American Airlines sent out a memo to flight attendants reminding them to not allow passengers to upgrade themselves to economy seats for free.

American crews should crack down on self-upgraders

The Main Cabin Extra is located at the front of the economy section. Extra legroom and alcoholic drinks are included in this seating. Main Cabin Extra seats can be reserved by select elite members at no additional cost and can also be purchased by others.

American Main Cabin Extra features extra legroom

Main Cabin Extra isn't necessarily clear to some passengers. The difference between first class and economy class isn't as obvious

Flight attendants have been told that passengers shouldn't upgrade to Main Cabin Extra. This is what the memo says.

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. 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.

If a customer asks to change seats before the boarding door closes, work with the gate agent to accommodate the request. As always, please remain on the aircraft to avoid a minimum crew violation while assisting the customer.

— 🇺🇦 JonNYC 🇺🇦 (@xJonNYC) November 11, 2022

Interestingly American used to allow self-upgrading

Back in January of last year American had a different policy about self-upgrading. In a memo to flight attendants, the airline mentioned the introduction of free alcohol in Main Cabin Extra.

Can customers move into open MCE seats once boarding is complete?

Yes. Once the door is closed, customers are allowed to move to any available seat within their ticketed cabin (no change to current procedure).

That got a lot of attention from the media. The airline backtracked a bit after issuing an updated memo within a few days.

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. 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.

You would think that American would have a way for flight attendants to process upgrade payments on board. They already have the tablets that they use to charge for drinks and snacks so why not use them for upgrade? The lack of onboard payment for upgrades was explained in the same memo as well.

Several of you also asked if we would consider selling upgrades to these seats onboard, similar to the service of other carriers. This is something we are considering, but again, we’re trying to balance this with not adding more responsibilities for flight attendants.

Adding more responsibilities for flight attendants is something American doesn't want to get in trouble with the union for.

American used to allow self-upgrading to Main Cabin Extra

Flight attendants are being told to crack down on passengers who upgrade. Only those assigned a seat in the economy section should be allowed to sit there, according to the airline.

You would think that flight attendants would be able to process payments for people who want to upgrade. It's like a customer service and revenue fail if you can't upgrade to an empty seat.

Passengers were able to upgrade to Main Cabin Extra in the early days of the year. The airline backtracked on this policy after getting a lot of publicity.

What do you think about American flight attendants being told to crack down on self-up graders?