American Airlines nixes plan to squeeze legroom on new 737 planes

After a wave of pushback, American Airlines said Tuesday that it would not reduce the distance between economy seats on some of its new airplanes to make space for higher-priced seats near the front.

The Fort Worth-based carrier had said last month that it would begin to take possession this fall of new Boeing 737 Max planes configured with three rows of coach seats that have 29 inches of “pitch,” an industry term for the distance between the back of a passenger seat and the back of the seat in front of it. Most other American planes maintain 30 inches of pitch, which the public thinks of as legroom.

American Airlines said in a statement Tuesday that it “received a lot of feedback from both customers and team members” about its plans to squeeze the pitch by one inch on those seats.

“It is clear that today, airline customers feel increasingly frustrated by their experiences and less valued when they fly,” the airline said.

The airline said it will reverse the earlier decision and instead make the pitch on all coach seats 30 inches.

The carrier can fit the same number of seats — 172 — with a minimum of a 30-inch pitch in the 737 Max by replacing one row of Main Cabin Extra seats — which typically offer four to six extra inches of legroom — with a row of standard coach seats.

The airline will take possession of four 737 Max planes this fall.

“We’ve reassessed what’s appropriate for the markets served by our new 737 Max and found a way to deliver a minimum of 30 inches of pitch for all main cabin rows,” American Airlines President Robert Isom said. “This is the right call for customers and the right call for our team members who take care of them.”

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