Do you remember the days when after the boarding door closed, you could move around within your class of service on a flight to Hawaii and take a better vacant seat? It looks like there’s a trend afoot to remove that privilege, and it started with American Airlines and United Airlines.
The issue is not about the premium economy cabin.
We’ve talked about extra legroom seats in economy that you pay extra for, and about a separate premium economy cabin. Since true premium economy has its own cabin, you obviously cannot move there from economy. You can try it, but it will likely result in bad repercussions. It would be like someone trying to take a vacant first-class seat. We’ve seen this happen before, and it didn’t work.
But when it comes to extra legroom and other seats simply deemed more desirable, it gets more complicated. Those seats are mixed about the economy cabin, per the image below. And it isn’t necessary just aisle and window seats that can be deemed superior for a higher fee. It can be those at the front of the plane as well.
For the most part, airlines don’t differentiate between the service provided within the economy cabin, be it for passengers in seats deemed superior or not. But even that isn’t always the case. On Hawaii flights by Alaska Airlines and United Airlines (maybe others, too), certain amenities re offered to those passengers who paid for the better seats in the main economy cabin. Oh boy.
According to a Twitter aviation guru, JonNYC, American has told its flight attendants to enforce keeping passengers in their regular coach seats, rather than allowing them to move to what, in American’s case, is called Main Cabin Extra (MCE) seats.
American said, “Customers may not be familiar with our seat change policy; particularly when it comes to 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… politely decline their request.” American added that we are working “to ensure our seat change policy is communicated directly when customers inquire.”
We hadn’t heard of this before but aren’t surprised. It is just somewhat complicated and awkward when the seats aren’t differentiated in any way other than the price and not, for example, the cabin.
Will flight attendants later also sell you the extra legroom seats?
We wouldn’t be surprised to see flight attendants asked to both act as police on the seating and as salespeople to help out the airline’s bottom line. It could be the latest thing on the amenity cart for sale: a better seat.
Let us know your thoughts. Do you think any vacant seat in economy should be up for grabs after the plane is in the air?
The photo above is intentionally stretched to give the humorous appearance of lounge chair seating.