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American Airlines is Still Cutting Down Legroom, But Less Than Originally Planned

American Airlines caught no shortage of guff when it announced a plan to cut legroom on a major fleet of airplanes by two inches. That plan -- while no doubt catastrophic to anyone with reasonably long legs -- sounded downright cynical, as the airline announced the move as a measure to stave off financial trouble. But travelers can rest slightly assured that flying American won't be as hellish as originally presumed, because the carrier has backpedaled on the plan to curtail legroom, albeit slightly. 

In a letter to employees on Tuesday, AA announced that it won't be cutting down the distance between seats -- also known as "the pitch" in industry parlance -- as much as originally promised. Instead, the carrier will shrink the pitch of economy seats by one inch -- from 31 to 30 inches -- while eliminating one row of its extra-legroom “Main Cabin Extra,” seats according to USA Today. The shrinking, which was enacted after the airline encountered “a lot of feedback from both customers and team members," will only take place on its Boeing 737 MAX jets. 

In the company letter, American President Robert Isom said: "We’ve reassessed what’s appropriate for the markets served by our new 737 MAX and have found a way to deliver a minimum of 30 inches of pitch for all Main Cabin rows. This is the right call for customers and the right call for our team members who take care of them.”

Originally, American planned to reduce the pitch from 31 to 29 inches for three unspecified rows in economy, and from 31 to 30 inches for the remaining rows. The move would have put American -- the world's largest carrier -- more on level with budget airlines like Spirit and Frontier, which maintain cramped pitches closer to the industry minimum of 28 inches.

American's plan was sure to spark some ire, especially in light of a growing string of customer and public relations crises enveloping major carriers. United Airlines became a flashpoint in the news cycle after the forced removal of a passenger captured global attention, while American suffered its own bad optics when an unruly flight attendant got confrontational with passengers. 

Moving forward, though, American Airlines seems to have heeded whatever feedback came its way, as the airline noted that the minor change might even be unnoticeable: "These seats are designed to make efficient use of the space available and feel more spacious so a 30 inch pitch will feel more like today’s 31 inches."

And even if you're still cramped up on the next trip you take with American, you might be able to finagle some extra legroom with this crucial trick

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Sam Blum is a News Staff Writer for Thrillist. He's also a martial arts and music nerd who appreciates a fine sandwich and cute dogs. Find his clips in The Guardian, Rolling Stone, The A.V. Club and Esquire. He's on Twitter @Blumnessmonster.