No, American’s Preferred Seating is not considered an upgrade

On a recent trip to Mexico, Allen Lipscher purchased tickets on American Airlines and paid extra for seat assignments, but he believes he did not fly in the type of seats he bought. He wants a refund, but is this case really one where American messed up, or is it a case where the customer didn’t understand what he was buying?

When Lipscher booked his and his wife’s tickets to Puerto Vallarta, he elected to pay $63 each for what he thought were “upgraded” seats in row 10. On the outbound flight, he felt he received an upgrade, but he didn’t think they received the correct seats on the return, even though they were seated in the same seat numbers. So he wrote to American Airlines Customer Relations.

The company replied, and informed him that he did not purchase the seats with extra legroom, which American calls “Main Cabin Extra.” Instead, he purchased “Preferred Seats,” which American defines as “standard legroom seats that are more favorably located throughout the Main Cabin.” So while these seats may have a more desirable location (aisles and windows are usually included, and depending on the specific equipment used for a flight, may only be located towards the front and center of the aircraft), Preferred Seats are not an upgrade from the standard seat.

The description of each of the available seats on American Airlines flights can be found on its Main Cabin amenities page. When booking a ticket online and selecting seats, the available Main Cabin Extra seats are shown in red on the seat map, available Preferred Seats are shown in green, and available Basic Economy are shown in blue.

While this case refers specifically to the American Airlines seating policy, all airlines have seat definitions and maps that identify which seats are part of a category. Airlines also identify which seats are included in the price you paid for your ticket, and which ones are an additional cost, based on the ticket you purchased and on some airlines, your frequent flier status. On some websites the cost of the seat is identified on the map, while others have a “pop-up” when your mouse pointer hovers over the seat.

Lipscher quickly received a response from American Airlines on his request for a refund. The representative told him that he purchase Preferred Seats, not Main Cabin Extra, was not entitled to a seat with extra legroom, and his request for a refund was denied. But Lipscher was certain that he received extra legroom on the outbound flight, and since it was the same equipment he did not receive the correct seats.

He could have escalated his case to the contacts we list on our website. Instead, he wrote to us and asked us for help.

Our advocates reached out to our contact at American and received a quick response. In addition to checking the flight numbers, our contact also checked the tail numbers of the equipment used on each flight, just to be certain the exact equipment used was being investigated.

The flights that Lipscher selected were operated using 737-800 equipment, and did not offer Main Cabin Extra seating in row 10. The outbound flight did offer an entertainment system that includes a screen at each seat, which the return flight did not, but that was the only difference in row 10 between the flights.

I looked at flights between Chicago and Puerto Vallarta online, and searched for the same equipment. I found that Main Cabin Extra seating is available in rows 7, 8, and 9, but not row 10.

It seems that Lipscher actually purchased Preferred Seating for his flights, and that he received the seats that he selected. We don’t believe American owes him a refund.

While we can’t help Lipscher on this case, we can take this opportunity to remind all our readers to read everything when you purchase your flights online: know what the seat definitions are, how the seat categories differ, and how to identify the seat you really want to reserve for yourself and your travel companions. If you find the definitions or the seat maps confusing, call the airline directly or use a travel agent.

Share this story
Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share on Facebook

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Enterprise Holdings

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.