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American Airlines cutting legroom in economy class

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American Airlines’ newest Boeing 737s will have less legroom in most of the economy cabin than current versions of the narrow-body plane, with at least three rows shrinking the space between seats to 74 centimetres.

Pitch, or the distance from the back of one seat to the same spot on the one in front of it, will slip to 76.2 centimetres on the 737 Max from 31 on the Boeing 737-800s now in American’s fleet, spokesman Joshua Freed said on Wednesday.

Tight squeeze: American Airlines' newest Boeing 737s will have less legroom in most of the economy cabin. Tight squeeze: American Airlines’ newest Boeing 737s will have less legroom in most of the economy cabin. Photo: Supplied

American joins other carriers that have taken advantage of new, slimmer designs that try to maximise room for a passenger’s knees even as rows of seats move closer together. The effort, called densification, enables carriers to put more travellers on each plane and boost revenue.

“These are well-designed seats built for this kind of a layout,” Freed said in an interview. “We believe we’re still providing a good product for customers.”

Freed declined to identify which rows will have less pitch or how many total seats will be on the Max. American, which has 100 of the aircraft on order, and is scheduled to get the first one in the third quarter. It will receive four this year and 16 in 2018.

The airline is considering similar changes for any new 737-800s, Freed said. American’s current 737-800s have 160 seats.

“Just like every airline, with every new plane you look to have an efficient layout that makes use of the space on board and provides customers as good product,” he said.

“There is some variability today on many fleets within coach cabins at our airline and others.”

The Max will retain a first-class cabin with 16 seats, and an unspecified number of main cabin extra seats with added legroom. The 10 seats with less legroom won’t be part of American’s “basic economy fare”, which comes at a lower price but no extras like assigned seats.

Southwest Airlines Co. took advantage of new slimline designs to add six seats to most of its 737s as part of a cabin refurbishing in 2012, and Delta took similar steps three years ago.

CNN earlier reported American’s plans to reduce the pitch on the Max.

Bloomberg

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