During the pandemic American Airlines accelerated the removal of seat back video screens from its Boeing 737 aircraft. While other airlines aggressively clamped down on capital spending, American ramped up its effort to add seats to its planes – reducing the amount of space per passenger, even in
first class – and take out the screens.
Now there is just one Boeing 737-800 left with seat back entertainment: N981NN. And unfortunately you won’t be able to fly on it, because it’s been in storage in Miami since November 23, 2020 and is about to be sent in to be retrofit according to airline spokesperson Brian Metham,
With the exception of the specific aircraft you mentioned below, none of our 737-800s have seatback entertainment. And while N981NN does have seatback entertainment, it’s currently in an active storage program and will be sent for retrofit in the coming days.
When US Airways management took over at American, Boeing 737-800s had 150 seats. They quickly added 10 seats, bringing the total to 160. These retrofits bring the total number of seats on the aircraft to 172. They squeeze in more seats by reducing the space between seats, and reducing the padding in each seat.
American could have given seat back video for less than the cost overrun on their new headquarters which they may not even need because they’ve eliminated about 30% of the employees working there.
American Airlines is spending more money to make planes less comfortable when they’re saddled with unprecedented levels of debt. They’re removing seat back entertainment, valued most by leisure travelers, when there are only leisure travelers. They’re cramming passengers closer together when, thanks to the pandemic, customers want more personal space than ever. And they’re adding seats when it’s tougher to sell marginal seats than ever before. That’s almost the definition of insanity.
In contrast, Southwest Airlines offers more distance between rows than American, and Delta continues to remain committed to seat back entertainment and block middle seats. American has higher costs and debt than competitors, and needs to attract a revenue premium, but is making its product less attractive. They’re about to eliminate the last Boeing 737-800 offering customers greater comfort and a better experience.