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American Airlines

AA Shrinks Seat Size in First Class and Economy on the Boeing 737 Max

AA Shrinks Seat Size in First Class and Economy on the Boeing 737 Max
Jackie Reddy

Both first and economy-class passengers can expect to feel the squeeze on the carrier’s narrow-body craft.

The furor over American Airline‘s plans to introduce seats with 29-inch pitches on-board their new Boeing 737 Max planes may have abated, but it seems that space is still a contentious issue in the cabin. After considerable criticism from those in the aviation industry and even from their employees, the carrier has settled on a 30-inch pitch in economy.

This, says Gary Leff of BoardingArea, is just a hair shy of what many passengers have come to expect as the norm “since the current standard for a mainline legacy airline is 31 inches.” However, the goal of these new planes is to maximize space, which, Leff reports, the 737 Max certainly does. “The idea is to squeeze in more seats, and they’re doing it by taking away legroom both from first class and economy, by shrinking the lavatories, and by uncovering every inch of underutilized space on the plane,” commented Leff, who took the inaugural flight of the carrier’s Boeing 737 Max 8 plane from Miami to NYC just last week.

While Leff says that this particular craft does have some unique features, such as at-seat power points, satellite Internet and tablet-friendly seatbacks, major concessions have been made for the sake of space. “The word is ‘densification’,” writes Leff. “When US Airways took over American they increased the number of seats onboard 737s from 150 to 160. Now they’ve managed to get 172 onto the plane.”

What’s more, this space-saving theme is evident in first-class too. “There’s less seat pitch in first class, too (37 inches versus 38 inches currently) and less recline as well (effectively four inches instead of six),” he says. Additionally, Leff reports that there is no bulkhead division between first and economy classes. But while he concedes that the economy seats on AA’s new craft aren’t “the worst thing in the sky,” Leff explains that his “complaints about space are really complaints about economy — as it’s experienced today on American Airlines, United, and Delta — more than they are complaints about this economy.”

 

[Photo: Shutterstock]

View Comments (22)

22 Comments

  1. WillTravel4Food

    WillTravel4Food

    December 5, 2017 at 7:23 am

    The title is misleading. The seat size isn’t changing. Seat pitch is changing. There’s a big difference. An airline can reduce pitch and add more rows. It’d be mighty difficult to further narrow a seat width to add another seat to a row. Maybe that’s possible in F, but then it’d become even more difficult to sell that seat as F. Then it would become something akin to a European domestic J seat, which doesn’t sell for the premium US domestic airlines charge for domestic F.

  2. Sabai

    December 5, 2017 at 8:11 am

    Greed and avarice; welcome to what industry consolidation has done to the traveling public.

    Meanwhile the US Cartels continue to whine about the ME3.

  3. lobo411

    December 5, 2017 at 10:07 am

    Odd. It’s almost as if… When big corporations merge and announce that consumers will be the big winners, they’re flat out lying…

  4. chadbag

    December 5, 2017 at 10:16 am

    I used to be loyal to one airline (not AA). Then they devalued miles, cramped economy, and started charging for everything as an extra. (And fares actually went up over time). Now, I fly whatever airline gives me a good deal and I will give preference to foreign airlines over domestic when I go international because their service is much better and planes are much nicer and less cramped. And if I have to choose between two similar fares and one is a less cramped plane, I’ll choose that (by doing research) on domestic.

    Airlines have lost my loyalty.

  5. flyingmz

    December 5, 2017 at 10:22 am

    I have become weary of how difficult it is to even get into the plane, and to be comfortable in a seat has become impossible. The result: I no longer fly domestic. I will drive, go by train and be comfortable or just stay home! I say give your miles to charity! the churches do missions all over the world and have to buy airfare….good place to donate miles!

  6. milohoss

    December 5, 2017 at 10:36 am

    Time for that meddling gov’t to step in. There should be a legal minimum.

  7. KevAZ

    December 5, 2017 at 10:38 am

    Went from hundreds of flight segments per year to one RT last year on domestic, public airlines. If we fly in the US, it’s via private aircraft and a slightly more flexible schedule.

  8. Rocky2012

    December 5, 2017 at 10:56 am

    How about shrink the galley’s, bathrooms, cockpit, baggage compartments, all other non utilized space, before impacting the paying CUSTOMER SEATS. There has to be a better way than the one US airlines are choosing.

  9. IntlRabbit

    December 5, 2017 at 11:01 am

    But, but… just 2 weeks ago Doug said he listened and no change to pitch. Guess he had to come up with the bucks to cover the pilot double time it’s going to cost him to cover the IT vacation mess he’s responsible for.

  10. Berniecfc

    December 5, 2017 at 11:12 am

    Consolidation doesn’t benefit the fare paying passenger, just reduces the number of players in the Cartel. So when one of the members does something to increase profit at the expense of service and comfort the other cartel members aren’t slow to miss the same trick. I now beginning to appreciate how sardines use to feel. I think it would be great to see Mr. Doug Parker sitting in the back of the plane in the middle seat, trying to find room to count his profits and project his end of year bonus.

