Qantas' top-tier frequent flyers have just lost a prized perk with partner American Airlines: no more free upgrades to the 'economy plus' seating known as Main Cabin Extra, which translates into valuable inches of extra legroom.
But the US carrier hasn't just singled out Qantas: it's also axed this practical benefit for the frequent flyers of all other Oneworld member airlines holding the equivalent to Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald status.
- Qantas Frequent Flyer Gold and Platinum
- British Airways Executive Club Silver and Gold
- Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Club Gold and Diamond
- Finnair Plus Gold and Platinum
- Malaysia Airlines Enrich Gold and Platinum
- Qatar Airways Privilege Club Gold and Platinum
Under a long-standing arrangement, American Airlines offered the top-rated frequent flyers of those airlines – such as Qantas Gold and Platinum members – free access to Main Cabin Extra seating when travelling in economy (or 'Main Cabin', in AA parlance).
This wasn't just for that one card-carrying traveller: up to either others booked on the same reservation automatically received the same benefit.
Oneworld Ruby members – such a Qantas Frequent Flyer Silver, British Airways Executive Club Bronze and Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Club Silver – could also choose any remaining available Main Cabin Extra seat from 24 hours before their flight.
The appeal of Main Cabin Extra
Main Cabin Extra seats are the same as regular economy seats, so they shouldn't be confused with premium economy: they're just located in their own rows of the economy cabin, usually at the front of the plane and sometimes at the exits, and give you an additional four to six inches of legroom.
That's welcome enough at any time, but especially on US transcontinental flights between the east and west coasts, where Main Cabin Extra can cost around $100 on top of the standard economy fare.
The extra legroom is a boon for taller passengers, while the increased distance between each row of seats also makes it easier to pull out your laptop to do some work or watch some BYO video content en route.
As a bonus, Main Cabin Extra seats at the front of the economy cabin means you'll be faster off the plane.
(Main Cabin Extra passengers also get priority boarding as part of the package, but this is already enjoyed by top Oneworld frequent flyers due to their shiny status.)
That all changes as of now, with American Airlines axing this free 'partner elite' benefit for all but its own AAdvantage frequent flyers.
A spokesperson for American Airlines confirmed the change to Executive Traveller, although adding that "for our Oneworld elite status members, we will continue to offer complimentary access to Preferred seats, which is consistent with the benefit offered by other Oneworld airlines."
Preferred seats have the same legroom as standard economy seats but are in slightly more convenient locations throughout the cabin, such as being closer to the front or in a row with only two seats.
American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum, Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members will continue to receive complimentary Main Cabin Extra seating (along with others traveling on the same booking, while AAdvantage Gold members can continue to select any remaining Main Cabin Extra seat from 24 hours before departure.