Just in time for the summer travel season, many of the major airlines and airports are making some seismic shifts in several areas that will affect most travelers. As with most changes, some are good, some might pose some hassles and some are just downright confusing. Here’s a breakdown on what you can expect.
You’re not Getting Taller, The Seats are Closer
American Airlines has announced that it will be decreasing the space between many of the rows in economy class this summer to accommodate an additional 12 seats on its Boeing 737 Max Jetliners. Currently, the space between the rows (known in the industry as “pitch”) in economy class is 31 inches. With the announced move, American will reduce legroom by 2 inches in three rows of economy class, while reducing the rest of the rows by one inch. The planned move comes just ahead of the introduction of a new fare class called Basic Economy. This new fare class, dubbed by some as “Economy Minus,” is being introduced to help the airlines win the business of the bargain travelers who traditionally seek out the lowest fares with airlines such as Spirit and JetBlue. In Basic Economy class, passengers will not have the ability to select a seat before the flight. Other compromises include no access to overhead storage bins and no carry-on luggage that cannot be stowed under your seat. The one advantage that American will have over its bargain basement competitors is that at a 29-inch pitch, they are offering one more inch of legroom than Spirit who maintains the industry minimum of 28 inches of pitch between rows. United has similar plans to help it stay competitive with the bargain hunters as well.
More Screening for Your Screens
Before you wriggle into your reduced-legroom economy seats, you may have a few more hoops to jump through in the security screening line. Ten domestic airports are conducting trials for the enhanced screening of electronic devices being carried onto airplanes. As part of the new process, any device larger than a cellphone will be treated the same as a laptop computer. It must be removed from your bag, placed in a separate bin and passed through the x-ray scanner. This eliminates the advantages many travelers enjoyed by carrying on devices such as e-readers and tablets, which were previously not subject to these new measures. The airports conducting these screenings are, Boise Airport (BOI) in Idaho, Colorado Springs Airport (COS), Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW), Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) in Florida, Logan International Airport (BOS) in Boston, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport (LBB) in Texas, Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU) in San Juan, Puerto Rico, McCarran International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas, and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX). The TSA denies that this move would eventually turn into a laptop ban, as was introduced on nine foreign airlines in response to orders from the Trump administration.
So, What’s the Good News?
If there is a silver lining amidst all of the upcoming changes, it will appear in the form of better and more food choices on many airlines. Airlines are introducing alternatives to the boxed meals they have traditionally offered for purchase. Cheeseburgers and pasta options will be in the offing, as well as improved snack options. According to some predictions, we may also be seeing more competitive airfares for the summer. Some airlines are leveraging their alliances with foreign carriers to offer some very compelling international fares, and the domestic majors are sharpening their pencils to stay competitive with their low-cost competitors.
Most of the proposed changes will be taken in stride by the majority of travelers looking to get away for a summer break. For those of you who simply refuse to compromise, there’s always the first class cabin. No changes are being proposed there at this time.