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Hooray! American Airlines Changes Its Mind About Offering Less Legroom (But, Boo, There’s A Painful Catch)

You didn’t think an airline had suddenly become generous, did you?

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BY Chris Matyszczyk - 14 Jun 2017
Empty airplane seats in the cabin
Yes, but they feel much bigger.

 

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

 

Airlines are desperate for good news.

The slight problem is that they have a talent for generating the opposite.

But I'm going to try my best here.

Last month, I mentioned that American Airlines had decided to to pursue "narrow-body density opportunities." This might be translated as shoving more seats into planes and giving you less distance between the seats (it's called seat pitch) and therefore less legroom.

Oddly, it seems that customers complained.

American must have been stunned by this. Indeed, after several weeks of cogitation and squeezing of bottom-cheeks, the airline has just concluded that perhaps, perhaps this was a bad idea after all.

As Skift.com reports, the airline won't, after all, give passengers the same amount of legroom as they experience on, say, budget airlines such as Spirit.

I pause for your hosannas. I pause for your hoorays. I'm a Golden State Warriors fan. I can pause for as long as you like today, as my own hosannas are endless.

Done?

OK, this is good news. Of course it is.

Skift quoted this from a message American sent to its employees: "It is clear that today, airline customers feel increasingly frustrated by their experiences and less valued when they fly."

It seems American may have only just noticed. How could this be? Did some senior executives stop counting the money for a moment?

Then came the ra-ra from the airline: "We can be leaders in helping to turn around that perception, and that includes reviewing decisions that have significant impact on the flying experience."

I can just hear Pope Francis calling his broker and demanding that they instantly buy American shares. This is clearly now an airline that bases its strategy on Mother Teresa herself.

Are you ready for the but?

The original plan was to squeeze three rows of American's 737 Max planes with a so-called seat pitch of a mere 29 inches.

You'll still be descending from your high. You'll conclude that American is simply going to take some seats out.

Oh, ye of little faith in the venality of airlines.

There will still be the same number of seats. All American is doing is removing one row of Main Cabin Extra and turning it into straight-up coach.

So while all economy seats will have a 30-inch seat pitch, there will be fewer seats for those who'd like a little more.

Moreover, that 30-inches is one inch less than the amount you're used to currently in coach.

But my job is to offer you joy.

Thankfully, Skift found one more glorious, divinely uplifting quote from American: "These seats are designed to make efficient use of the space available and feel more spacious, so a 30-inch pitch will feel more like today's 31 inches."

I feel sure that sentence was written by someone who has needed to exaggerate dimensions before.

A man, perhaps.