I was rather surprised ( though pleased!) to find the middle seats blocked on four of the rows behind the exit rows on a flight I took on American Airlines recently. There was a large block of plastic taking up the seat that had a couple of drink depressions on it…
Considering this was a completely full flight from Nashville to LAX I was thrilled to not be playing elbow jockey with a man 11 times my size poured into a middle seat for a four hour flight.
A bit of research brought me to the why of it all. The FAA mandates a flight attendant for every 50 passengers. Since a 737 could have up to 154 seats, they block four seats so they can staff the plane with three flight attendants rather than four. They obviously can’t make enough additional profit on those four tickets to offset the additional outlay in salaries and benefits for that flight.
The moral of the story? If you are flying American and can’t get one of your favorite seats,take a look at rows 16 and 17. If it is a 737 you just might end up with some additional elbow room!