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American ditches plan to reduce space between some seats by two inches

An American Airlines Boeing 737-800. The airline said its new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft will not reduce leg room in coach seats.
An American Airlines Boeing 737-800. The airline said its new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft will not reduce leg room in coach seats. mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

After fielding complaints from customers and employees, American Airlines announced Tuesday that it won’t squeeze some rows of seats on its new Boeing 737 MAX airplanes quite so close together.

The Fort Worth-based carrier said in May that it planned to have at least three rows on the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft with only 29 inches of space, prompting outrage from customers on social media. The airline backtracked Tuesday, saying all rows will have at least 30 inches of pitch. Currently, its Boeing 737-800 planes have 31 inches of pitch between seats.

American expects to have four of the 737 MAX planes in its fleet by the end of the year.

“We have received a lot of feedback from both customers and team members, and after taking a fresh look at the interior of that plane, American has decided to space all Main Cabin rows with at least 30 inches of pitch,” the carrier said in a message sent to employees Tuesday.

American is using an economy seat designed by Rockwell Collins Interior Systems that is thinner and lighter, allowing it to add more rows to the Boeing 737 MAX. The carrier said it was able to keep all the rows at 30 inches of pitch by eliminating one row of Main Cabin Extra, seats that customers can purchase that have more legroom than coach seats.

The Boeing 737 MAX will still have 172 seats, however, there will only be 30 Main Cabin Extra seats instead of 36. American is also considering the same seat configuration for its Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

“Designing aircraft interiors is an art and a science. It requires us to take into account customer experience, revenue, and other considerations,” said American President Robert Isom. “This is the right call for customers and the right call for our team members who take care of them.”

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

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