American Airlines Wants To Reduce Your Legroom—But Charge You The Same Fare

Economy Class Cabin
Flickr | Hyougushi

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for airlines. From banning leggings to overbooking fiascos, the major airlines haven’t exactly won any popularity contests recently.

But rather than trying to soothe fliers’ anger with perks or points, American Airlines is apparently doubling down on that whole “hating the American people” reputation. The carrier just announced it’s going to be shrinking legroom in economy class (again!) on a new fleet of aircraft.

Under the new design, three rows will lose two inches of legroom, with the distance between seats dropping from 31 inches to 29. The other rows in economy class will be slightly better off, only losing one inch of space. Don’t worry, though—all the rows will still have the same regular economy fare, so you won’t know if you’re seated in one of the extra-short rows until you get there!

Added up, these changes will let American fit one extra row of seats on its Boeing 737 Max jet. The bathrooms onboard will also be shrinking to accommodate these new seats. Overall, the changes will allow the airline to fit 170 total seats on a plane that currently seats 160.

American plans to add 40 of the 737 Max planes to its fleet by the end of 2019. The carrier is also reportedly considering introducing the same kinds of changes on some of its current planes, but hasn’t made an official decision yet.

CNN reports that United is thinking about similar changes to some of its aircraft. The carrier didn’t answer CNN’s request for comment, so there’s no way to know for sure. Given the terrible PR United has had lately, the airline might not be in a hurry to publicize it.

The changes would put American among the major U.S. carriers with the least average legroom. Currently, Spirit and Frontier offer the least space to stretch out, with an average of 28 inches between seats. Delta and United fall in the middle, with 30″-31″ of pitch (as it’s officially known) per row. At the luxurious end of economy, Southwest, JetBlue and Alaska all offer between 31″-33″.

Some analysts worry American’s changes will set a new industry standard, like when the carrier introduced bag fees in 2008. We can only hope the backlash is so ferocious that the other carriers learn their lesson and don’t dare squeeze our legroom any more than they already are.

About the Author
Natalie Southwick