Less legroom?

New Boeing 737-800s being delivered to American Airlines have the same amount of cabin space as the old ones - and 12 additional coach seats. This might seem a little whacky since the airlines are supposedly trying to encourage more air travel - we are still in a recession after all. But extra fares are extra fares - and more seats that an airline is able to jam into a plane mean fewer planes are needed to meet demand. Plus, not to worry - an American spokesman says that passengers won't notice any difference. From the WSJ's Middle Seat column:

The airline says it standardized the "seat pitch" -- the distance from a point on one seat to the same point on the seat in the next row -- at 31 inches throughout the coach cabin. Some rows in the old configuration had as much as 33 inches of seat pitch, and American's Web site says the old configuration averaged 32 inches. AMR Corp.'s American says the room for the two added coach rows was freed up by several changes besides just newly designed seats with thinner seatbacks squeezed closer together. Two service-cart storage cabinets behind the last row of seats were eliminated because, well, there's not as much food and beverage service onboard flights these days. The space between the two cabins was shrunk using a new contoured divider.


American once had 34 inches in coach when it marketed itself as the "More Room" airline from 2000-2005. The MD-80s being phased out in favor of the 737-800s will replace MD-80 jets that have 31- to 33-inch pitch in coach. While some low-cost airlines still offer 32-34 inches of seat pitch on planes, 31 inches has become the standard in coach at many carriers. Delta, for example, had 32 inches in its 737-800s when it had 150 seats. A reconfiguration completed last summer on all 71 737-800s in Delta's fleet pushed that to 160 seats, using slimmer seats. But seat pitch did decline: The first seven rows in coach have 32-inch pitch, but the 15 rows behind the exit doors have 31-inch pitch.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
The multi-talented Mark Lacter
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