Domestic travel on American Airlines and JetBlue is about to get more uncomfortable. Both carriers have unveiled plans to add extra seats to a portion of their respective fleets, tightening up legroom and piling revenue onto an already healthy industry.
American’s plans were announced at the company’s media and investor day, an annual event held to showcase American’s forward-looking efforts. Among the myriad fleet updates planned, the airline revealed plans to align is legacy US Airways and American Airlines Airbus A321 fleet, adding as many as nine more seats to the economy cabin throughout the process. The airline’s 737-800 fleet, meanwhile, is slated to get twelve more seats, or two rows, in the economy cabin.
Airbus A321 and Boeing 737-800 aircraft make up a large part of American’s domestic fleet. The airline has around 220 A321s currently in service with another 100 on order, while there are about 300 737-800s in operation. “I don’t think we’re ever going to lose money again,” bragged Doug Parker, American’s CEO at the media and investor day, pointing to the revenue upside of adding more economy seats to the aircraft.
American plans to add the seats by reconfiguring the aircraft with new, slimmer seats while keeping leg room, or seat pitch, about the same at 30 inches. In June, the airline’s plans to reduce seat pitch down to 29 inches on some aircraft was widely condemned. It later backtracked on those plans.
JetBlue, meanwhile, has set forth similar plans on its upcoming Airbus A320 fleet overhaul. Over the next three years, the New York-based low-cost carrier plans to upgrade the cabins on its 130 A320-200s to include 12 extra seats, or two more rows. That upgrade will reduce seat pitch overall down to 32 inches, which is still more generous than all three legacy U.S. carriers.
Both American and JetBlue’s upgrades are clearly aimed at fitting more passengers onto aircraft and maximizing revenue. And investors definitely took note. American closed the week up at $47.49 after opening the week at $46.98, an increase of just over 1%. JetBlue, however, dropped just under 1% to $18.53 down from $18.70 on the week.