American refurbishes 737-800s with new cabins; adds seats

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Oneworld alliance member American Airlines has initiated a refurbishment programme for its original 76-strong fleet of Boeing 737-800s in a move that will add capacity to the airliners.

The carrier is matching the cabins of its older 737-800s with those found on its new-delivery -800s.

New first-class seats, designed specifically for American by Weber Aircraft, have a slimline seatback design "and innovative seat bottom that create enhanced space and increase customer comfort", according to American.

The new economy-class seats "utilize a higher recline pivot to provide increased knee room", it adds.

Throughout the cabin, drop-down LCD monitors will replace CRT monitors and a digital media file server "will provide better-quality video and audio entertainment", says American.

Additionally, a 110 volt AC power port will be located at every first-class seat, and two power ports will be located per every three economy-class seats.

Significantly, by removing some galleys, American is adding 12 additional economy-class seats, for a total of 160 seats.

American partnered with Boeing on the project, and the carrier's Tulsa-based commercial maintenance facility is handling the retrofit work. "This mod has to deal with avionics It has to deal with structures so you're going to have to do the real work first before you put the new units all the way back in," says American technical crew chief Sattar Hussein.

A prototype of the updated aircraft has been in service since February, and the modification on a second -800 has just been completed. American will continue to upgrade the remaining 74 aircraft in its original fleet, and plans to have all of the jets refurbished sometime next year.

Last year the carrier accelerated its 737-800 fleet renewal plan. It took delivery of 31 new 737-800s in 2009 and will take delivery of 45 this year and 8 in 2011.

American, which offers Gogo in-flight Internet on a portion of its domestic fleet, says it intends to equip all of its 737s with Gogo "over time".