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American to Enhance Main Cabin Extra, Further Dividing Cabin Experiences

While not public yet, American Airlines apparently intends to make some small but meaningful enhancements to its Main Cabin Extra class of economy seats.

According to an internal email published by The Forward Cabin, the airline will add complimentary beer, wine, and spirits to the fare class, along with dedicated overhead bin space.

Currently, Main Cabin Extra offers extra legroom, early boarding, and an otherwise standard economy class experience. And while the addition of free alcoholic beverages is nice to have, the dedicated overhead bin space is the real eye-catcher here.

More specifically, American apparently intends to put placards on the overhead bins to indicate they are reserved for Main Cabin Extra passengers. However—and this is an important however—flight attendants are not responsible for monitoring that overhead space. So, American is really just placing labels on overhead bins and relying on passengers to play along.

The move reflects the slow but dramatic shift in travelers’ priorities and the way airlines slice and dice their services. Think about it: American offers three distinct economy fare classes, and each of them will, when this guidance takes effect, have different overhead bin policies:

  • Basic Economy: NO access to overhead bin space
  • Main Cabin: Broad but not total access to overhead bin space
  • Main Cabin Extra: Dedicated overhead bin space

Reading that, it’s remarkable to think of how drastically the flying experience has changed over the past decade. We now have an airline with three tiers of access to the overhead bins within its economy section. Delta, for comparison, grants dedicated overhead bin space to its Delta Comfort Plus seats, but does not withhold overhead bin access from its Basic Economy passengers. For now, anyway.

None of this is surprising at this point, but it should not be lost on anyone that American was the first U.S. airline to charge for a checked bag. That move led to more travelers relying on carry-ons, which led to increased demand for overhead bin space, and here we are.

Readers, what do you think about airlines doling out overhead bin space in this way? Do you think it’s fair, or a good practice?

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