  11. ontheway

    December 5, 2017 at 11:32 am

    Time to ensure government officials fly coach. Things will quickly change if we do that.

  12. conquistador74

    December 5, 2017 at 11:37 am

    As well as installing their premium economy seats as their first class seats on this ride, too.

  13. Richard D

    December 5, 2017 at 11:42 am

    Southwest is flying the Boeing 737 Max 8. Flew it last week, and behold, MORE legroom, as wide or wider seat . . . how do they manage to expand when these socalled ‘legacy airlines’ shrink seating size in economy? I am loyal to Southwest, never had a bad flight, a surly agent or stressed out cabin person. I’ve talked with crew on numerous occassions and they all say the work environment is excellent, they are treated well and that rolls over into how they treat customers.

  14. Mike Rivers

    December 5, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    I’m pretty short, so I suspect that a reduction in pitch wouldn’t bother me much more than everything else about flying today. I do highly support the proposed reduction in seat back recline angle, however, and I hope they do that for those of us sitting in the peanut gallery. I rarely incline my seat back more than just a couple of degrees, but I’m always seated behind someone who thinks his seat is a La-Z-Boy and tries to get his seat back as close to my face as possible.

    I’ve given up using my laptop computer on a tray table long ago and now use it on my lap (where it belongs, obviously).

  15. ednumrich

    December 5, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    Now age 77, I long ago limited my decision of with whom and how to fly to one factor: Cheapest fare to get me where and when I want to go. (Probably not standing holding a strap, however.)

  16. POatParker

    December 5, 2017 at 7:06 pm

    This is just one more thing showing how non-customer centric Dougy Parker is! He treats his customers like shit. He treat his employees worse. He has to be the worst CEO of any company!!! The sooner he is gone the better! You can reach this sorry POS at Douglas.parker@aa.com Let him know he sucks and is failing!

  17. WillTravel4Food

    WillTravel4Food

    December 6, 2017 at 8:03 am

    @ontheway – We do fly in coach. I’m a career civil servant in the executive branch. I’ve sat next to a congresswoman in coach. She was in a middle seat.

    I’m surprised that we still have this misconception that airlines load as many seats as they want onto planes. If the airframe manufacturer can demonstrate emergency evacuation to the maximum seat count, any airline can select that seating density as an option. Airbus and Boeing give customers the option, and the customers take it because of the economics.

  18. jonsail

    December 6, 2017 at 8:33 am

    Probably a smart move re: the domestic first class seats by this logic: A few years ago domestic first was occupied mainly by elites with economy tickets. Now with the shrinking of economy seats more and more formerly economy flyers are willing to pay for domestic first class. and they are displacing free elite upgraders. Such folks migrating from ever more cramped economy, myself included, aren’t going to be put off by a 37″ seat pitch instead of 38″. (I am, however, put-off by British Airways 30″ seat pitch on intra-Europe business class.)

  19. Jacobruiz

    December 7, 2017 at 3:29 am

    The entire flying experience on any American airline stinks. Give me a magic wand and I can fix it in one wave: allow Asian and Middle Eastern carriers to fly unfettered in the US and nobody would ever tolerate their poor, callous service or aging, cramped aircraft again. This “money above all else” attitude along with their rancid corporate thinking and tired old planes should be relegated to the trash heap of airline history. Like Trump, they serve nobody but themselves. Flying should be glorious and they’ve made it misery.

  20. NoelTheOne

    December 7, 2017 at 5:50 am

    @WillTravel4Food The problem with that argument is that those evacuation tests aren’t done in anything close to real-world conditions, and recent research has questioned how valid they are in measuring the speed of evacuation in actual emergency. https://www.thedailybeast.com/flying-coach-is-so-cramped-it-could-be-a-death-trap

  21. ohange

    December 7, 2017 at 11:01 am

    @Richard D Re: Southwest 737Max8 vs AA’s 737Max8…

    SWA puts 175 seats in their 800 series, even the Max 8s. Article says AA has 172, but the difference is AA’s is a two-class configuration, while SWA’s is 175 in a single class configuration. To draw out how they get 175, WN has the 6 across seating with a single center aisle, the exit row has no A or F seat, and the rows are staggered. There is also no A-B-C in Row 1. So that’s 30 rows, X 6, minus 2 exit row seats, minus 3 Row 1 (180 – 5 =175). I have not seen a layout for the AA Max 8, but I would bet it’s 16 F, and 26 rows of Y class. (16 + 156 = 172)

  22. oldAGE

    December 7, 2017 at 12:58 pm

    At a towering height that is smaller than the US average and a weight tipping the scales lower than the US average, I find the AA product that currently exists as sub-optimal. It’s a bit better in MainExtra but not much better. Being an AAdvantage member since its inception, I find the value of AA with my Lifetime status not worth the loyalty. If the back of the plane is going to suck on American, I may as well fly by price and save myself some money in/out of my primary market. That’s the problem with US Domestic Airlines. They don’t know how to compete. They think price is everything and they are absolutely wrong.

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