on American flights. The elevated tier offers passengers early boarding, a free carry-on bag, extra legroom, and complimentary alcoholic beverages.

These seats start at $20 extra unless they're unlocked as part of an upgrade for those with elite status with the carrier. And while they come with additional amenities and benefits, they're still located in the main cabin area of the aircraft.

American is now banning passengers from doing one thing on flights.
Aureliy / Shutterstock

Whether you've landed in a dreaded middle seat or somehow been separated from other travelers in your group, it's not uncommon to move from your assigned seat once you board a plane if there's an empty one available. But if you're flying American, you might not have as many options to move about the cabin. In a recent memo to crew, the carrier said that flight attendants would begin barring passengers from moving themselves up from regular economy to Main Cabin Extra seats, according to a post from Twitter user @xJonNYC.

"It's not unusual for Main Cabin (MC) customers to ask to change seats after they've boarded the aircraft—to sit next to a family member or get out of a middle seat, for instance," the airline writes. "However, customers may not be familiar with our seat change policy; particularly when it comes to Main Cabin Extra (MCE) seats. While you may allow a customer to move to an available Main Cabin seat after boarding is complete, they're not permitted to move into an MCE seat unless they are booked in that class."

"So, if a customer asks to move to a seat in a different seat classification (i.e., MC to MCE, MCE to First, etc.) politely decline their request unless there is a customer service or regulatory conflict present," the company instructs staff. "If a customer asks to change seats before the boarding door closes, work with the gate agent to accommodate the request."

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The update represents a significant change to the existing seat change policy.

Given the extra perks that come with the seats, it may not come as a surprise that American is putting its foot down to stop some customers from upgrading themselves free of charge. But the new rules represent a significant departure from the company's previous policy.

American Airlines last clarified its rules on reseating in 2018 when it first introduced free alcohol as one of the tier's perks, according to travel rewards blog One Mile at a Time. "Once the door is closed, customers are allowed to move to any available seat within their ticketed cabin (no change to current procedure)," the company wrote in a memo to flight attendants at the time.

But days later, public reaction to the lax stance forced the carrier to clarify its position with an update. "I honestly appreciate your feedback; this is part of the reason why we choose to share with you, first, before rolling it out to the rest of the company and our customers. Our number one priority from the start was to ensure the enhanced MCE did not add responsibilities for flight attendants to police the cabin," they wrote, per One Mile at a Time. "But we agree with many of you, if a customer did not pay for the seat, they should not be able to move into it. If a customer asks to move into a MCE seat after boarding, you should use your best judgment in politely declining their request to prevent a negative or escalated situation."

American Airlines' new Main Cabin Extra policy sparked debate among travelers.
Bradley Caslin / Shutterstock

Changes to airline policy can quickly spark debates among loyal passengers—especially when it involves essentially removing something from in-flight service. News of American Airlines' new approach towards moving into Main Cabin Extra seats for free was no different, with frequent flyers both supporting and blasting the new position.

"AA should patrol MCE," one commenter posted at One Mile at a Time. "[United Airlines] has it right: the [flight attendants] check the seat maps and if an empty [Economy Plus] seat is occupied they come around and ask for a CC payment. AA should do the same. Simply say the cost of that seat is $X."

Others lamented the fact that add-ons to airfare were making the already expensive flying experience more costly than ever. "You pay for an airline seat. Now you have to pay extra depending on where you sit!!!" one Twitter user replied. "Soon, you'll have to pay to sit, and clowns supporting this are the problem. Stop supporting corporate greed!"