American Airlines has re-introduced to service the second of its original 76 Boeing 737-800s that it has upgraded to feature a new cabin interior,...

American Airlines has re-introduced to service the second of its original 76 Boeing 737-800s that it has upgraded to feature a new cabin interior, an improved in-flight entertainment system and additional storage for passengers’ carry-on bags.

The airline has embarked on a program to upgrade the interiors of all 76 original 737-800s to match the customer amenities on the 84 new 737-800s that American ordered in 2008 and which will all enter its fleet by 2011. American Airlines started receiving 737-800s from the new order in March 2009.

It placed its order for the additional 84 737-800s when a rapid spike in oil prices during the first half of 2008 saw the price of jet fuel rise to more than $4 per gallon and the carrier’s fuel-thirsty MD-80s started becoming uneconomical to operate. In 2009 American acted to accelerate the delivery dates of many of the 84 new 737-800s to make sure they would all enter service by 2011, enabling it to return many of its MD-80s more quickly.

American Airlines’ new 737-800s are being delivered with several enhancements, all of which will be added to the initial 76 aircraft in its 737-800 fleet. The enhancements include new, more comfortable and spacious First and Economy Class seats, bigger overhead storage bins, updated in-flight entertainment systems, and AC power ports. In addition, the new configuration of the 737-800s allows for 12 additional Economy Class seats, for a total of 160 seats.

The carrier re-introduced the first upgraded aircraft from its original, long-in-service batch of 76 737-800s in February. The airline will continue to upgrade the remaining 74 aircraft in its original fleet by installing new seats, new cabin interiors, enhanced in-flight entertainment systems, and more storage throughout the aircraft.

An American Airlines Boeing 737-800 takes off at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, the biggest hub for American and its sister regional airline American Eagle

American says that, by accelerating its 737-800 fleet renewal plan last year, it took a significant step in its efforts to invest in products and services that benefit customers, while enhancing its competitive position with new aircraft that are 35 per cent more fuel efficient on a seat mile basis than the MD-80s they will replace. American took delivery of 31 new 737-800s in 2009 and will take delivery of 45 this year and 8 in 2011.

“American remains focused on our long-term future, so it is vital that we continue to reinvest in our products and services to enhance the travel experience for our loyal customers,” said Lauri Curtis, American’s vice president – onboard service. “Upgrading our existing fleet of 737s to match the new deliveries will benefit our customers, employees, shareholders and the communities we serve. These efforts will also keep our product competitive while offering cost, environmental and operational benefits.”

Upon completion, the updated 737s will feature new First Class seats designed specifically for American by Weber Aircraft. The seats have a slim-line seatback design and innovative seat bottom that create enhanced space and increase customer comfort. The Economy Class cabin will feature 144 newly designed seats that use a higher-recline pivot to provide increased knee room. 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. A 110-volt AC power port will be located at every First Class seat, and two power ports will be located at every three Economy Class seats for easy accessibility.

In addition, bigger overhead storage bins will significantly increase customer cabin luggage capacity by allowing rolling bags to be loaded wheels first, says American. Over time, American intends to equip all of its 737s with Gogo Inflight Internet service, which will allow passengers to surf the Web, check email and send instant messages from the air.

The update effort began in May and the retrofitting is being done by American’s mechanics at its maintenance base in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

To view footage of the 737 retrofit being done by American’s mechanics in Tulsa, visit