American Airlines is updating the interiors of its Boeing 737-800s with more comfortable seats, bigger overhead storage bins, and more power outlets for computers and other electronic devices.
As a side benefit, American gets to put 12 more seats in each plane while enhancing the comfort of passengers, spokesman Tim Smith says.
The refurbished interiors will bring the older aircraft up to the same number of seats and level of passenger amenities as the 84 new 737s that American began receiving from Boeing last year.
Totally redesigned seats built for American by Weber Aircraft in Gainesville are thinner and articulated so the seat tilts forward as the passenger reclines. They are designed to provide more room where passengers’ knees come close to the seat in front of them.
Surveys show that passengers using the redesigned seats on the newer 737s believe that they are getting a more comfortable ride, Smith said, despite two additional rows of economy seats made possible in part by removing a galley.
With the added seats, American will boost the capacity of its older 737s from 148 to 160 passengers, with 16 first-class seats.
Work on the second of 76 “older” 737s in the American fleet to get the interior makeover was just completed at American’s maintenance base in Tulsa. American expects to have all aircraft interiors redone before the end of 2011.
The bigger overhead bins will allow passengers to load roll-on luggage wheels first, speeding up boarding.
The onboard video monitors will be replaced with larger, lighter LCD digital screens with better picture quality.
In the new 737s and the reconfigured aircraft, each first-class seat will have a 110-volt AC power outlet, and there will be two power outlets for each three economy seats, many more than on existing planes.
Neither the new nor revamped 737s will have in-flight Internet service, but American does plan to add it.
American has received 50 of the new 737s, allowing the airline to use more of them at its hubs. Initially, American concentrated most 737 flights out of Chicago, Smith said, and on flights to Central and South America.
The 50 newest 737s have allowed American to remove 30 of its older MD-80 aircraft from service as well as fill gaps caused by retirement of all its Airbus A300s.
American’s oldest 737s are only about 8 years old, with the average age around 6. By contrast, the average MD-80 aircraft is now over 19 years old. The 737-800 is about 35 percent more fuel-efficient, on a seat-mile basis, than the newest MD-80s, Smith said.