American Airlines' decision to give coach passengers more legroom
by removing two rows from its economy cabins is likely to prove
popular with the traveling public. Ask anyone who travels
frequently: The three to five inches of extra space will make a big
American wasn't the first carrier to take action on the space
front. United had a leg up on American last summer when it began
reconfiguring coach cabins. Depending on the type of plane,
anywhere from 36 to 89 of the seats in the front of United's coach
cabins will have more room when the refit is completed this
United calls this area Economy Plus. Strictly speaking, Economy
Plus is a separate class, since it is restricted to passengers who
pay full fare and Elite members of United's frequent flyer club.
American is making the extra room available to all coach
Regardless of which carrier acted first, it appears that the
airline passenger rights bills that have been circulating in
Congress, including ASTA's, and the rash of consumer complaints
about poor service that prompted them are drawing a response from
the two biggest carriers. Odds are the other major carriers will
follow suit in the coming months.
Time will tell if the airlines are really responding to
legislative rumblings in Washington or merely taking the most
expedient method of placating the passengers who complain the
After all, with aircraft capacity outpacing demand, many flights
are not full these days anyway, so taking out a couple of rows of
seats will not have a great impact on a carrier's bottom line.
The true test of the airlines' intentions will be in what they
do next. If on-time performance improves and the incidence of lost
baggage declines, maybe then the trade and the flying public can
conclude that their message has been heard.