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American Airlines plans to add more seats to the mainstays of its fleet, the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 and the Boeing 737, although the airline hasn’t determined how many will be added.

American vice president of flight service Lauri Curtis revealed the coming changes in the end of message to her troops Wednesday:

“Finally, on Tuesday, at a DFW Town Hall meeting with the newly announced Leadership Team for the new American, there was discussion about a decision to add seats to the MD-80 and 737 fleets and I wanted to share a recap of that with all of you.

“As you probably know, we are constantly taking a look at what our operation needs, and that includes how our fleet is configured. And sometimes, we make adjustments when we think it helps match supply to demand but can still be competitive.

“So from where we stand today, we expect to add seats to the 737 and MD-80 fleets, but we haven’t yet determined the right number of seats, and as a result, the impact on revenue and cost.

“Of course we are talking about adding seats and that automatically means the additional FA on a 737 regardless of the number of seats added. This will allow us to provide a higher level of onboard service while meeting the FAA staffing requirements. While this would obviously be good news for all of us, we are still working through the specific details and timing.”

We asked American about Curtis’ message. Spokeswoman Stacey Frantz about the airline’s plans. Here’s her reply:

“We continually evaluate the configuration of our fleet, and make adjustments when appropriate to match supply to demand, while remaining competitive within the industry.  Although we expect to add seats to the 737 and MD-80 fleets, we are evaluating the right number of seats and the impact on revenue and cost while retaining our Main Cabin Extra product.

“It’s premature to speculate on the impact to capacity outlook.  All capacity decisions of the merged carrier will be decided through the integration process.

“As we work through plans to integrate our two airlines, our leaders are evaluating every aspect of the business to make sure that any new decisions are right for the combined carrier.”

American’s MD-80 currently has 140 seats, while its Boeing 737-800 has between 148 and 160 seats. The two aircraft made up 63 percent of American’s fleet of 614 airplanes as of Dec. 31, as well as 55 percent of the seats in the fleet.

We take note that the number of seats in both aircraft has fluctuated over time. American took seats out of its fleet during its “More Room Throughout Coach” period early in the last decade. When the airline figured out the loss in seats wasn’t offset by commensurate increases in fares by grateful passengers, it put the seats back in, and then added even more.

The Boeing 737-800s were configured for 148 seats in the latter part of the decade. Then, as it took delivery of new 737-800 in recent years, it used a thinner seat design that let it boost the seating by two rows, with 160 seats in all.

But it decided to reconfigure the 737-800 for 150 seats, a decision would let it staff the airplane with three flights attendants instead of at least four. The Federal Aviation Administration requires at least one flight attendant for every 50 seats, a ratio that 150 seats would let American eliminate the fourth flight attendants.

As Curtis notes in her message to employees, adding seats back also mean that the carrier will add back another flight attendant.

Keep reading for a chart on the seating capacity of the two airplane types over the years, drawn from American and AMR documents.

American began taking delivery of the 737-800 in 1999, which is why you won’t see it listed before then. Also, in recent years, American listed the average capacity, not all the different seating arrangements it was flying.

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