American Airlines To Cram More Seats Onto Aircraft

As if squeezing into an economy-class seat wasn’t already a claustrophobe’s nightmare, American Airlines has announced plans to add even more seats to its planes, further encroaching on passenger legroom.

The carrier, which is trying to raise revenue following its merger with US Airways, will increase the number of economy class seats on its 737s and MD-80 fleet. The news came out after the airline’s VP of flight services made an announcement to the carrier’s flight attendants.

American Airlines says it doesn’t know exactly how many extra seats it will add, but airline consultant Michael Boyd told CNN that for the plan to be cost-effective, the airline would have to install at least 10 new seats in each aircraft. Adding what amounts to roughly two extra rows would mean taking 2.5 inches of legroom from each of the existing rows of seats.Freaking out yet? Well Boyd said passengers shouldn’t be too concerned at this stage. A slimmer seat design, along with changes to the bathroom and galley layout could save precious space. All up, he believes we might be left with about one inch less legroom once the new seats are installed. Still, it’s one inch too much for passengers who are already feeling the pinch.

Airlines to add more seating options, room and perks

Looking for more legroom on airlines? American Airlines hears the call and has plans to equip its entire mainline fleet with “Main Cabin Extra,” a new seating arrangement which will provide more leg room as well as priority boarding.

“Customers travelling in Main Cabin Extra seats will enjoy four to six inches of extra leg room compared to a standard Main Cabin seat as well as priority boarding privileges,” said Virasb Vahidi, American’s chief commercial officer.

American will begin installation on existing aircraft soon. New Boeing 737-800 aircraft delivered this fall will already be equipped with Main Cabin Extra seating.

Anticipated future aircraft, including Airbus A321s, and A319s, and Boeing 777-300ERs and 787s, will also offer Main Cabin Extra.

“We continue to provide our customers with choices that enable them to customize their travel on American to be the experience they desire and value,” said Vahidi.

Main Cabin Extra seats, located in the front portion of the main cabin, will allow for easier boarding and deplaning. AAdvantage Executive Platinum and Platinum members, along with customers who purchase a full-fare economy class ticket, will receive complimentary access to Main Cabin Extra, subject to availability.

Also, AAdvantage Gold members will receive complimentary access to the new seating product through December 31st, 2013.

Other airlines have extra space for a fee, too. United Airlines Economy Plus features up to five extra inches of legroom on all United flights worldwide as well as many United Express flights. Jet Blue’s Even More program allows first access to overhead bins and early boarding, too. US Airways Choice Seats program gives flyers the right to be first on and first off the plane, in addition to priority seat reservations using mostly window and aisle seats toward the front of Coach.

Flickr photo by bamueller