American Airlines: One Less Inch of Legroom

There was once a time that American Airlines advertised with the slogan “Something Special In The Air.” Today, the world’s largest airline is more concerned about squeezing one more dollar of revenue out of their airplanes than being “Something Special” to anyone — or even worrying about the comfort and safety of its passengers.

Senior citizens and the disabled are hit particularly hard by the recent changes on American.  The 24-inch wide bathrooms don’t allow room to turn around and those of us who are broad-shouldered, wide-hipped, or are carrying a little bit of extra weight aren’t even able to fit inside.  On top of that, American is only providing two bathrooms for the 160 passengers they’re stuffing into the economy cabin on their new flagship 737 Max planes.

Tiny airline bathroom
American Airlines New Bathrooms Are Even Smaller

One American Airlines pilot called flying on the plane “the most miserable experience in the world” and then he talked about the bathroom, “I can’t turn around in it. The sink is the most miserable thing going, and you cram those people in those little tiny seats you just bragged about to the point that I can’t sit back there. As a crew member if I ever have to deadhead back there I’ll refuse because it’s just not practical.”

Now, is reporting that American is removing an inch of legroom between every row of seats and that the seats American is installing on its new airplanes are uncomfortably short of padding.

Men facing off about tight space on an airplane
There is one less inch of legroom on American Airlines

While American Airlines CEO Doug Parker admits he has never flown on one of American’s flagship airplanes, the airline’s President, Robert Isom said he “flew it up from Miami to New York and sat in one of the last rows and made sure I understood what customers were going through and what our team had to deal with as well.”  But Isom didn’t offer any plans to fix the situation except to “tweak the water pressure” so — in the words of’s Gary Leff — “the water hitting the small sinks doesn’t splatter up on each passenger, hitting them all over the front of their shirts.”

American Airlines Rows of Seats
American Airlines removes padding and legroom from new seats

I hope Robert Isom does understand that we’re not only talking about comfort, we’re talking about safety. Earlier this month, The Seniors Center reported on the increased danger of Deep Vein Thrombosis which has resulted in sudden death on flights.  Symptoms of DVT, which is sometimes called “economy class syndrome,” are pain or swelling in a limb, fever, rapid heart beat, sudden, unexplained cough, and joint pain and soreness.

Now, with the average space for each row of seats on American Airlines shrinking from 31 inches to 30 inches, that danger is increasing. If you’re unable to avoid flying American Airlines or are in other situations of prolonged sitting in tight spaces, Harvard Medical School offers the following advice:

  • If you’re not at risk for bleeding and can tolerate aspirin, take a baby aspirin (81 milligrams) one-half hour before takeoff.
  • Wear loose clothing and comfortable shoes.
  • Avoid crossing your legs while seated.
  • Get up from your seat and walk up and down the aisle at least once an hour. If you’re pregnant, request an aisle seat so that you can get up easily.
  • Drink at least 8 ounces of water every hour or two and avoid alcohol, caffeinated beverages, and salty foods.
  • Keep the space under the seat in front of you empty so you can exercise your feet and ankles occasionally.
  • If you have any risk factors for deep-vein blood clots, consult your clinician. She or he may suggest support socks or stockings.