About 75,000 Domestic And International Coach Seats Get Added Space

FOR RELEASE: Thursday, Feb. 3, 2000

WASHINGTON -- In a move that will change the face of domestic and international coach travel, American Airlines announced today that it will remove thousands of coach seats on its entire fleet of more than 700 jet aircraft, using the space to provide more room for passengers throughout its coach cabin.

All told, American will remove approximately 7,200 seats – about 6.4 percent of its coach capacity – and will increase the seat pitch, or the amount of room between rows of seats, for more than 75,000 coach seats. Nearly six months of intense planning went into developing the program.

"We believe that transforming our aircraft to offer more room throughout coach makes good business sense and is the right thing to do in today’s competitive environment," said Donald J. Carty, American’s Chairman and CEO, at a Washington news conference to announce the initiative.

More Comfort With Room To Spare

American Airlines Chairman and CEO, Don Carty, at 6' 3", and Executive Vice President of Marketing and Planning, Mike Gunn, at 6' 1", demonstrate the expanded legroom and new found comfort American's passengers soon will begin to experience when traveling in coach. The increase in seat pitch offers customers what they have told us they really want...more room. 

ALSO SEE BELOW: Don invites Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV to check it out firsthand.

Appearing with Carty was Michael W. Gunn, American’s executive vice president-marketing and planning, who said the coach seat decision is a logical extension of American’s expanding service commitment.

"By taking out seats and creating more room in coach – row after row after row – on the entire fleet, we are making American a better service provider, and a better value for our customers," Gunn said.

The majority of the work will be done at American’s Tulsa, Okla., and Alliance-Fort Worth, Tex., maintenance bases at a cost of about $70 million. It will expand the living space in the airline’s coach cabins from the present industry standard of 31 and 32 inches to a predominant level of 34 and 35 inches of space, with some reaching as much as 36 inches. On the Super 80, American’s largest fleet, coach living space will increase by as much as 35 percent.

When the project is complete, about 58 percent of American’s coach seats will have a seating pitch of 34 inches or more – and about 98 percent of coach seats will have seat room greater than today’s industry standard -- creating more coach passenger space on a major carrier than at any time since the deregulation of the airline industry more than 20 years ago. The added space will be offered using new generation coach seats with adjustable leather headrests that American began installing on many of its jets last year.

American launched the conversion work last week and expects to have half of its 609 domestic two-class jet fleet completed this summer. The entire two-class fleet will have the roomier coach cabins by November. Work on 98 three-class international airplanes will begin this fall and will finish next year.

To handle the work in a steady, efficient process, American has set up five special maintenance lines at the Tulsa base and one special line at Alliance.

In the end, American will transform coach cabins in 12 different types of domestic and international aircraft, ranging from the Fokker 100 and the MD80 to its longest-range jet, the Boeing 777.

The number of seats being removed from each airplane varies, depending on aircraft size and cabin design. In the case of American’s MD80s, which account for 37 percent of the airline’s total jet fleet, two rows totaling 10 seats will be eliminated from each aircraft. The first aircraft with the roomier coach cabin, a 129-seat MD80, goes into scheduled service on Saturday, Feb. 12.

American will offer the new coach cabins in every corner of its route system, from the mainland United States, Hawaii and Alaska to Europe, the Caribbean, the Atlantic, Japan and Latin America.

Among many elements of the airline’s service commitment, Gunn cited an investment of nearly $6 billion in new aircraft, a $400 million program for new seats and new aircraft interiors, and the recent groundbreaking for new $1 billion terminals at Miami International Airport and New York’s Kennedy International Airport.

The new coach seats American has been installing are manufactured by Recaro, a highly respected firm well known for building luxury seats for automobiles such as Mercedes and Porsche. Ergonomically designed for comfort and increased legroom, the new coach seats feature stylish upholstery, six-way adjustable leather headrests, and power ports for computers in selected rows.

Adding more room throughout the coach cabin to the comfort and convenience of the new coach seats "is a powerful signal to our customers and our employees that American is determined to lead the way to better customer service," Gunn said.

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West Virginia Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, who stands 6' 6" and American's 6' 3" CEO, Don Carty demonstrate the old and the new.  The current coach seat pitch of 31" makes it a tight fit for both gentlemen. As the seat pitch expands to 35", the coach experience becomes much roomier and a far more comfortable one. 

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