How Many of the Good Seats Will American Be Getting Rid Of?

The Dallas Morning News Aviation Blog reports that American will add seats to its 737 and MD80 aircraft.

American says they haven’t determined how many seats will be added, and we don’t yet know whether this will be accomplished by removing Main Cabin Extra (coach seats with extra legroom) or First Class seats.

If I had to wager I would guess that a row of first class seats would be removed (American’s domestic fleet generally has more first class seats than US Airways’ does) and that they will also shrink the main cabin extra cabin. American did reiterate its commitment to an extra legroom in coach product; something that United manages to make money on.

Adding seats to the 737-800s that currently seat 150 will require an additional flight attendant. They obviously think the revenue potential of either fewer Main Cabin Extra or fewer First Class seats outweighs the cost of the retrofit plus additional salary. That’s either a strong bet on running full flight after full flight at a reasonable ticket price or a visceral reaction of the new leadership team-to-come against premium products. We’ll see.


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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. Plus alienating premium customers due to reduced likelihood of upgrades or extra legroom seats.

  2. When does the tipping point come where the economy seats are so close together people really can’t even sit in them? They will just add more slim style seats and jam more in economy.
    Oh and MD80s, really. Time for an upgrade there IMHO

  3. I just don’t see legacy carriers continuing to give complimentary upgrades as they do now. At some point they will want to get paid, either by reducing F capacity or other methods.

    I like my UA upgrades, but certainly do not expect them long term. They have done well at monetizing E+ and will be interested to see what they do with domestic F in the next couple of years.

  4. @Daninstl- got a long way to go from the current 32″ seat pitch on the AA’s MD80s and 737’s- Tiger Airways has a 28.5″ seat pitch. If AA implemented that, they could add another three rows without taking out any seats.

    @Carl- again with a Southeast Asian perspective- enjoy it while you can. 200 flights on SQ as a top tier elite- not one upgrade!

    Still, I get to enjoy a much nicer airport on the ground in Changi, and average 10 minutes from cab to gate…

  5. Hmm, sounds like a typical takeover, ah merger, out with the old in with whatever we say……

  6. @Carl, keep an eye out to see if Lauri Curtis is succeeded by some guy named Ted.

  7. Hmm, keep the bigger seats that they give away for free and which often go unfilled, or add more of the seats that sell out 100% of the time and which people pay for? I’m no economist, but…

    I know it’s blasphemy here but I would be happy to see a system where premium seats are pay-to-play at reasonable market rates.

  8. @Gary – Agreed, but USAir gives them out left and right. I think I see what’s going on here. AA doesn’t want to make USAir legacy elites mad after the merger. So they will have to preserve the upgrade-all-tiers policy, at least for a while. So what’s one way around that to keep their revenues up (closer to AA’s current levels)? Reduce the pool of available seats.

  9. It’s a race to the bottom, I say. I’ve been happy as an AA EXP for the last few years but this seems to be the right time to have my travel needs taper off.

  10. The article mentions the 737’s have 140 seats. They can add 10 seats without requiring an additional FA.

    I’m left to wonder if they might limit their additional seating to avoid this. Once they go to 151 seats, however, they obviously can add many more before implicating staffing requirements

  11. I have got to say that, from what has been publicly disclosed today, there really hasn’t been any good customer-experience type good news post merger announcement. Starting to wonder about the post-merger airline. Customer experience is everything, which is why I’ve been so loyAAl since I first started flying back in 2001.

  12. Dougie hasn’t even taken over, and already I’m not happy. Of course, as a lowly Platinum I rarely get upgrades on the routes I fly. Hmm… Well, as long as they keep offering instant upgrades for a few hundred bucks when I buy my tickets, and keep MCE, I’ll be fine. I don’t mind paying for F on a 3+ hour flight, and for the 2 hour flights, MCE is just fine. I rarely eat the dang meal anyway. Airline meals are rarely gluten free. 😉

  13. Duh, Time to review your mileage run plans just to obtain status. Just like UA is selling economy plus access, sooner or later the major carrier will give their so-called elites, just what is left over.

    So much for status on world war 2 planes….

  14. Goose, Golden Egg…

    “I just don’t see legacy carriers continuing to give complimentary upgrades as they do now. At some point they will want to get paid, either by reducing F capacity or other methods.”

    And that is the point where people start to question bothering with Elite status at all. Just pick the lowest price flight with the best schedule. Then if you want a slightly better seat, pay the upgrade fee. If you want lounge access, get an AMEX MB card.

    As an AA Lifetime Gold, right now I will pay more to fly AA because I am assured better seats upon reserving. But most of the other Gold perks are now part and parcel of the Citi AA cc benefits. Loyalty is a two way street, and as AA gives me less for mine, I will give them less in return.

    As Gary posted on June 2 about AA’s new Airbus 319s: “I’ll be avoiding these aircraft. Because upgrade chances are very very low.” How low do those upgrade chances have to get systemwide before he now longer favors AA at all?

    How many mileage run flights to China does Lucky take each year to maintain Exec Plat, and would he even consider doing that without the SWUs that make the long flights tolerable? How much are AA Elites willing to go out of their way to maintain a status that now longer gives them much in return? Or simply no longer take a less favorably scheduled fight with AA when DL or UA is more convenient?

  15. MD80’s must be retired not just because they’re old and loud as sitting inside a washing machine toward the back where the engines are screwed to the cabin fuselage, but they’re also the only jet flying today that has no secondary backup for a critical flight system. The huge two-ton horizontal stabilizer perched on top of the thin tail has a cast-iron gear in the tail that can strip out and cause the plane to lose control, as happened with the Alaska flight which crashed off the LAX coast last decade when a maintenance sweatshop changed the replacement standards template.

    That this is the only critical flight system carrying passengers without a backup system was established in the civil trials that awarded huge damages to the 150 passengers’ survivors, after the plane flew upside down for 10 minutes before crashing into the Pacific.

  16. I should add that the Denzel Washington movie “Flight” hypothesized that the pilots has deliberately inverted the jet in order to try to regain control of the horizontal stablilizer, after years of speculation by its pilots that this may be the only corrective to regain control of the horizontal stabilizer if it becomes stuck. In the case of Alaska though, it was not proven to be stuck but was flapping in the wind after the gear failed completely.

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