American Airlines Slashes Legroom In Economy Class In The Name Of New Plane Seats

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Should you start preparing for a squeeze? American Airlines has announced plans to reduce the front-to-back space between some economy class seats by an added 2 inches.

According to the airline, it is eyeing more seats on its Boeing 737 Max jetliners. In order to do so, it will decrease the distance between seats from 31 inches to 29 inches on three airplane rows, as well as down to 30 inches in the remaining parts of the main economy cabin.

Some Economy Seats Will Have The Least Legroom

The projected pitch, or the distance from any spot on an airplane seat to the same place on the seat in front of it, will approximate what ultra-low-cost carriers such as Frontier Airlines offer passengers.

“The seats we’ll use on the MAX are designed to maximize personal living space, while allowing more comfort, even in arrangement like this where the pitch is a little tighter,” an American Airlines spokesman said, although it remains unknown how it will decide which passengers will occupy the rows with the least legroom.

The company has placed 100 orders for the said jets, the firsts of which are expected to arrive later this year.

CNN reported that American isn’t the only major airline heading into this direction, with United Airlines also reportedly considering the same move. United declined commenting on the report, which came about just as carriers were highlighting better overall customer experience and service.

In Comparison With Ultra-Low-Cost Carriers

The change will make American the first large carrier in the United States to provide legroom that’s close enough to those on carriers such as Frontier and Spirit Airlines, whose seats are 28 inches apart based on industry-set minimum.

On Delta Air Lines and United, on the other hand, economy class pitch is from 30 to 31 inches. On JetBlue Airways, Alaska Airlines, and Southwest Airlines, the pitch is between 31 and 33 inches.

Henry Harteveldt, Atmosphere Research Group’s founder, said the new legroom could lead some corporate travel agencies generally avoiding the ultra-low-cost segment to balk at the decision. Amid strong profits and low fuel prices, airlines are now adding seats to assist in offsetting increasing employee wages — and the move could affect the industry’s current momentum, he added.

The tighter legroom, too, is feared to set a standard for flying economy in the United States.

Max Jets In Focus

The new Max jets are said to have 172 seats, versus the 160 on 737-800s. American expressed that it is putting up 36 extra-legroom “Main Cabin Extra” economy seats along with 16 first-class seats.

The bathrooms inside the jets are also reportedly smaller, according to an insider report.

The aircraft is intended to primarily fly North American routes.

The development on seats and legroom no longer came as a surprise, as during the company’s first quarter earnings call last week, American Airlines president Robert Isom suggested the idea of adding plane seats. Isom pointed to decisions that will benefit “overall revenue production” and help “from a unit cost perspective.”

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