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May 1, 2011

American Airlines: Aisle Seats Now a Perk for the Loyal or Rich

Filed under: Travel — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 4:11 pm

Many people are disgusted with the airlines constantly finding new ways to ding passengers, particularly with fees for services that used to be part of the ticket price.

Now American Airlines and possibly others are putting a premium on some conventional aisle seating in coach.

Here is a seating chart for a 30-row airplane:

Note the string of purple aisle seats that extends back as far as row 22. Checking the legend and what the double asterisks mean solves the mystery.


The purple seats are considered “preferred seats” and only go in advance to upper level people in AA’s frequent flier program and those paying full coach fare. The saving grace at American is that they don’t charge a fee for a premium coach seat, unlike some other airlines.

The effect of American’s seating policy is that anyone making a conventional reservation on a discounted ticket even over six weeks before the flight is seemingly only offered a middle or window seat, and a tiny subset of the coach aisle seats — at least on this particular flight. (And despite American’s representation that additional seats will be made available within 24 hours of departure for the peasants in coach, the airline held those seats for assignment only at the airport.)


• • •


  1. AA has lowered our expectations to such an extent that this is somehow not shocking. But why is seat 11A preferred? Actually has a working headrest? Did the person from the last flight leave their Entertainment Weekly in the seat pocket?

    Comment by Glen — May 1, 2011 @ 9:19 pm
  2. I don’t have a problem with this one. I don’t like it, but I don’t have a problem with it. Some seats are more desirable than others. If the airline wants to charge more for them, or hold them for their preferred customers, they can do that. When I travel, whenever possible I drive, because the airlines & governments have made air travel so unpleasant. But, hey, if American wants to offer their product in that manner, they can do that. They’re not being deceptive or dishonest. They’re just making it clear that they value some customers more than others. Out of all the things they (the airlines) do that are contemptible, this is kind of low on the list. But thanks to Mr. Consumer for exposing the practice. It’s just another reason to like Southwest in comparison.

    Comment by Richard — May 2, 2011 @ 12:43 am
  3. I’ve always liked the window seats so I can look out and enjoy the scenery from above! This would have been more upsetting (at least for me) if these were made “preferred seats”.

    Comment by Frankie — May 2, 2011 @ 9:24 am
  4. I prefer window seats anyway than to get elbowed by people walking down the aisle

    Comment by Peter — May 2, 2011 @ 9:32 am
  5. It looks from the seating chart that everything is either “preferred” or “unavailable”. Clever. I’ll take the train.

    Comment by Lady Anne — May 2, 2011 @ 11:22 am
  6. Let the market dictate your action. Fly Southwest!

    Comment by Richard — May 3, 2011 @ 9:47 am
  7. Lady Anne gets it. Fine print or no, it’s common knowledge that people prefer to sit on a window or aisle, and not near the restrooms. I would also argue that, all else being equal, most people would prefer to sit in First Class or on a private jet. But all is not equal. Personally, I’m annoyed when I get stuck in a center seat even though I’ve paid the same price as the persons on both my left and right. The center seat is an inferior seat and the pricing structure should reflect that. If the price is too high for the seat you want, just choose another airline or another mode altogether.

    Comment by Toddy541 — May 3, 2011 @ 10:28 am
  8. And Ryanair has announced that it will be installing pay toilets!

    Comment by Clarence Reardon — May 4, 2011 @ 10:52 pm
  9. Considering that “the train” charges fees comparable to those of airlines and takes a lot longer, I’ll pass except on the shortest of distances (Newark – Baltimore was my longest ever AMTRAK ride. I wouldn’t fly for a trip like that, but for anything longer I would).

    Comment by Boris — May 6, 2011 @ 2:33 pm
  10. I have for years used AA for my business, and most of my leisure flying. However, after trying Southwest for the first time a couple of weeks ago, I told my company’s travel agency to switch my airline preference to SWA. Better service, more leg room, fewer fees, and plenty of overhead space makes it worth giving up chasing AA miles, and letting my current miles sit dormant. What a monstrous disaster AA and the other legacy carriers have become by poking me in the eye over and over again, year after year.

    Comment by Chiropractor Biz — May 6, 2011 @ 3:23 pm
  11. Advertising a low fare is fine but putting a price that is not valid is not. Fares are always both ways and so are double. Don’t belittle your customers. Be upfront with your fares and the ads won’t annoy me. We accept fine print as status quo but it is misleading and meant to be so.

    I sent this to when they sent me low fare ads that are really half what is advertised. Yes there is fine print that is meant to fool the reader. I would love to start a groundswell that attacks companies that abuse fine print. Radio announcers telling me in a bland low voice that the offer is only good under certain conditions. I never really hear it or read the fine print. TV does it too. A pizza chain recently had two pizzas for ten dollars but in fine print you had buy two at $10 each. It may be legal but how do you trust or patronize a company that tries consistently to fool you.
    What I would like is a company that says in bold print that we don’t use fine print.


    Comment by Ron Conlon — May 17, 2011 @ 9:39 am
  12. I’ve been an AA AAdvantage member since the late 80’s. For several years, I attained “Gold” status. The perks were nice I can understand taking care of one’s best customers. But, along with excessive baggage fees, change fees, no meals, fewer more crowded flights, an optional early-boarding charge even though you have a seat assignment already and now a hassle about seats, AA is sending a very clear message; Fly SWA or just stay home. It’s just become too much. My decades of loyalty to AA now get me a middle seat and if I’m lucky, a beverage. Now you see why the airlines (along with auto/rubber/insurance companies) have fought behind the scenes for decades to demonize RAIL travel. AA & the bigger airlines will eventually fail & they will have only themselves to blame. Stop believing in all you’re fed about the high cost & low ridership projections for rail travel. Send a chill up airlines backside and support RAIL transportation.

    Comment by David — August 24, 2011 @ 12:49 am
  13. I have 140k miles on my frequent flyer account. On my last flight, I was in the only window seat on the airplane with a middle seat that was empty. The guy in the aisle was 6’7″ and he was relocated to the exit row so he could fully descend into his seat. So I had an entire row to myself. Preference? I don’t know, but it sure was nice.

    the thing about the airline upgrades is that the price for premium seats is always amazing, amazing enough to leave some empty to give to executive beryllium, executive niobium, executive platinum, executive gold, executive palladium, oneworld aadvantage, twoworld disadadvantage, yada yada yada yada …

    Comment by systemBuilder — December 2, 2011 @ 12:02 am

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