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Devil's Advocate

Perpetually Shrinking Seat Pitch

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I recently booked a flight on AA only to discover that my upgrade to Main Cabin Extra only provided me with a measly 33" pitch. That is *just barely* enough for my legs to fit in front of me without discomfort. I wonder how much longer before premium economy seats are reduced to as little as 31-32" pitch with first class dipping into the 33-34" range. It's even more disappointing when you consider that MCE can be as many as three steps above what AA considers to be the base fare.

 

Basic Economy > Standard Economy > Preferred Seat > Main Cabin Extra

 

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Edited by Devil's Advocate

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What aircraft is this?

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Bombardier CRJ-700 (CR7) V1

The CRJs are pretty small (even the -700), so I wouldn't say that it's a great representation of what's happening with seat legroom/pitch in the airline industry overall - seat pitch in an A320 or similar sized aircraft might give a better sense. Nonetheless, I hope you can make it through the flight in minimal discomfort.

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Hopefully Airline Anderson and Company won't try this on Amtrak LD Routes!😥

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Hopefully Airline Anderson and Company won't try this on Amtrak LD Routes!

I've gotta say, that seems like the one thing that Amtrak seems to have kept pretty consistent over the years. While they've cut back on amenities and services, legroom and space overall hasn't gotten any worse. That said, I probably just jinxed it and they're going to go to 5" pitch tomorrow. :P

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It isn't just a CRJ issue at AA. They fly 2 versions of the 700 under their banner (possibly 2 different regional affiliates, but not certain) with different mce seat pitches, neither particularly generous. The 900 are still at 35. But they just started taking delivery of 737 Max, which are mainline aircraft, and they shrank the bathrooms to help fit in an extra row of seats. Seatguru is a good website for looking at what airlines offer on different aircraft.

Edited by PVD

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Unfortunately, as long as people are willing to pay the lowest fare available, at whatever sacrifice in comfort it entails...that's what the carrier's must do to stay competitive... :(

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Bombardier CRJ-700 (CR7) V1

The CRJs are pretty small (even the -700), so I wouldn't say that it's a great representation of what's happening with seat legroom/pitch in the airline industry overall - seat pitch in an A320 or similar sized aircraft might give a better sense. Nonetheless, I hope you can make it through the flight in minimal discomfort.

 

My home airport serves a metro population in excess of two million with dozens of tiny regional jets and without a single scheduled passenger aircraft larger than a 737. When I connect through one of my state's two fortress hubs I generally end up on a regional jet. This particular flight is scheduled under two hours but we also get stuck with regional jets on flights spanning half the country. For me this example is a surprisingly accurate representation of what's happening with airline seat pitch.

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately, as long as people are willing to pay the lowest fare available, at whatever sacrifice in comfort it entails...that's what the carrier's must do to stay competitive.

 

How is a consumer supposed to influence a supply side industry where all of the sellers move in near lockstep? I triple-upgraded my base fare ticket and still ended up with barely usable pitch. Soon I'll need to buy a first class ticket just to maintain a coach class experience. Yet in your view this is an example of how consumers have too much power over the airlines?

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"Near lockstep"....there are carrier's (although not always a choice), that do try to offer a better comfort and service experience in some markets. So some consumer's do have a choice, but most of them will still go for the cheapest fare available. If consumer's would reward those carrier's with more business, the "near lockstep" might go in the other direction. I have seen AA go back and forth a few times over the years, adding or removing seat pitch to remain competitive.

 

Personally, I would like to turn back to the regulated era, when the old CAB set the fares, and carrier's outdid each other with either faster planes, or better on board amenities and services to compete. :)

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"Near lockstep"....there are carrier's (although not always a choice), that do try to offer a better comfort and service experience in some markets. So some consumer's do have a choice, but most of them will still go for the cheapest fare available.

With so many mergers draining our domestic competition and so many major airports converted into nearly impenetrable fortress hubs very few consumers enjoy useful options for domestic trips. There is still some competition on the East Coast <-> West Coast routes but other than that it's slim pickings. Outside of the brief window when one airline says they're removing/monetizing something and the other airlines fall in line there are few if any meaningful choices for most of us.

 

 

If consumer's would reward those carrier's with more business, the "near lockstep" might go in the other direction.

Here are the airlines that serve my city.

 

AeroMexico, Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, Allegiant, Delta, Frontier, Interjet, American, Southwest, Volaris, and United.

 

I've tried seven of the eleven and so far as I can tell they're all using the same playbook. The only difference is how quickly they turn the page.

 

 

Personally, I would like to turn back to the regulated era, when the old CAB set the fares, and carrier's outdid each other with either faster planes, or better on board amenities and services to compete.

If that were the case today we'd probably be paying $5,000+ for a domestic trip. I don't have a problem with booking Main Cabin Extra or Comfort Plus or whatever but when a double cost upgrade only buys me 33" of pitch I start to wonder how long it will be before I'm stuck buying first class in an industry where coach class is quickly becoming child sized and premium cabins appear to be shrinking into oblivion.

Edited by Devil's Advocate

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