American Airlines is planning to decrease the space between some of its economy class seats by another two inches. The news comes after the airline says it plans to add more seats on its coming Boeing 737 Max jetliners. To make space for the extra seats the pitch (distance between seats) will decrease from 31 inches to 29 inches on three rows of the airplane, and down to 30-inches in the rest of its main economy cabin.
The crazy part is that passengers will still pay the regular economy fares for the 18 seats with two inches less leg room. Two of those three rows of 29-inch pitch will be in the back of the plane and a third farther forward. These seats won’t be part of its new basic economy fares, which sell for less because fliers don’t get access to overhead bins, a seat assignment or frequent flier miles. But it’s likely that basic economy fares will be sent to those seats more often than not.
This move makes American Airlines the first large U.S. carrier to offer legroom with a pitch that’s nearly the same as ultra-low cost carriers Spirit or Frontier. Their seats have an industry minimum pitch of 28-inches. By comparison, economy class pitch on Delta and United ranges between 30 and 31 inches, while JetBlue, Southwest and Alaska have between 31 and 33 inches.
Besides less legroom the bathrooms on American’s 737 Max jets will also be smaller.
The new Max jets will have more than 170 seats, possibly 174, compared to 160 on its existing 737-800s. The airline said it is keeping its extra-legroom ‘Main Cabin Extra’ economy seats, as well as its 16 first class seats.
Big Airlines usually follow each other’s moves, especially when those moves increase profits. This means that it’s possible that 29 inches becomes the standard for flying economy in the United States. United Airlines is already considering a similar move.
Read more at CNN Money.