Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
I could barely contain my excitement.
I simply didn't know what to say.
When I heard this week that American Airlines was making adjustments to its Main Cabin Extra -- Premium Economy-lite -- offering, I took a little giddy.
As it announced to its Flight Attendants, it's going to label the overhead bins as exclusive to passengers in that class.
Next, it's going to give MCE passengers free alcoholic drinks.
Then, one more exciting snippet emerged.
American was going to allow standard, pained Economy Class passengers to take an empty Main Cabin Extra seat.
Yes, for free. Gratis. Without charge, or even a look of aggressive opprobrium from a Flight Attendant.
The wording to Flight Attendants seemed clear.
In answer to the question "Can customers move into open MCE seats, once boarding is complete?" the airline said: "Yes. Once the door is closed, customers are allowed to move to any available seat within their ticketed cabin (no change to current procedure).
Main Cabin Extra is within the Economy Class cabin. So hooray.
This was so decent, so human and so unlike a legacy airline.
I was bathed in such depths of disbelief that I immediately contacted American and asked if there had been some mistake.
Spokesman Joshua Freed told me: "Flight attendants have flexibility when it comes to solving seating issues within the Main Cabin. Main Cabin Extra generally has relatively few empty seats after our team completes the boarding process, so we don't expect any issues. We're making Main Cabin Extra experience better with a free drink and easier access to overhead bins. We know customers are going to love it."
I knew I loved it too.
I knew that this was the dawn of a new era, in which airline employees step down from being police officers and step up to their primary task of making customers feel good.
I was so naïve.
On Saturday morning, I received the text of an email sent to all American Airlines Flight Attendants by Jill Surdek, vice president of Flight Service.
It read, in part: "If a customer did not pay for the seat, they should not be able to move into it."
What? Where was the flexibility which made my heart lift to overhead-bin level?
Surdek continued: "If a customer asks to move into a MCE seat after boarding, you should use your best judgment in politely declining their request to prevent a negative or escalated interaction."
No, no, no, no.
This has all the myopia of a government official. This has all the flexibility of a medieval sculpture.
But what if a customer takes the seat, having read that this was most welcome under American's enlightened policy of flexibility?
Are we setting the stage for the flexing-bility of fists inflight?
The whole notion of flexibility on this issue was a stark contrast to United, which actually makes announcements on flights to warn passengers against taking empty seats in an upper seating area.
American was actually looking good here.
There's more, however, and it's even worse.
United at least allows you to buy an empty seat upgrade.
Indeed, Surdek added in her email: "Several of you also asked if we would consider selling upgrades to these seats onboard, similar to the service of other carriers. This is something we are considering, but again, we're trying to balance this with not adding more responsibilities for flight attendants."
In essence, then, American is afraid of giving its Flight Attendants more work to do.
But it won't do anything to make them -- and the airline -- look better in the customer's eyes.
Welcome to American Flexibility.
I cannot confirm American's new tagline is: We Don't Bend. It'll Break You.