American to Add Seats to Aircraft, Wants to Cramp Your Style Just Like Their Competitors Do

American is adding seats to aircraft, with a goal of becoming just as cramped as United and Delta.

“The seating configurations we’re going to are the same number of seats on the 737, for example, that Delta has. We haven’t finished the analysis on the 777 yet, but it will be consistent with what airlines like Delta have,” Kirby said.

…“We think it’s important to be competitive with United and Delta. You can have a premium product, but a premium product in markets where there is premium demand and customers who are willing to pay for it,” Kirby said.

American’s MD80s already have had more seats added, and 737s will be getting more seats soon. Both of these moves were reported last June.

Now they’re working out how they’ll add seats to their 777-200s as well.

Here’s the before and after seating for these three aircraft types:

American, under its pre-merger management, had been emphasizing premium product. That gave us a fantastic new business class aboard the Boeing 777-300ER. It gave us a new top shelf product onboard the Airbus A321 for the New York – Los Angeles and San Francisco markets.

But even previous management wasn’t generous with coach. The 777-300ER features 10 across seating in coach.

While their new Airbus A319s are great looking aircraft, they have fewer first class and main cabin extra seats than the planes they’re meant to replace. The new 737 interior is great, too but better inflight entertainment doesn’t mean more comfortable seating. They’re sticking in more seats and using ‘slimline seats’ which I don’t find padded as well. I wouldn’t want to fly long distances in them.

US Airways has less legroom in its domestic first class than American does. I expect the trend towards less room to continue, on routes where they cannot attribute a revenue premium directly to a premium product. That doesn’t mean nothing good in the air, US Airways pioneered what’s the new American (and Cathay Pacific, as well as others’) business class seat. But it means if they can’t pin revenue on meals, we won’t get meals. And if they can’t pin revenue on 38 inches of legroom versus 36 in first class, we’re likely to get 36 inches.

Taking a hard look at the numbers is important, but over-relying on models that are mis-specified and fail to capture consumer decisions accurately can lead to bad results.

I’m personally hoping that experiments like the new Airbus A321 pan out in a measurable way and quickly, to make the case for retaining as much of American’s product as possible under new management.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] mean all moves will be customer centric ones.  Just look to the recent confirmation that American is adding more seats to parts of their fleet.  Less legroom does not equal happier […]


  1. Time to start staying home, or simply routing from SFO to ATL via FRA in LH F. 🙂 US Airways agents DO think FRA is in Kentuck, don’t they?

  2. Southwest, Alaska, United, Delta, and now American, all going to the thin seats packed closer together. Everybody want to be RyanAir.

    It’s definitely a race to the bottom, and boy are our bottoms suffering!

  3. Yeah, I know why they do this. Which 737-800 is likely to be more profitable: the one with 150 seats or the one with 164 seats? That said, the planes aren’t likely to get any tighter. If they did, it would be Spirit. And people book away from Spirit — or simply decide not to travel — because the legroom is so uncomfortable.

  4. I am 5’4″ and 120 pounds and I feel claustrophobic and uncomfortable on these planes. I cannot imagine how you 6’+ guys deal. Holy cow.

  5. Why stop there let’s add more seats and take out first class and no business class. Maybe we can jam 300 people on a 737. Think of the profit. I’d rather be forced to stand for the entire flight subway style.

  6. “Taking a hard look at the numbers is important, but over-relying on models that are mis-specified and fail to capture consumer decisions accurately can lead to bad results.”

    Gary, what’s your evidence here? You must know something that the airline doesn’t about consumer purchasing habits with regard to coach seats?

  7. There’s no way they can cram mores eats in coach on their 777s. Melinda can’t even fit back there and she’s 5.8. So it means removing F on some aircraft

  8. “The new 737 interior is great, too but better inflight entertainment doesn’t mean more comfortable seating.”

    This is what I don’t understand…we have what, three or four 737 interiors flying currently (the new interior with personal TV’s, the new 737 interior with LED lighting, rounded rafts on the roof but without personal TV’s, and two older interiors.

    And now they’re going to a fifth with more seats? So all the existing will have to be re-done INCLUDING the brand new interior with personal TV’s?!?!?! I can see rows 16 and 17 being opened up as regular coach (+4 seats there), and think I’ve read that one row of First/Business/Premium goes away for another row of coach (+6 seats there). And an extra FA now because of these 10 seats.

    But the cost of updating a brand new plane (with personal TV’s) and adding a FA has got to be not to omuch a difference from 10 passengers at $300-$600 per seat…..why o why….

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