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American Airlines to squeeze more passengers in new 737s

Updated May 3, 2017 - 9:01 pm

American Airlines Group Inc. is about to give coach passengers even less legroom.

The company will shrink the space between most rows to 30 inches on its newest Boeing 737 jetliners, spokesman Joshua Freed said Wednesday. That’s an inch less than on its existing 737-800 planes. At least three rows on the new 737 Max jets will have only 29 inches, moving the world’s largest carrier closer to the offerings of deep discounters such as Spirit Airlines Inc. and Frontier Airlines.

American’s effort marks the latest push by U.S. airlines to cram more passengers onto each plane by taking advantage of new, slimmer seat designs that are supposed to maximize room for a passenger’s knees even as rows move closer together. America’s newest contribution to the so-called densification trend will begin in the third quarter when the carrier takes delivery of its first 737 Max planes.

“These are well-designed seats built for this kind of a layout,” Freed said. “We believe we’re still providing a good product for customers.”

He declined to identify which rows will have the least legroom or how many seats will be on the Max. American will receive four of the narrow-body 737 Max planes this year.

Southwest Airlines took advantage of slimmer designs to add six seats to most of its 737s as part of a cabin refurbishing in 2012, and Delta Air Lines took similar steps three years ago.

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