Could American Be Adding Even More Seats To Their 737 MAX Aircraft?

Filed Under: American

Usually new planes are something to look forward to, though American’s upcoming 737 MAX orders are an exception. American’s 737 MAX aircraft won’t feature personal televisions at every seat, as the airline argues that it’s sufficient to just offer streaming content, since most people bring their own portable devices. American has 100 of these planes on order, and will begin taking delivery of them in the coming months.


However, it looks like the lack of entertainment on the 737 MAX may be the least of our concerns. There are rumors going around that American will be increasing their 737 MAX seat count from 160 to 174. Perhaps most significantly, this would mean that the first class seat count will be reduced from 16 to 12. The rumor was started on, and a reliable contact at American said that he had the same understanding, though couldn’t guarantee the information or speak publicly on it.

Just how bad would it be if American increased the 737 MAX seat count by 14 seats? Well, here’s the seatmap for American’s current 737-800 aircraft. They have 16 First Class seats, 30 Main Cabin Extra seats, and 114 Main Cabin seats.

Really there’s only one way that American could get the seat count up to 174 seats, given the location of the overwing exits, which can’t be moved:

  • Eliminate one row of first class, and then add two rows of seats in front of the exit row
  • Add one row of seats behind the exit row

It goes without saying that this would be a very, very tight fit. But unfortunately that’s the direction the industry is headed, and there’s a great sense of pride that airlines take in squeezing in as many seats as humanly possible.

How could this be done?

  • Ryanair has 16 rows behind the exit row on their 737-800s, while American has 15 rows, so clearly there’s room to squeeze in an extra row (just expect 29-30″ of seat pitch)
  • American has 40″ of pitch in 737-800 first class, so they could reduce that by 2-3″, and also take 1-2″ of seat pitch out of the other seven rows, and they’d have enough room for yet another row of seats

Anything could happen, and I can’t confirm with certainty that this is American’s plan. However, if American does indeed try to install 174 seats on their 737s, it might be the most uncomfortably configured domestic plane out there. We won’t even see a standard 31″ of pitch anymore, and you can say bye-bye to upgrades.

American moving to a 12 seat first class cabin on the 737 MAX shouldn’t come as a surprise, I suppose, given that they’re down to just eight first class seats on their A319s. They’d rather offer seats that match the direct demand for paid first class, with little consideration for frequent flyers.

I suspect we’ll officially find out the configuration in the next few weeks. Here’s to hoping that they don’t in fact go with this 174 seat configuration…

  1. I miss Virgin America already. Seriously hope Jetblue and Alaska keep up the pressure to deliver a good product. At this point, giving them business is the only way to prove that quality standards and comfort still matter to customers as much as price.

  2. Take a look at the configuration of a Sun Country 737-800 and you can see how easily this is accomplished.

  3. You won’t be seeing me on one of their planes. And you wonder why the airlines can’t figure out why their is so much air rage. Goes back to the days when I remember reading about an experiment with mice in which they began trying to kill each other when they were put into an overcrowded cage

  4. Meh.

    As long as it has MCE I don’t care about reduced F seat counts.

    And I’m happy that they are doing away with seatback IFE. So sick of people poking the back of my seat trying to get the touchscreen to do what the want.

    120K ish miles per year…all purchased in lowest Y.

  5. If this is true, thing of all the complaints that will be coming in the future? Award redemption is already difficult as is. Eliminate one row, sell first at a relatively reasonable price (which it is), and it’s slim pickings.

    EXPs, your complimentary upgrades are coming to an end.

  6. What are the rules on the passenger to flight attendant ratio? Doesn’t an airline have to add more people to the crew at some point, which would discourage this kind of cramming?

  7. Igor: 1 FA per 50 pax. It’s why JetBlue traditionally kept their A320s configured for 150 pax.

    I’m with DC-PHLly — I want good service and a good product, so B6 will be my first choice, as it always has been. Unfortunately B6 has been acting more and more like the legacy carriers.

  8. @igor – Rules are 1 FA for every 50 pax, so such a change would not shift the need for 4 cabin crew.

  9. So it’s being reported elsewhere with what seems to be actual facts rather the random speculation.

    F will stay at 16 seats. MCE will stay as is. Pitch in regular E reduced to 30 inches, with 3 rows being reduced to 29 inches. Sucks if you get those rows. Smaller lavs.

    United likely doing something similar.

    Again – I say Meh. This is the trend, and will be the trend, until people stop flying F9, B6 and the like. Jetblue and Alaska are nice little carriers, but their route networks are pretty limited.

  10. Edit – didn’t mean to put B6 next to F9 in post above. Meant NK there. Don’t type while jetlagged.

  11. And AA thinks their stock prices are going down due to credit card revenue missed targets….

  12. On many routes AA doesn’t have enough F seats for paid F. DCA-LAX for example is always sold out weeks in advance. I have seen LAX-HNL sold out in F several months in advance – even times when there are more F seats sold than coach seats.

    Unless AA is going to raise F prices to what they once were, at current F prices they need more F seats.

    pmUS is already a preview of tighter seat pitch. The pmUS has 1 more row of coach on a A321 from front door to next exit.

  13. AlexS I read a few years back that Wall Street has been pushing JetBlue to act like legacy and low cost carriers. Despite their successful model that works, Wall Street feels since they provided money to JetBlue they get to say how JetBlue should run, which is actually true, but still why mess with a good model?

  14. The article is a bit vague. Why not wait a few minutes until you could write the actual facts (see Bob’s post above), which are available on multiple sources all over the web.

    Seat pitch (Economy) 31 => 30; 31 => 29 (front 3 rows)

    So the MAX in 737 means #seats; for legroom it’s better to call it 737 MIN.

  15. Anyone who is a CO-UA Flyer knows the hell that flying the Smisek era 737-900 is…AA is just falling in line with that with their MAX purchase…AA will learn the same lesson UA has, it’s not a 757 no matter how much Boeing changes the numbers on it, or adds fancy advertising names, lighting, or engine cowlings…To be on any 737 above the 800 series is torture…

  16. So right now I am sitting on a sparkling-new bus in the tiny Baltic country of Estonia. There are touchscreen tablets loaded with entertainment options at every seat. USA airline travel is looking more third-world every day.

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