American Airlines Adding Seats To Regional Jets

American Airlines will be adding a row of seats to their Bombardier CRJ-900 regional jets operated by wholly-owned carrier PSA Airlines. These aircraft will go from a current 76 seats to 80 seats, but one of those seats will be blocked off in order to comply with the airline’s pilot contract.

  • These planes will be losing 3 rows of ‘Main Cabin Extra’ seats with additional legroom as part of squeezing in the additional seats.

  • This will match some of the CR9 regional jets currently flown by contract carrier Mesa Airlines

The airline has reportedly shared with employees,

FAA certification process to retrofit the Main Cabin of our entire CRJ 900 fleet to seat either 79 or 80 passengers safely and comfortably, an addition of three to four seats. This modification process will allow American Airlines to connect even more customers from small- and medium-size communities across the country to its expansive global network through the important regional feed we provide into hubs.

The retrofit project will be completed at our facility in Dayton, Ohio. PSA will pull two lines of CRJ 900 NextGen aircraft out of service at a time between mid-August and November to complete the modification, and one line of CRJ 900 Atmosphere aircraft between March and June 2023. We expect the retrofit to take three days for the CRJ 900 NextGen aircraft and up to 10 days for the CRJ 900 Atmosphere aircraft. We do not anticipate any impact to our schedule because of these changes.

With these modifications, all 73 of PSA’s CRJ 900 aircraft, which currently have 76 seats, will now offer 12 First Class seats and 20 Main Cabin Extra seats. There will be 48 Main Cabin seats on the entire fleet. However, 35 aircraft will be equipped with a seat blocking device on one seat to accommodate only 47 Main Cabin seats to remain in line with American’s scope provisions. The seat blocking device will be placed on the right-side window seat in the last row.

All of the aircraft will have 80 seats, but American Airlines isn’t allowed under its’ pilots contract to operate CR9 regional jets with 80 seats. Legacy US Airways CR9 regional jets ‘and their replacements’ can have 79 seats per the agreement.

The term “Commuter Aircraft” means aircraft (jet or turboprop) that (a) have a maximum of seventy-six (76) seats (as operated for the Company) and (b) are not certificated in the United States with a maximum gross takeoff weight (MTOW) of more than 86,000 pounds. …The existing seventy-six (76) CRJ 900 and E175 aircraft operated on behalf of US Airways, Inc. as of January 7, 2013, are grandfathered as to the seat limitation, and they and their replacements may be operated with seventy-nine (79) and eighty (80) seats, respectively.

They’ve waited a long time to exercise this option, but presumably want more seats per regional jets both because travel is returning and because pilots are scarce making it harder to operate as many regional jet flights.

But American is also in the midst of negotiating a new contract with its pilots’ union, and the union won’t look favorably on packing more passengers into planes operated by a subsidiary (whose planes aren’t flown by members of its’ union). The fear is always that more passengers on regional jets means fewer passengers on mainline, and fewer flights assigned to mainline pilots – as opposed to more passengers who can connect to mainline making the overall operation grow.

Passengers, though, will see more regional jets with less space per passenger on average – though not less space than some Bombardier CR9s already offer. It is always desirable, when possible, so avoid CR9 regional jets in favor of more spacious Embraer ERJ-175 aircraft. Those offer more cabin space for passengers, and more overhead bin space for bags.

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