American’s new best coach seat on the 737?

A couple of weeks ago I posted about American’s seatmaps finally displaying “Main Cabin Extra,” which is their economy section with a few extra inches of legroom. Best of all it’s free to elite members, so it takes the sting out of not getting an upgrade just a little bit.

It seems that American’s Main Cabin Extra reconfiguration on the 737 comes with an unintended added benefit. Previously American’s 737s had 160 seats, and after the reconfiguration there would have been 154 seats. However, the FAA requires there to be one flight attendant per 50 seats, so essentially they’d need an extra flight attendant for those last four seats, regardless of whether or not they’re filled. Given that a vast majority of the time those last four seats aren’t filled (and if they are filled, probably not by revenue passengers), American has instituted some permanent seat blocking. The two rows behind the exit row nows have the middle seats blocked, as you can see on the seatmap below:

In practice these seats look like intra-Europe business class, with a permanent tray table on the center seat. Reader David sent in the following picture of the blocked middle seat:

Unless you’re super-tall, I’d argue that rows 16 and 17 are probably the best seats in coach now. While the legroom isn’t improved, having a guaranteed blocked middle seat is extremely valuable to me. That’s because I have a very hard time working on my laptop if there’s someone in the middle seat, since I always give up the center armrest to the person in the middle seat. While the legroom might not be great back there, at least I’ll be able to work uninterrupted on my laptop.

Anyway, just a heads up to those that haven’t noticed the new seat blocking.

Filed Under: Advice, American
  1. Tempting as these are I’ll take the legroom for working purposes, since without extra legroom and with the seat reclined in front of you it can either be hard to keep the screen open (and I have a small laptop) or it may necessitate keeping the computer inordinately close to your body.

    I only wish there was a product with extra legroom AND middle seat blocked.

    Except then they’d just call that first class…

  2. So it’s main cabin extra width instead of length?


    My initial thought was why dont they do them further up and make some elites happy with the blocked middle and the extra leg room but I am sure some MBA quickly realized by having them without the extra leg room they effectively add an additional 8 premium seats for sale on every flight.

  3. Awesome. I will take extra elbow room over pitch any day. I am not tall, and I carry a proper portable computer (11in MacBook Air)

  4. Is that the seatmap from the mobile site? When I log in to the desktop site the middle seats in those rows just show up as taken rather than missing entirely. Would be nice if this is the way the are rolling out the seat maps, since the desirability of these seats won’t be readily apparent to the casual flyer.

  5. @ Chas — Seatmap is actually from ExpertFlyer. Interestingly American just shows the seats as occupied on their seatmaps, as you mention.

  6. @Lucky thanks for the heads up! Most of my flights are AA DCA-MIA, which is always a 737. I will keep this in mind for future bookings.

  7. Certainly worth it if you expect cloudy conditions. Otherwise, I’ll take the window seat with the view (i.e. not over the wing).

  8. Completely agree on having the middle seat open- would much prefer more width/shoulder room than more leg room.

  9. Does anyone know why row 18 is now blocked? I wonder if they are inclined to hold these seats for families like they used to do with the bulkhead which is now MCE (even though they still have half a row similarly blocked).

  10. Thanks for this. I have a flight coming up over the holidays that was quite full and my girlfriend and I apparently (going by AA’s seat map) were unable to sit together. But I just looked on EF and 16A and 16C are available with 16B blocked. Nice!

  11. Somehow it feels rather odd they can’t consistently sell those four seats for more than the cost of one flight attendant. It seems like just one of those seat sold at a cheap bucket would be sufficient to cover it.

  12. I think the way to tell on AA’s website is if the first row of Y is row 8 or row 7. Row 8 means its a plane with MCS on it. I also agree with you on picking the seat with the blocked middle seat. Not only would I rather have the extra width, but also, if there is a last minute swap to a non-MCS 738, then you still have a good chance of having the middle seat stay unfilled since no one could be assigned to those seats until the last minute and with an EQ swap 10 new seats come aboard and random middle seats behind the exit row probably aren’t in the highest demand. Unless the flight is overbooked to begin with (and everyone checks in) and there are standbys you might get lucky. Whereas with the extra leg room seats, if they switch to a non MCS plane, then you just have a regular coach seat towards the front of the plane.

  13. This is where AA is crazy
    They could have taken out 1 row for better pitch everywhere – only 6 seats lost; 2 more than now
    or just removed the non window seats in row 14 to open up access to the emergency exit –
    or taken out the aisle seats in 14 & 15 for safety
    Each makes more sense than “seat blocking”

  14. or they could have added 2 more rows of F class with a smaller seat pitch and taken out 2 rows of MCE – loss of 4 seats but MUCH better F class ratio – more elites looking for AA

  15. Seems like this would be an excellent opportunity to widen these seats for a person of size issue. From what I have read, there are some passengers who would prefer wider seats rather than more legroom. Strikes me as wasted space, an opportunity.

  16. I’ve actually flown in Main Cabin Extra on the 737 on a trip from DFW last summer. The seats are amazing. You get 37″ of legroom(6″ more than the standard coach seats) an extra 2″ of recline and an extra inch of seat width. Perfect for a tall person like me. I personally think all premium coach seats should have at least 36″ of legroom to give the seats and customers more comfort, especially on longer flights.

  17. Just flew 737-800 on SWA. Front row of cabin now has trays in the seats but arm rest not able to move because of this. This would be row 8 on AA. Anyone know if this is true on AA 737-800

  18. Are the armrests in rows 16 & 17 fixed or could they be raised if the centre tray was removed? That way if a larger person needed the space the armrest could be adjusted as required.

  19. @ OzFlyGirl — I believe they’re fixed due to the center tray, but the tray could probably be removed if needed.

  20. Just discovered this by accident – from San Diego to DFW and now, Dallas to Tampa. Awesome!

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