American Airlines Has New Regional Jets That Are Missing Rows Of Seats

American Airlines customers may find themselves on a regional jet with rows of seats missing. Here’s the front of the cabin of an American Eagle Embraer ERJ-175, registration N502SY, operated by SkyWest. This is a new aircraft, just delivered in August 2021, one of 10 10 Embraer E-175 regional jets they’re currently flying for American.


N502SY, Credit: Patrick Fallon

According to American Airlines,

We’ve modified a small number of regional aircraft operated by SkyWest in order to maintain our flying schedule and to ensure we’re complying with the terms of our pilot contract. Those modifications include temporarily removing some seats in both the First Class and main cabins. These modified aircraft will likely remain flying into Summer 2022.

American’s pilot scope clause limits them to flying regional jets with 66-76 seats to no more than 40% of their mainline narrowbody fleet. Retirements of Boeing 757 and Embraer E-190 fleets reduced the size of the mainline narrowbody fleet, limiting the number of 66+ seat regional jets. They will, however, be taking Airbus A321neos, A321XLRs and Boeing 737 MAX aircraft into the fleet that should reduce some of the pressure on larger-capacity regional jets.

The airline tells me that these E-175 regional jets with fewer seats are only used “as substitutions when CRJ-700s are unavailable” at SkyWest. And, they say, this “doesn’t cause any scheduling issues on our end and customers aren’t negatively affected when they fly on these aircraft.”

These planes don’t appear clearly in schedules, and are assigned close-in to travel. So it’s possible to have seat assignments displaced when CR7s are swapped out for these E-175s.


American Airlines Embraer ERJ-175

American isn’t pushed into taking large regional jets and putting just 50 seats in them, like United is with the CRJ-550. Instead they’re pulling a few rows of seats and I imagine they’ll put those back once the mainline fleet gets bigger.

United actually can’t have more than 102 regional jets with 70 seats, and can’t have more than 153 with 76 seats. Their restrictions are similar to Delta’s. American’s scope clause is more flexible, and American has taken advantage of that, but they appear to have run up against that flexibility.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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Comments

  1. This new aircraft configuration on the American Eagle Embraer ERJ-175 is ideal for a comfortable and tranquil multi-passenger lie-flat sleeping area as long as passengers remember to pack a pillow, sleeping bag, and eye shades.

  2. Reminds me of a booth at a restaurant in Queens that was literally sawed in half, turning it from a four person to a two person booth, and reducing total seating from 36 to 34, when the first NYC smoking law was limited to restaurants with 35 or more seats.

  3. Pretty sure I flew one of these in late July from Palm Springs to Phoenix. I had that MCE seat, spouse got the upgrade for first. Aircraft was a bit bizarre, as the paint job seemed incomplete. I thought that perhaps they had just pulled it out of storage or picked it up from another airline and pressed it into service.

  4. Sadly, I assume they didn’t adjust the remaining seat rows to give passengers more legroom throughout the rest of the plane.

  5. American doesn’t care about its passengers!
    They had the option to take advantage of the situation on behalf of its passengers and chose to keep them crammed together.
    Go delta

  6. I have no idea how long it takes to reconfigure the seats on a plane, but considering it’s a safety item, I can’t imagine it’s not a significant number of hours in both labor and downtime for the plane. Plus, these changes are temporary – they’ll want to get the planes back in service with the regular seat configuration ASAP when the other planes come in. So rather than reconfigure the planes completely, twice, they do a partial removal and replacement.

    If they did increase the legroom, they really can’t sell that as it’s a tiny number of planes that are on unpredictable routes and it’s a very real cost. Totally understandable why they didn’t. But some people like to whine a lot.

  7. I’m just not clear why the pilots would care how many seats are in the plane? Is it as ease of flying issue?

  8. @Deborah – American Airlines pilots want to limit the amount of flying that’s contracted out to other (regional) airlines flying smaller planes. The smallest planes don’t really compete with an American Airlines union pilot flying a big jet. But a couple of 76 seat jets could replace an A320. They are fine with the smallest planes bringing passengers connecting onto their planes (increasing jobs for AA pilots) not ok with bigger jets replacing their flying (fewer jobs for AA pilots, replaced by pilots of other airlines that pay less)

  9. Don’t understand why they could not leave the seats in place and just not sell them. Fuel savings?

  10. What most of us don’t appreciate is that airline seats are heavy therefore it makes sense to remove them. Spreading out the seats will convert the aircraft to super premium economy therefore depressing first/business class seats.

  11. The point isn’t that it’s cheaper for American to keep the remaining seats closer together. We know that. The point is that American could significantly improve some customer comfort, even if only sporadically and unpredictably, for a few hours of labor, but they are choosing not to do so. That’s what makes them cheap.

  12. The reason the seats are not being more spread out is more of a weight and balance issue. The cabin is set up in zones or moments. Setting up a different configuration in the cabin is a lot more involved than just moving seats. Changes would also have to be updated in both pilots and F/A manuals. Some extra training may be involved and probably a new weight and balance calculator made. All of this for a temporary situation.

  13. And this is why Republic has a bunch of 170s for AA with 65 seats. But it’s actually 66 seats but the last one on ac right has a drink holder instead of a seat cushion.

  14. That is the way the cookie crumbles. The regional could always claim overbooking and fill those supposed unused not to be sold seat and claim overbooking. If they took the seats off, no excuses plus weight savings lower fuel burn and a happy main line pilots union. It looks like they took off the seats between 1st and cattle class, which is much easier to accomplish and not having to repitch cattle class but giving the lucky first row extra leg room is a plus maintenance wise way easier to accomplish.

  15. Larry Toler, if it’s a weight and balance issue and seats have weight, their removal would presumably cause a balance issue? Would that not get you to the same place of training, manuals etc. you describe? It is unfortunate that mgmt and unions could not work together to reconcile this situation without this silly work around.

  16. @Jerry Moody – You really are completely clueless on the subject. Maybe you should do your homework before you go pooping all over the safest and most professional pilot pool in the world. Why don’t you Google airline pilot scope clause and see what you come up with?

  17. If the major airlines paid all of the crew members the same wage, none of this would be an issue.

    The majors want cheap labor, so smaller cheap airplanes exist. Incidentally , the training in small commuters for crew members is not the same. All fall under FAR 121 regulations, but the computers don’t have the deep pockets like the larger carriers.

    All of them will deny this fact, but ask the pilots of all carriers and you will find your answer.

  18. Years ago I flew between two small airport in Honduras. The flight contained mostly Hondurans and that aircraft (~30 passenger capacity after removing the last few rows of seats) had the same missing rows of seats – and that empty space wound up containing chickens and other domestic animals in cages. If Biden is trying to turn the US into a third world nation, then that would be a visible start.

  19. Moron says, “This is why I hate unions.” Because they have working conditions spelled out in the contract that both parties agreed to.

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