Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:

Want to be guaranteed an open seat next to you on your next American Airlines flight? There’s a way you can do it without buying two seats when you’re flying on a 737-800MCE aircraft. All you need to do is book a seat in rows 16 or 17, which are located directly behind the exit rows. See this seat map. 

How is that possible, you ask? Some economics geek must have figured out that American could save some money if they took away four seats. I know that doesn’t make any sense but the 737-800MCE is outfitted with 154 seats, which means the airline is required to have four flight attendants. The FAA states: “For airplanes having a seating capacity of more than 100passengers—two flight attendants plus one additional flight attendant for each unit (or part of a unit) of 50 passenger seats above a seating capacity of 100 passengers.”

That means by physically disabling four seats (they removed the seatbelts and installed plastic consoles in the middle seats) they could legally have three flight attendants work instead of four.

You would think a flight attendant’s salary wouldn’t come close to four paying tickets but since flight loads average 82.8% and not 100% there are usually some empty seats (before they get filled with non-rev passengers).

So there you have it! The airlines figured out another way to make money and eight savvy passengers can use it to their advantage to get more space at no extra cost.

AA Seat


Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy new benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining and 2X points on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.

The comments on this page are not provided, reviewed, or otherwise approved by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

19 Comments On "How to Guarantee an Open Seat Next to You on Your Next American Airlines Flight"
  1. lessthanaminute|

    Posted this recently myself…and an AA FA reported that the FAA is still requiring four FAs on these flights…I know there were 4 on my flight…not sure what the current status is….

  2. Fishing4Deals|

    Very clever. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Gf303388|

    Great tip. As an aside: I am not sure what I am looking at with that disembodied leg in the picture there?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      That’s my leg! I sat there for a second before switching to an empty exit row

  4. Dave Bell (@DaveBellPlus)|

    How long has this FAA rule been in effect? With the sophisticated yield management systems airlines use for pricing seats, it seems they would have thought about this when initially configuring seat map.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Good question! But I have no idea

      1. Wandering Aramean|

        The one flight attendant per 50 passenger rule has been around for a long, long time. It is also part of why JetBlue put in their extra leg room seats, cutting the total number of passengers to 150 per A320 several years ago. They went from 4->3 flight attendants as part of that move.

  5. Jessie Festa|

    Great tip! Never knew about this. Definitely good to know as I always seem to get stuck next to someone who likes to hog the arm rest or elbow me the whole time :)

  6. Robert|

    So I can sit next to my girlfriend without actually sitting next to her, I love it!

    1. Ryan.|

      Still laughing!!!

  7. mark forrester|

    Great tip! But is AA the only airline to do this?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      It’s the only one I’ve seen

  8. Sam H.|

    Wow this is something completely new to me, nothing worse than a long uncomfortable trip being stuck in the wrong seat, great tip!

  9. Anonymous|

    great tip!

  10. ink|

    this is genuine..! never would have thought.. .thanks !

  11. Lisa Lubin | LLWorldTour|

    I just heard about this myself when my mom asked me about it on her flight last week! Random.
    And i think the other commenter meant that ‘leg’ in the top right of the photo. At first it looks odd like they stuck it out intentionally until you see that the person has it over their other leg! See you in Toronto?

  12. Alexis Perez|

    Hi Johnny, I noticed in the seatguru website that one of the JetBlue aircrafts is also missing a seat, but just one in the right side (row 18). It doesn’t seem it was done for the same reason as it has less than a hundred seats. Any idea why they did it, besides giving a whole sit of leg room th the passenger behind it?

    Just occurred to me that maybe the pilot is seating at the left side and they are balancing the plane :) Hope that’s not it.

  13. Anonymous|

    Those rows 16 and 17 have very limited legroom. I much prefer the MCE rows.

  14. Krystyna|

    I was randomly assigned one of these seats last month and was wondering what the purpose was. At first I thought the middle seat must have been broken, but then I realized the row in front of mine had that too. Now I know!

  15. Adri|


    How to Guarantee an Open Seat Next to You on Your Next American Airlines Flight – Johnny Jet

  16. Winny|


    How to Guarantee an Open Seat Next to You on Your Next American Airlines Flight – Johnny Jet

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *