American Will Make Preferred Seats Free for Corporate Travelers

All those seats that frequent-flyers can access for free—American Airlines plans to make them free to corporate customers, as well, via global distribution systems.

American eastern sales division managing director Jim Carter told BTN GDS subscribers will be able to access preferred seats—those aisle, window and forward-cabin seats that are upsold to layperson customers when they reach the seat-map page during the booking process—at no cost. This nod to corporate customers does not extend to American’s Main Cabin Extra seats, which offer extra pitch and legroom and typically occupy the first three or four rows of the main cabin.

Why is American making preferred seats free?

Any passenger with status already could access preferred seats for free, Carter acknowledged, but “it’s startling how many corporates don’t have status,” he said. And on American flights, those who don’t have frequent-flyer status and who don’t buy preferred seats don’t receive a seat assignment until they check in, he said. Considering U.S. carriers’ global load factor has risen from 77.6 percent in 2005 to 83.8 percent in 2015 and American’s has risen from 78.6 percent to 83.6 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, preferred seats may be the only way for main-cabin corporate customers to avoid the dreaded middle seat.

Despite all those packed planes and thus no trouble selling preferred seats, American claims simply to be giving corporates what already is theirs. “The expectation from our [corporate] customers is that [preferred seats] ought to be included in the seat assignment, and we agree,” Carter said.

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