American adding more seats to their Boeing 737s and MD-80s


Yesterday, Terry Maxon of the Dallas Morning News Aviation Biz blog posted a copy of an email that was sent to American’s flight attendants from their leader Lauri Curtis, American’s VP of Flight Services.   In her message she mentions that American is planning to add more seats to the Boeing 737s and MD-80s.

“we expect to add seats to the 737 and MD-80 fleets, but we haven’t yet determined the right number of seats, and as a result, the impact on revenue and cost.

…we are still working through the specific details and timing.”

In a follow up to questions from Mr. Maxon, an American spokesperson said:

“Although we expect to add seats to the 737 and MD-80 fleets, we are evaluating the right number of seats and the impact on revenue and cost while retaining our Main Cabin Extra product.”

“As we work through plans to integrate our two airlines, our leaders are evaluating every aspect of the business to make sure that any new decisions are right for the combined carrier.”

Here’s a comparison of how the big 4 airlines configure similar equipment (US Airways doesn’t use the 737-800, nor do they offer domestic “premium economy” seats).

American Airlines – Boeing 737-800: 150 total seats

First Class: 16 seats

Main Cabin Extra Class: 56 seats

Economy Class: 78 seats

US Airways – Boeing 737-400: 144 total seats

First Class: 12 recliner seats

Coach Class: 132 standard seats

United – Boeing 737-800: 154 total seats

First Class 16 recliner seats

Economy Plus Class: 48 seats

Economy Class: 90 seats

Delta – Boeing 737-800: 160 total seats

First Class: 16 seats

Economy Comfort Class: 18 seats

Economy Class: 126 seats

Some observations.

• As you would expect, Delta’s offers the least generous configuration: they have the most economy seats and the fewest number of economy cabin seats with extra legroom.

• All of the airlines offer the same number of First Class seats (with the exception of US Airways who has the smaller plane).

• American’s 737-800 configuration is notable in that it offers the greatest number of ‘premium economy” seats with Main Cabin Extra. Far more than United or Delta.

I hope that when American adds more seats that they don’t reduce the number of seats in the First Class cabin (that will make for fewer upgrades).  If I had to predict how they’ll increase the number of seats, my guess is that they’ll remove some (or maybe even all) of the Main Cabin Extra seats.

Jake Redman at Modhop was at US Airway’s media day back in April.  He had the opportunity to speak with Andrew Nocella, US Airways Senior Vice President of Marketing and Planning, and he asked about Main Cabin Extra:

Jake Redmon: From what we learned today the choice seats option has been a positive one for the airline and I asked you last year whether US Airways would ever consider a larger more leg room option like American’s main cabin extra. What are your thoughts on it today and what do you think makes sense for the combined airline?

Andrew Nocella: So I don’t think we have a final answer for what makes sense for the combined airline. American is definitely going forward with their cabin extra product. We are now using this opportunity to understand the economics of it in a very serious way so that process is ongoing and you know American has actually started to implement it so we can actually see the economic impact of that and we are going to use that analysis to model what it would be like on the US Airway system with actual real data and come up with the right answer. It is not something that I can say that we are going to do or not do but it is something that we are studying very carefully and obviously needs careful attention as we integrate the two companies.

It was a noncommittal answer, but one that would seem to indicate that they (the US Airways leadership team) aren’t completely sold on Main Cabin Extra.

So, maybe that’s where they’ll look when they go to add more seats?  What do you think?

You can read the rest of Jake’s interview of Mr Nocella here. Go here to read Terry Maxon’s post on DMN Aviation Biz blog.

Photo: untitled
Credit: Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures on Flick


  1. Quite frankly i’d rather have more MCE than throw the dice on an upgrade to First.

    As a lowly Aadvantage Gold, being able to reliably get MCE is better than the all-or-nothing alternative of First vs 29″ economy.

  2. Why does everyone interviewed these days start their answers with “so”?

    On topic, this will be an interesting evolution, especially given the 150-pax 737 that will require additional staffing.

  3. I have got to say that, from what has been publicly disclosed today, there really hasn’t been any good customer-experience type good news post merger announcement. Starting to wonder about the post-merger airline. Customer experience is everything, which is why I’ve been so loyAAl since I first started flying back in 2001.

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