American Airlines To Squeeze Even More Seats Into Its Smallest Mainline Jets

I wrote this morning that American Airlines would add more first class seats to its Airbus A319 fleet. Currently these planes have just 8 first class seats along with 120 coach seats.

According to aviation watchdog JonNYC, when Airbus A319s that had been part of American Airlines before US Airways management took over a decade ago, they will:

  • Be changed over to the new standard “Oasis” product which means taking out seat back TVs and adding bigger overhead bins

  • Get an extra row of seats in order to add first class. They will go to 12 first class seats while keeping 120 seats in economy

This means squeezing the cabin for extra inches to stick another row of seats into an aircraft that’s already densely configured. There are only 3 rows at the front of the plane, for instance, that are considered ‘Main Cabin Extra’ extra legroom seats.

They’ll be getting some of those inches with a smaller lavatory, but that doesn’t get them what they need and that means inches will need to be squeezed from the rest of the (seats in the) cabin. Expect less legroom than today on this aircraft both for first class seats and for seats in economy.

Current Airbus A319 First Class Seat

American Airlines New ‘Oasis’ Coach Seat

The timing for this change is not yet clear. American has been planning to add more first class seats to sell for over two years. However, they needed to complete retrofits of their Airbus A321s to the new cabin standard before turning their attention to this plane. And they’ll be getting more A321s for reconfiguration from Alaska Airlines. Soon, though, these A319s will lose seat back TVs, legroom, and even get squeezed at the lav.

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. AA and the other airlines in the business of making flying in economy class less and less comfortable are airlines best avoided as much as possible. More cramped seats and cramped lavatories make for a flying experiences becoming even more awful and one to be minimized by booking away.

  2. Geez. Isn’t it bad enough already?.It just invites obese people to sue. Where does it stop? When we’re standing like cattle.

  3. And then they’ll wonder why passengers will lose control of themselves. Maybe everybody should just be handed a strong sedative when boarding. Zombies are easier to control than people imitating sardines in a can.

  4. 12 F 120 Y is exactly what DL has with the spaces lavs in the back, so that sounds about right.

    It’s a shame that while UA is actively adding IFE to their narrowbody fleet, AA is Oasis-ing the last remnant of their domestic fleet with IFE

  5. Sadly, this is what the majority of flyers want today.
    The flying public votes with their wallets. Time and again they vote for basic economy and the cheapest possible ticket. They won’t pay for extra legroom. They won’t pay for MCE. Therefore, if AA is to be profitable, the only choice they have is to squeeze in the most seats possible.
    It’s not my preference but I certainly understand that the large domestic carriers are actually listening to their customers.

  6. What’s the logic of removing seat backs entertainment when their competitors are putting it back in? Doesn’t it cost them hard dollars to remove? They can’t deliver reliable power as it is.

  7. While some people get really bent out of shape when anyone criticizes AA, you have to wonder what AA was thinking when it ordered late-build A319s. Many of its A319s are +/- 2000 era aircraft but they have some that are only 10 years old.
    The economics of small aircraft have been deteriorating for a decade and AA recognized that by building a pretty large A321 fleet.
    The A319 is an expensive aircraft on a seat mile basis esp. considering that B6, DL and others are flying the A220-300 which seats the same number of passengers but has new generation engines. Most of the US carrier A319 fleet will be gone within 10 years but AA will either have to early retire its last couple dozen or have uncompetitive costs on them.
    It is no wonder they are trying to fit more seats into the A319s to help.
    The SpaceFlex lavs are more spacious than the dreaded “splash everything” lavs on the B737-900ER and later. US airlines don’t need a full rear galley on domestic flights.

  8. AA doesn’t care what they squeeze from the customer’s or employees as long as The Board and CEO are making more $$$. That is how this airline run’s. It’s been the motto since the merge with USAir and has and will continue to get worse. Safety, comfort, care are not a concern at this airline.

  9. Sooner or later airlines will have first class and business class seats packed as tight as coach class seats. They will still charge a higher price for those premium seats. People will still pay for them and some people will be upgraded to them.

  10. I am concerned about quickly aircraft in case of an emergency. With additional seats and the lessening of space between seat rows, can the aircraft be evacuated in 90 seconds?

  11. @Ginger AA makes at best single digit profit margins. If cutomers bought more MCE seats, AA would supply them. Instead most customers just buy the cheapest possible fare so AA is adapting. The economy cabin is a comodity product where most people just purchase based on price and schedule.

  12. Won’t see me fly in an A319 for sure. Especially since I get upgraded to MCE as a platinum member. If they shrink that seat as well, I simply won’t take that flight.

  13. Interesting. What does this densification mean for the “ski” routes that these jets fly in winter? Often times these are right on the brink of weight restriction going EGE-DFW in winter. (Well, if gate agents are to be believed.). There is that severe left hand turn departing EGE at about 250 feet above the runway to avoid the mountain rising about 1200ft above the end of the departure runway. Granted 4 additional pax and their ski gear doesn’t seem like a huge deal, but EGE gets a good bit of crosswinds during the winter season.

