Is American Airlines about to add another row of seats to its planes?

By | May 27th, 2010

It seems like just yesterday that American Airlines scrapped its More Room Throughout Coach program, which made flying in the back of the plane a more civil experience by adding a few extra inches of legroom. But that program was announced a decade ago and killed five years later.

Today, American apparently wants to know: What another row of seats between friends?

Paul Hoch noticed that the Boeing 737 he flies had quietly made some seating configuration changes.

I’m a road warrior and fly every week from Dallas to Orange County for work. I’ve been doing this trip for about 6 months so I know the drill. Every week I book my ticket for about three weeks out to get the best fares and to get the seats that I like.

My preference has been to sit in row 14 as that is the second exit row and the seats can recline.

Here’s what it looks like:

He continues,

This week I went to book my ticket for the week of June 14th and I noticed that on my outbound flight (to SNA) 14 was the 2nd exit row, however on my return flight which is June 17th row 15 is the 2nd exit row.

I figured it must be a mistake or something and checked around. It looks like American is adding in two rows to the 737 on or about June 15th.

Previously there were only 28 rows on a 737 but now there will be 30. As someone who flies on the plane every week, I can tell you, it isn’t very roomy in coach as it is. When they add two more rows it will definitely suck.

No kidding.

Related story:   A closer look at the best and worst airlines of 2007

If that’s true, it would not be good for American’s customers. By my calculations, that would give passengers no more than 30 inches of pitch — the distance between seats — on these relatively long flights. Ouch!

Now, I realize my reporting on the issue of airline seats has been a little emotional, and not always completely accurate. As someone who is over six feet tall, I definitely have a horse in this race. So I wanted to be extra sure that this Hoch was correct. Even though he showed me screen shots, I asked American Airlines for a comment and gave it ample time to respond.

It didn’t.

So are we about to see a press release for “Far Less Room Throughout Coach”? Don’t hold your breath.

Instead, if American is doing this fleet-wide (and that’s still a big “if”) I’d brace myself for more complaints from the unhappy sardines in the back of the plane.

Stay tuned.

Update (10 a.m.): American Airlines has responded.

The 737 seat that we are putting on is a new type of seat that doesn’t “flop” back in your lap. It is called an articulated seat and it glides back (like a rocker kind of) and it allows for room because the seat in front is not in your lap.

That sounds like an improvement. But do we get more legroom — or less?

We want your feedback. Your opinion is important to us. Here's how you can share your thoughts:
  • Send us a letter to the editor. We'll publish your most thoughtful missives in our daily newsletter or in an upcoming post.
  • Leave a message on one of our social networks. We have an active Facebook page, a LinkedIn presence and a Twitter account. Every story on this site is posted on those channels. The conversation ranges from completely unmoderated (Twitter) to moderated (Facebook and LinkedIn).
  • Post a question to our help forums or ask our advocates for a hand through our assistance intake form. Please note that our help forum is not a place for debate. It's there primarily to assist readers with a consumer problem.
  • If you have a news tip or want to report an error or omission, you can email the site publisher directly. You may also contact the post's author directly. Contact information is in the author tagline.