Just in case you didn’t think air travel was uncomfortable enough, American Airlines is stepping up the discomfort game with a plan to decrease the front-to-back space between some of the seats (known in the industry as seat pitch) in its economy class by two inches.
American says it plans to add more seats on the 100 Boeing 737 Max jetliners it has ordered. The airline will do so by decreasing the seat pitch from 31 inches to 29 inches on three rows of the plane, and to 30 inches in the rest of its main economy cabin.
Two of the three 29-inch-pitch rows will be in the back of the plane, and a third will be “farther forward,” according to information obtained by CNN Money.
United is reportedly considering a similar move.
To compare, economy class pitch on Delta Air Lines and United currently ranges between 30 and 31 inches, while JetBlue, Southwest, and Alaska Airlines have pitch between 31 and 33 inches.
The industry minimum pitch is 28 inches. Ultra-low-cost airlines like Spirit and Frontier Airlines use that industry minimum pitch in order to squeeze the maximum number of seats into their planes.
Fliers on American’s new jets will still pay the regular economy fare for the 18 seats with two inches less leg room.
These low-pitch seats won’t be part of American’s new “basic economy” fares. Those seats sell for less because fliers don’t get a seat assignment, frequent flyer miles, or access to overhead bins.
The airline is looking to increase the number of seats on its jetliners for a couple of reasons. For one, American recently increased the pay for pilots and flight attendants after two years of negotiations. Secondly, fuel prices are rising and competition has heated up, especially in the overseas flight market
American also said it may make similar seat pitch changes to its existing fleet of 737-800s, but that decision has not been finalized.
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