American expects to complete 737-800 retrofit by early 2013

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American Airlines has completed retrofits on 30 of 76 older Boeing 737-800s in its fleet to mirror the interiors of the new -800s being delivered to the carrier.

ATI and Flightglobal first reported about the refurbishment programme in July of last year, and an American spokesman says the carrier expects to complete reconfigurations on the remaining 46 -800s by early 2013, he adds.

The work is being carried out in-house at American's Tulsa maintenance base, and currently 106 out of a total of 152 aircraft in the carrier's fleet feature the new interior.

While adding seats to the older -800s enhances capacity and is revenue positive, American's spokesman also states the new seats in both cabins - supplied by Weber - are significantly more comfortable.

American's new interiors on its 737-800s feature 16 first class seats with a slim-line back design and an articulated seat bottom to better distribute weight while increasing the angle of the seatback. The 144 economy seats also feature the same articulated bottom.

"There is also the impact of not having to 'separate' two types of aircraft interior configurations which provides more flexibility as you dispatch the planes throughout the network, as well as managing seats to sell on each type," the spokesman states.

Other features of the new cabin include an 110V AC power port at each seat in first class and per every three seats in economy.

American has plans to offer Gogo Wi-Fi service supplied by Aircell on its 737-800 fleet, but doesn't have specific timeframe to complete the roll-out.

During the recent JP Morgan Aviation, Transportation and Defense conference American treasurer Beverly Goulet said the carrier plans to add a total of 130 737-800s from 2009 to 2013, noting the aircraft are 35% more fuel efficient on a per-seat basis than the MD-80s they're replacing. American retired 36 MD-80s in 2010, and by year-end it had 224 remaining in its fleet.