Upcharge for aisle seats

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Apr 18, 2018
In late January, we booked airline tickets and a rental car through American Airlines Vacations. We were traveling from Hartford to Phoenix. Since it was school vacation time, we paid a premium = $2767.20 for 4 people. When we went to get our seat assignments on April 6 for our April 7 flight, we realized we had all middle seats from Charlotte to Phoenix - really not possible for two of us who are tall. We were notified it was a full flight, but we can change to aisle seats ---for an additional fee. To avoid an uncomfortable five hour flight, we paid - 27.80 each for 3 seats and 25.28 for the fourth (no idea why there is a difference) for a total of $108.68 on top of the $2800 already paid. Counting the $200 baggage fee both ways, American Airlines made almost $3100 on this transaction. When we boarded the flight, the plane was nowhere near full. People were changing their seats at will for no cost. I believe that this is an unfair practice. I did contact American Airlines Customer Service and received no sympathy. They indicated it is a normal practice for the airline to block certain seats (i.e. when you're told a flight is full, it really isn't). Although I understand that seats my need to be blocked for emergency situations, it seems to make sense that the seats blocked would be the unpopular middle seats; then if they were not needed, no one is inconvenienced.American Airlines customer service said that since we used the "service" we could not be refunded our money; I disagree as others used this service for free. I do not think it is fair that we had to pay to do something that others did for free and I think it is a misleading practice to say the flight is full when it is not. The case number this was assigned by American is 1-26648776164. I am seeking to have my $108.68 refunded to me. At this point, I would not ever fly American again nor would I recommend them to anyone.
I appreciate any assistance that can be provided.

Neil Maley

Staff Member
Dec 27, 2014
New York
Unfortunately, this is the newest way for airlines to make money. AA is joining the ranks of the low cost carriers and charging extra for prime seats .

Did you buy basic economy seats? You say you didn’t get seat assignments until 24 hours before. When you buy regular economy seats, you can usually get seat assignments at no cost.
Feb 21, 2018
Whether the flight was full or not, you essentially wanted to guarantee you had aisle seats...and in order to do that you have to pay up front.

It's true that once on the flight if there are empty seats or people look to change, they can do it for free...but this means you won't be guaranteed an aisle seat.
Sep 19, 2015
Seats are often blocked for high status frequent flyers, those with disabilities, Needing bulkhead for service animals or bassinet etc.

They are not going to block the middle seats for their best customers or block those for people that need a wheelchair.

The roughly 25 dollars per person was to reserve the aisle seat — otherwise one takes a chance.

You did use the service as in having the seat reserved.

Unfortunately this is the business model now charging for everything unless one has status or buys an expensive ticket.


Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
San Francisco
This must have been really frustrating, Jim. I'm not clear on why you didn't chose your seats at the time of booking. As my colleagues have outlined, AA charged you a huge amount of money for your trip ... because they can. The money-grubbing going on in the travel biz these days will not stop until there is government interference ... but the airline and hotel lobbies are very strong, with deep pockets. There's little chance that AA will refund the last round of fees, but you can certainly send them a concise, polite email and request it.
Likes: Neil Maley
Sep 19, 2015
In truth you did use the service; you had a seat reserved and the seat was held and you used it. There was always a chance that a large group of business travelers could have been on the flight and changed to later or earlier — which is entirely possible as Charlotte is the headquarters for numerous banks. Or others could buy last minute tickets to go to Charlotte and be on the flight. It basically is a gamble and how much is the aisle seat worth?

I am not a fan of the pay a fee for everything way that airlines operate but I have to be realistic about travel nowadays.
Likes: krisseye