  14. Again as I have said before this airline is being run by America West period I’m a retired customer service agent and since AW merged with US they ruined both US and AA

  15. Remember weekend flash sales & flying “for fun”? I refuse to subject myself to this “cram & jam” game anymore.

  16. These seats are getting so tight it’s not even an “obese” thing as Joanie said–it’s a leg length issue. I have very long thighs and it’s getting so I literally cannot sit in these seats with my legs straight out; I have to “man spread” due to lack of space. Yes, I can foresee this becoming a class-action for anyone my height that AA knows we cannot fit but sells us seats anyway.

  17. I’m a 6′ tall woman and my legs often don’t fit in coach these days. Either my knees hurt by being smashed into the seat back in front of me (and I’m sure the person in front of me appreciates that), or I have to spread ’em. In some cases, my hips don’t fit either and I’m far from among the fattest. I used to fly regularly and was elite on multiple airlines. But these days I drive, if possible. Flying was fun and convenient, and now it’s often neither.

  18. Reading an article about overhead space also reminded me. Being 6′ tall, these days with tighter seat spaces, I also often can’t bend over, especially in a middle seat, to put or retrieve anything from under the seat in front of me. I drop my purse down to the floor and use my feet to scoot it under, then reverse, straining blindly while hurting my neck and shoulder to get it back out again. If you make seats so tights, you’d better have plentiful overhead bin space. It’s like how form designers never seem to fill theirs out. Airlines should get a few people of various sizes to try their seat configuration before finalizing it. Plenty of men, and some women, are taller than me.

  19. I won’t be flying in anymore. I hope everyone else does the same thing that’ll teach him a lesson. And you wonder why Congress needs to get involved.

  20. Retired F/A here…as Cindi wrote what happened to the 90 second evacuation rule?
    I’ve also wondered about the “brace position” to protect neck..
    Impossible for majority of pax.
    But wait,,there will be crash with numerous lives lost.then FAA will step in and do their job
    .protect public
    interesting fact:: most airline fatalities are broken neck..

  21. No different then DL, as many have said and look forward to more FC seats and the slimline seats are better then the legacy seats. They can use these on long and lean premium routes like smaller South and Central American locations and keep the LUS planes for domestic service and those will be replaced before the end of the decade with 737-7 (my bet) anyway.

  22. Despite the far from enjoyable experience of modern day flying – whether it be dealing with mile long security lines or sitting on the plane with constantly shrinking seat pitches. The number of people choosing to fly continues to grow. As others have said, the flying public is voting with their wallets and the airlines are responding to it.

  23. WHY? Why would anyone choose to fly on American Airlines? As I’ve stated before AA is in a race to the bottom. They just don’t get it & just don’t care!

  24. You have to evacuate an airplane in “x” number of seconds. How do you expect these people to get out of those tights rows? That is a life or death situation. Will they add more time for boarding since you have to distort your body and strategize on how to get into the row. I’ve been in those. You can’t even turn your briefcase to get under the seat without a struggle. That is a complaint. Evacuating is “life”.

  25. American, never again. Tried to ruin our trio to Aruba from TPA.. Delays in MIA.Unload the the plane. Reload the plane and then leave luggage behind. Return trip more mechanicals and no mechanic. 12 hours waiting for a replacement place from MIA. POOR communication and a whopping $12.00 meal voucher.

  26. This is part of the long-term, inexorable conversion plan the Airlines have had for more than a decade to make their planes into buses with wings. And the ride will get crappier until enough people demand Congress establish seating and safety standards with teeth. People need to fly. But you take the Airlines’ nonsense like sheep. While the Airline stock prices and profits continue to rise., the victims moan and groan on anti-social media but never pressure their Congressmen or Senators to work FOR the customer.

  27. The move to Spaceflex lavs alone creates enough room for six additional Y seats (one row) without adjusting the pitch of remaining seats. Changing the pitch of the two current F rows from 38” to the Oasis 36” will create enough room to swap a row of economy for a row of F.

  28. How long before AA market themselves as a budget airline. I flew LAX to LHR in December with them. And it felt worse than BA’s offering

  29. Idiots run American Airlines unfortunately!!! Guess they have to pay for the pilots contract somehow! They like to make their customers more and more miserable!

  30. It’s simply the wallet and what people will.tolerate. I’m 6’4, with long arms which is another curse. If I wind up in a center seat, which I always try to avoid, it’s not fair to the people next to me. Using a iPad is out of the question, I can only manipulate a iPhone. Drinking something ….i damn near need a straw.

  31. So AA put out a press release talking about new service from DFW to Brisbane, highlighting their “Flagship Suite” and “upgraded Premium Economy.”

    Thinking the REGISTERED TRADEMARK “Flagship Suite” was something akin to the QSuite, I found another press release from September that gives the details.

    As far as I can tell, it’s really no different than your run-of-the-mill lie-flat business class products, and the “upgraded” Premium Economy is “more privacy” by constructing slightly larger/stiffer headrest wings and larger IFE screens. There was also something in there about increased seat storage (a bigger seat pocket??). I’m sure most that would splurge for Premium Economy would be more interested in more legroom or more seat padding or maybe a slight meal enhancement, something ACTUALLY of an improvement, but what the hell do I know. All I can say is AA went to the bottom of my preferred carrier order, but recently having no choice to fly them price-wise, thankfully it was better than in the past (it was average the last two flights vs disastrous flights a year or two ago).

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