American is finally starting to get its hard product act together. It’s no secret that I am a fan of American, AAdvantage, and AA’s Admirals Club lounges (their great staff more than the actual facilities), but I’m also honest in that I’ve long recognized that American was falling behind even its domestic competitors in the quality of its onboard product. Yesterday’s news that they would be adding a Main Cabin Extra (MCE) product in the coach cabin is welcome news for American’s highest revenue customers, and I can’t help but think that the benefits of that will flow to the bottom line. American cannot attract high revenue corporate customers without a competitive onboard product, and MCE, if implemented appropriately, will go a long way in making American competitive with the new United, and now Delta who is rolling out its own Economy Comfort product systemwide.

One might ask why this will work now when More Room Throughout Coach (MRTC) did not? It’s a fair question, but let’s look at then vs. now. MRTC spread seats out across the entire cabin. Certainly that made for a more comfortable flight for all coach passengers, but were they willing to pay for it? The answer to that was no. MRTC resulted in higher costs per seat and no increase in revenue. With MCE, fewer seats will be removed, and there is a differentiator…or a benefit to buying up to this product. Not only do you get more legroom, you also get priority boarding. There’s a difference in the main cabin and the MCE product, and I think the industry’s experience with unbundling and upselling in the last few years has proven that people will pay slightly more for what they perceive to be an improved product or service. MCE meets my definition for that.

MCE is just one of several product improvement initiatives underway at American. With the delivery of new B777-300’s this spring, American will finally begin to rollout a competitive business class product. You can see a picture of the new cabin here (link courtesy of AA). That cabin is competitive with almost any in the marketplace. These are all great things. Now, on to the soft product….. and that’s a blog post for another day or maybe even another blogger.