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American Airlines’ New Planes Will Only be Slightly More Cramped Than Their Current Planes

Yay?

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ARLINGTON, VA - NOVEMBER 23: A fleet of American Airlines airplanes sit park by the gates at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport November 23, 2016 in Arlington, Virginia. AAA has predicted that it will be more crowded than usual to travel this Thanksgiving with nearly 49 million Americans driving or flying to their destinations. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Last month, it was reported that on the new planes they are developing, American Airlines would be cutting the amount of legroom for passengers flying coach. Right now, the company’s current Boeing 737 jets have 31 inches between the rows of seats. The plans reported May 2 revealed that, for the next generation of planes, they’d be dropping down to 29 inches.

That’s about as cramped as planes get. (Spirit Airlines and a few other budget carriers shrink things down to 28 inches.) But after public outcry—and internal grumblings—the Fort Worth-based airline opted to reconsider the decision, replacing one row of premium seats on the planned planes with regular ol’ coach seats to get things back up to 30 inches of legroom.

That is, of course, still an inch shy of the current set-up in coach, and nobody who flew coach on any airline ever said, “Man, my biggest problem with that flight is just too much legroom.” American—along with Delta and United—has long held the line at 31 inches in its jets, but the airline industry is competitive and cost management is tricky, so it’s not shocking that dropping from an already-cramped 31 inches of legroom to 30 inches is being treated as a victory for consumers.

In an internal memo posted Tuesday, the company said it reached the decision after receiving “a lot of feedback from both customers and team members.”

“It is clear that today, airline customers feel increasingly frustrated by their experiences and less valued when they fly,” the memo said. “We can be leaders in helping to turn around that perception, and that includes reviewing decisions that have significant impact on the flying experience.”

It’s a unique industry that can boast about being “leaders in helping turn around” negative perception even as they announce that their product will be getting less comfortable for customers, but that’s air travel for you. If you’re not literally dragging beaten, bloody passengers off of your flights or throwing the elderly to the ground over a fight about ticketing, it’s basically a win for your company right now.

American, for what it’s worth, also pointed out that the new seats on the planes are thinner than the current ones, which means that the loss of an inch on the flights will be less noticeable. So that’s something. At the very least, it beats a head injury.

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