AA add premium economy (Main Cabin Extra)

A bit late on this…but AA has joined the premium economy party, with plans to create a Main Cabin Extra section which has more legroom and priority boarding.  The seats will be sold for prices between $8-108, but will be free to elite members.

United was the first to add this feature on its planes, with Delta following last year, and now AA.  I am really thrilled about this announcement, since I will hopefully soon be a newly minted AA Executive Platinum member.  United’s Economy Plus, which is United equivalent product, was one of the reasons I became interested in going for UA elite at all.  I “accidentally’ earned United low level elite status in 2008 because I happened to fly a bunch of Star Alliance carriers during a long trip to Asia, and managed to barely get 25k miles by the end of the year.  After I realized that elite status on UA got you free access to Economy Plus, I was generally motivated to put all my travel on United and earn miles with them.

Here’s a picture from AA illustrating Main Cabin Extra:

Now, since I’ve switched a significant amount of business to AA, I’m glad they will be having the same feature.  I’m not really sure if I will make United MileagePlus Silver this year (much less Gold, my current status), but I know in the future, I can count on extra leg room with either carrier 🙂

UA/CO merger

Well, the merger of United and Continental(CO) is complete.  The last CO flight took off late last night, and the last CO flight to land will arrive in Houston today at 12:35 P.M. central time.  The merger was legally completed quite some time ago, but the airlines operated as separate airlines until today.  I will miss Continental.  They had more comfortable first class seats, better food, live television via direct TV on most domestic flights, and systemwide upgrades (SWU’s, earned by elite passengers) that could be used to upgrade any paid airfare (such as coach to international business class).  I also thought CO had above-average customer service and slightly better lounges than United.

Unfortunately, most of the good things about CO are being lost in the merger.  Of particular dismay to me is that SWU upgrades now can only be used on more expensive booking fares, which means you have to pay about $400 more for a long-haul plane ticket to try to upgrade it, which is really frustrating because you usually don’t know if an upgrade will clear.  It really sucks to pay $400 more for a ticket then end up in coach anyway because the upgrade didn’t clear.

United used to be one of the few airlines not to charge for booking last-minute award tickets.  Of course after the merger, they decided to be more like CO and charge up to $75 for booking an award ticket less than 21 days before departure.  That is BS because on a lot of flights, award seats are not even available until the last minute.

One good thing on United that did survive the merger is Economy Plus.  The first ten or so rows of the economy cabin have a few extra inches of legroom.  Elite passengers can sit up there for free.  Economy plus is gradually being added to former Continental aircraft, although so far very few have gotten it.  As a top-tier elite on Continental, I usually would get upgraded to first class on domestic flights for free, or at least get an exit row seat, so I didn’t need economy plus that badly.

For now, I will keep flying the new United, as I’ve got top-tier elite on them and want to continue enjoying elite benefits.  And even after the changes, I still think the merged airline has the best mileage program.

Are elite security lines unfair?

Via the Heels First blog, the Volokh Conspiracy has posted about how elite lines at airport security are a misuse of government resources favoring “people with great resources.”  Since I am generally able to use these lines 🙂 I’m obviously biased to disagree with this view.  However, there are some valid reasons for these lines to exist.

First off, these lines have been around for a while, as Gary at View From the Wing points out in his rebuttal, and additionally Jeanne at Heels First points out that the SFO security is actually run by a private company.  I recommend reading over Heels First and View from the Wing rebuttals, but TSA security lines are not as much a resource provided to the tax payer as much as an extension of air travel and airline service.  This the policies for the security queue are set by airports and airlines as they see fit, and TSA does there thing with people who arrive out of the queue (showing my time in Ireland), whether it be groping them or potentially causing cancer.   As Jeanne points out, the TSA itself concedes this point.

There’s also some other points made by the bloggers, such as the fact the elite lines would tend to move faster because the people in it are more used to traveling, and also this whole debate isn’t as much about rich vs. poor but frequent (generally business) travelers vs infrequent (generally leisure) travelers.

Well whatever, I’m just going to continue enjoying the shorter elite lines at airports 🙂

Been a bit preoccupied

I’ve been a bit preoccupied with a video game addiction.  A lot of fun but a lot of time sunk in.  I have still been watching airline and frequent flyer news, and have a few things queued up…so lets start with this.  I came across an article on CNBC about airline competition in Asia, in the context of the Singapore Air Show that happened last week.  There’s been various low cost airline launches recently, with Air Asia expanding to new markets, and Qantas and also ANA launching low cost carriers (ANA appear to be competing with itself?).  Anyway, also of note is how much of the worldwide airline profit Asia brings in.  With the growth of various countries in that region, it’s likely to become even more skewed that way in the future.