American Airlines CEO Doug Parker used an appearance at the Airline Passenger Experience (APEX) Expo in Boston to defend the airline’s latest reductions in seat pitch and the infamously tiny lavatories on the carrier’s new Boeing 737MAX aircraft. The AA head also said lawmakers should not get “involved” in regulating passenger comfort.
At this year’s Airline Passenger Experience (APEX) Expo in Boston, Massachusetts, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker told industry insiders that new aircraft cabins with drastically reduced seat pitch configurations are more comfortable than many of the economy class cabins with greater seat pitch in service today. The airline executive lamented that if the flying public better understood the concept of seat pitch, passengers might be more aware of how much more comfortable an experience the tighter seating plans provide.
“That 30-inch pitch, having done it myself, is much more comfortable than our existing 31-inch pitch on an MD-80,” said Parker during the APEX Expo’s opening presentation in comments first reported by Air Transport World. “It feels like a much better product. I think the whole definition of pitch needs to be better understood. The fact is that a seat is an inch [slimmer] and more comfortable. The traditional measure of simply pitch, and comparing pitch to aircraft that have very different seats, doesn’t really give the customer what they need to know about the amount of space they have.”
Parker said that today’s technically advanced seat designs actually give passengers the same amount of legroom but still allow the airline to fit more passengers on the aircraft. He complained that the traditional way of seat pitch no longer accurately indicates the amount of legroom a passenger might expect to find once on the aircraft.
Parker also used his onstage interview with APEX CEO Joe Leader to discuss the notoriously small lavatories on American’s new 737MAX aircraft. The AA chief managed to, at the same time, both pass the buck and defend the tiny restroom facilities famously referred to as “the most miserable experience in the world” by one American Airlines captain.
“In this case, Boeing did a nice job of designing a bathroom that is a couple inches narrower than the one we’ve had in the past,” Parker said. “Real estate inside the cabin is incredibly valuable. Our customers care greatly about that, so if we can give them two more inches inside the cabin by having our bathrooms two inches narrower – as Delta has done, as Southwest has done – I think that’s a good thing. We haven’t had complaints about it – we’ve had some press about it.”
After his presentation, Parker said legislation to regulate airline seat size and legroom was unnecessary. He told reporters that he was “reluctant to see the government get involved in customer-type issues.” He added that densely packed cabin configurations were not a safety issue and expressed confidence that “any sort of study will bear that out.”
One person who disagrees with that assessment is Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger best known for his heroics during the so-called “Miracle on the Hudson.” The now retired pilot took to Twitter in the days before Parker’s presentation to decry ever more crowded airline cabins and the potential safety issues posed by this trend. The aviator linked to a New York Times op-ed questioning the ability of passengers to quickly evacuate today’s overcrowded commercial flights.
“Airlines continue to make seats smaller to increase revenue despite safety concerns,” Sullenberger wrote in his September 20th tweet. “@FAAnews must require more realistic demonstrations, not just simulations, to prove planes can be evacuated quickly.”
[Photo: Reuters/Mike Stone]