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American Airlines plans to add more seats to two of its workhorse jets, a move that could eventually mean less legroom for customers flying in coach.
The carrier says it will add a still-to-be-determined number of seats to its Boeing 737 and MD-80 jets, which account for about two-thirds of its current fleet.
AA workers were told of the plan for more seats during a "Town Hall" meeting in Fort Worth that was led by the executive team that will lead the airline after it merges with US Airways. American parent company AMR also disclosed the plan in a filing with regulators.
Lauri Curtis, AAs' vice president of flight service, discussed the company's decision in a message to workers.
"As you probably know, we are constantly taking a look at what our operation needs, and that includes how our fleet is configured," Curtis is quoted as saying by the Airline Biz Blog of The Dallas Morning News. "And sometimes, we make adjustments when we think it helps match supply to demand but can still be competitive.
"So from where we stand today, 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," Curtis adds, according to the Morning News, which offers more particulars about possible seating configurations.
The move, of course, would allow American to sell more seats - which could help it generate more fare and fee revenue from each flight. But it could come at the cost of legroom for those sitting in the back of the plane.
AA spokeswoman Stacey Frantz notes no decision has been finalized, but points out that AA will continue to sell its "Main Cabin Extra" seats that cost more but come with extra legroom as compared to typical coach-class seats.
The Associated Press notes "Southwest Airlines has been installing thinner seat cushions but is still cutting an inch of leg room as it adds six seats each to some of its Boeing 737s. The makeover will help Southwest boost passenger-carrying capacity by 4% without buying any new planes."
But the move to increase seating capacity could also come with the need for more cabin crew.
Frantz tells AP that AA's 737s have 148 or 150 seats. Federal safety rules require one flight attendant for every 50 seats, so exceeding 150 seats would force American to put a fourth flight attendant on those planes.
American operates 195 Boeing 737s and 190 of the MD-80s, according to its website. Together, the planes make up nearly two-thirds of American's fleet.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY
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