Well this morning’s post certainly set off a scramble over at American. The issue of whether American has been selling Main Cabin Extra seats that do not have extra legroom is far more complex than I’d imagined it was. It does seem clear at this point that the impact is less than I had initially believed. After multiple phone calls and emails with American, here’s what I’ve learned.
Mesa operates CRJ-900s as American from both the Phoenix and Dallas/Ft Worth hubs. The Phoenix hub flights were operated as US Airways Express until the cutover on October 17 to American. The Dallas/Ft Worth hub flights have been operated as American Eagle since last year.
Mesa has a habit of picking up random airplanes from wherever it can find them. This means it has several different configurations. Some airplanes have 9 First Class and 70 Coach seats (yes, that’s above the scope limit of 76 seats, but they have been grandfathered in for the time being). Others have 9 First Class and 67 Coach seats. Mesa is also taking delivery of CRJ-900 NextGen aircraft that have 12 First Class and 64 Coach seats. But at this point, American only sells the aircraft in two configurations when operated by Mesa.
The first configuration it sells is the aircraft that have 9 First Class and 70 Coach seats. That sells only row 4 and the exit rows 12 and 13 as Main Cabin Extra. Since American shows this seat map when you buy your ticket, I assume that this is a mostly isolated sub fleet.
The second configuration it sells is the aircraft that have 9 First Class and 67 Coach seats. That sells Main Cabin Extra as being rows 4-9 along with the exit rows in 12 and 13. According to American, in this configuration, those seats always had 34 inches of pitch (exit rows were more) but since US Airways never had an extra legroom section, they were just reserved for elites or sold as Choice seats (paid seats that have no extra legroom but are just closer to the front). If anyone is on a CRJ-900 in this configuration, bring your tape measure and let’s put it to the test. American did send me some photos it took. So assuming this is correct, apparently anyone sitting in those seats before the cutover to American was getting lucky to get extra legroom.
There are, however, 2 airplanes that have 9 First Class and 67 Coach seats that are in a different configuration. They just have huge exit row legroom and so rows 8 and 9 are not Main Cabin Extra like on the others. These aircraft aren’t scheduled separately so on every flight on these two airplanes, up to 8 people who purchased Main Cabin Extra won’t get it. For those people, American is automatically running something to give refunds. But after today’s post, they are going back and doing a manual check as well to make sure everything was done right.
As for the NextGen aircraft with 12 F seats, I have no idea what’s happening with those. I don’t think any are flying yet, but if they are, they don’t have their own seat map. Presumably that becomes an issue with yet another seat map in the future.
This means that far fewer people are being impacted that originally thought, but there are still some people who will buy Main Cabin Extra and not get it. And it’s unclear to me how often the 76 and 79 seat aircraft need to swap to operate on the other’s scheduled routes. That could add to the tally if it happens regularly. One of these days, Mesa will get its fleet reconfigured properly and it won’t be an issue. But for now, American says it will ensure that people who paid for Main Cabin Extra and didn’t get it will get refunds.