American Airlines is retrofitting its fleet of Boeing 777s. They’re stripping out some of the planes’ standard main economy seats and replacing them with premium economy seats that are slightly bigger and have more legroom.
American believes differentiating its cabins with more seat choices will appeal to customers willing to pay a little more for a higher level of service.
“There are certain products that some of our customers are willing to pay for and certain that they aren’t,” says Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines.
It takes less than a week to retrofit a 777. The retrofit includes putting in new seats and rewiring the entire plane. When it’s finished, American will have standardized its 777 cabins so they all have the same number of seats.
Having the same number of seats is important because for years, different planes within an airline’s fleet often have had different numbers of seats. If one plane has to be replaced by another at the last minute, there are not always enough seats for the passengers booked on the flight.
“Sometimes a flight gets oversold, or for whatever reason one flight gets canceled, and they have to consolidate people on a remaining flight,” says Henry Harteveldt, of Atmosphere Research Group. “That means there is a bit of Russian roulette going on. Sometimes somebody gets bumped down. Airlines want to try to reduce that from happeneing.”
American says there should be fewer last minute re-booking headaches once it finishes retrofitting its planes. That should not only help the bottom line, but also make for happier travelers when their planes are replaced at the last minute.
American’s reconfiguration of its 777 planes is set to be completed by December of this year.