American Airlines is reducing the amount of legroom on a new fleet of jetliners, causing some to worry that other carriers will follow suit.
Their new Boeing 737 Max models will reduce the space between rows to 29 inches from 31 inches in three rows and 30 inches in the rest of the economy cabin.
This will make American the first large U.S. carrier to reduce legroom similar to low-cost competitors such as Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines, according to CNN Money.
Those airlines offer 28 inches of legroom, the industry minimum.
By comparison, Alaska Airlines, Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways give 31 to 33 inches. Delta Air Lines offers 31 to 32 inches and United Airlines has 31 inches.
American will receive its first four 737 Max models in the fall. The planes also will feature slimmer seats that reduce seatback depth.
“People focus on the numbers, but the well-designed seats are set up to be space-efficient and improve overall living space,” Josh Freed, a spokesman for the airline, told The New York Times.
The new jetliners will have 172 seats. The existing Max 737-800s have 160.
It’s unclear whether other carriers will follow suit. Some expect United Airlines to make a similar move since its president held the same position with American Airlines until August.
United declined comment to The New York Times and CNN Money.
Airline profits have gone up in recent times, but the companies are believed to be looking to profit off more seats to offset rising employee wages.
“This is one of the best economic environments the U.S. airline industry has seen in decades,” said Henry Harteveldt, founder of the Atmosphere Research Group. “There is no need to race to the bottom.”
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653