American Airlines Finally Has a Plan to Offer Seat Power

American Airlines has offered power to passengers, but US Airways didn’t. In fact, after America West acquired US Airways they removed power from the US Airways planes that already had it. The idea was to reduce weight and save fuel.

It’s been over three years since the American Airlines – US Airways merger. They’ve combined frequent flyer programs and reservation systems. They’ve bought back billions of dollars worth of stock. But most US Airways planes still have the same interiors — no Main Cabin Extra (extra legroom seating in coach) and no seat power. There hasn’t even been an announced plan to change domestic Airbus aircraft other than the A319s.

So as part of the story of their new Boeing 737MAX aircraft they’re sharing that they are not installing screens for video on demand. Instead they’ll stream movies and television shows to personal devices and offer high speed internet.

I actually think this makes sense though I realize it’s not popular with readers.

  • The equipment is heavy and burns fuel, it takes up space often legroom. And it’s expensive. It’s the last place I’d want the airline to invest in passenger experience for a largely domestic narrowbody flying short flights.

  • You still get entertainment content on demand. You already have the device. You’re watching on your own device instead of the seat back in front of you. I don’t see that as a huge loss, but then I bring my own entertainment anyway rather than putting myself at the mercy of the airline.

And American is assuring not only that we’ll have power at every seat on these planes as well as new A321s, but also that it’s finally a direction they’re headed in for the full fleet.

We expect 50 percent of our domestic narrowbody aircraft to be equipped with power at every seat by the end of 2018, and over 85 percent equipped by the end of 2020

Power at every seat is notable because it means coach seats are no longer sharing power outlets.

I flew on legacy US Airways planes through Charlotte earlier in the week, and I knew I’d be flying through some bad weather. That means I brought my own power brick – a big heavy one to power both my laptop and my phone through two flights and the expectation of a delay.

I’m sad that even four years from now 15% of the fleet [provided they hit their planned timeline!] still won’t have this, but I’m glad there is finally a road map for even some seats on the bulk of the legacy US Airways “basket of deplorables” fleet to have power. Of course they still main cabin extra seating…

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. This is kind of like when concentration camp guards have starved everyone to the brink of death – then want credit for distributing stale hunks of bread.

    Ameikan Error Lines is dead.

  2. $30 and get a portable power bank. Problem solved. Is it that hard to be self sufficient on a plane?

  3. A decent power brick that will support more than a phone/tablet — that will power a laptop — is more money and bulkier. I carry one when flying legacy US Airways. However a couple of flights, no time to charge in between, add in a weather delay or even a diversion and you’re still toast.

  4. On one hand, I’m ok with these changes (and welcome the end of the person behind me tapping their screen endlessly), but only the other hand, I find it annoying that I have to schlep a phone, a computer, a laptop, cords, power, etc. With carry-on space being so limited, I try to pack as efficiently as possible.

  5. I bring a book.

    Airplanes are basically the last place I unplug – and that’s a major part of the reason I like flying.

  6. I wouldn’t mind streaming entertainment to my device, if not for the fact that they keep decreasing seat space to the point where now I cannot have my laptop on my table tray if the person in front of my reclines at all. I mean it doesn’t fit. And I’m including some of the E+ seats! Off-topic, but this is why I switched my allegiance to B6 this year from AA. If I’m not going to be upgraded (rarely was last year with AA Platinum), I might as well fly a better coach.

  7. American completely got it backwards.

    Power — batteries are cheap and easy to pack and bring on board. I wouldn’t travel anywhere without my extra battery! Power ports are completely redundant, and they are not needed with a minimum of planning.

    Screen — bringing your own is bulky, expensive, drains batteries fast, a huge hassle to deal with in the tiny seat trays, and impossible to use when I am eating (where do I put it?). And if you have to bring your screen, you can’t watch a show while going through emails. A built-in screen is a necessity (and sorry, AA, watching Star Wars on a mobile phone does not count as “entertainment”).

    It’s obvious that these geniuses don’t know (care) about customers. All they care is their current bonus, pinching every penny now and leaving behind a crud airline to the next management team to fix. They will have to retrofit all airplanes with seat-back TVs, like Delta just finished doing.

  8. And how much will we pay for the privilege of streaming these movies and television shows to personal devices? I can’t believe I’m the only one who actually prefers the convenience of watching on the seat back monitor.

  9. @ Mike D – Youre not the only one; there’s just no ROI on it for the airline, esp when everyone has moved to free access to content.

    The equipment gets obsolete quickly, its expensive and it’s heavy. It’s the right move for the airline, but I agree it’s a bit of a bummer for the passenger.

    Last note: I think Gary is wrong about AA having a plan on power. I think they have a schedule, which is a lot different at AA than having a plan. AA only us plans when they include driving consumers to Alaska, Virgin and WN by making their pricing more arcane, less favorable, less transparent and harder to get planes off the ground. Those poor gate agents that are going to have to police the ‘Scarlet B/no roll aboard policy are going to SLOW down boarding to. A. Crawl.

  10. Having seat power is a very important feature to me. I spend a lot of time in the air every week and it is hugely helpful to have outlet power and very nice to have USB power. I can’t imagine that would add a great deal of weight. As far as video screens, I’m sure some people like them a lot but to me they are annoying since, by intruding from the back of the seat, they reduce the leg room and the ability to open a laptop. It may only be a few inches but it makes a big difference. Streaming movies and TV (at no cost to the passenger) seems like a smart alternative to the expense and weight of a monitor at each seat. I don’t watch videos when I am flying, I do work on my computer and depend on the ability to make productive use of that time, so when I get home I can relax. Add the power, don’t bolt on the video screens wait until you buy new aircraft with them built in, hopefully they will take up less room that way. That’s my opinion.

  11. I can fly if I can work. That means 120V inseat. Very helpful to have Wifi, too. My new laptop wants 175W, but can make do with much less. Dear AA, don’t get rid of AC power, or I’ll have to stop flying. BTW, for me, it’s AA or nothing … and nothing is an option.

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