TWA Finishes Adding Leg Room to Domestic Fleet

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Trans World Airlines can kick back and relax a bit, having finished refitting its domestic airplanes to boost passenger leg room.

TWA said it completed the "More Room Throughout Coach" effort Saturday two days ahead of schedule, rolling the 159th retooled plane from its Kansas City maintenance base and pressing the Boeing 717 into service.

TWA's refitting its fleet of Boeing 757s, Boeing 717s and MD-80s follows the lead of new owner AMR Corp.'s American Airlines and comes as part of TWA's overall makeover that includes plans for its jets to bear American's red, blue and metallic-silver colors.

Instead of the previous 31 to 32 inches of legroom in coach class, TWA has said, none of the refitted planes was to have fewer than 33 inches of room, with many featuring 34 or 35 inches.

The new cabin configurations, which involve removing entire rows of seats and spreading out the remaining coach rows, mirror those already in American's fleet, making the roominess equivalent to that once found only in first-class seating in TWA's domestic, narrow-body airplanes.

TWA said its wide-body 767-300 airplanes will be reconfigured by October. No such conversion is planned for the company's DC-9 airplanes, all scheduled to be retired by early next year.

Other airlines have taken seating to heart. Low-fare carrier Southwest Airlines, for instance, has said it plans to spend $30 million to redesign its seats to stretch leg room.

TWA has not revealed how much the push for enhanced seating has cost.

Under its paint-conversion plan to begin in earnest this fall, TWA's old red, gold and blue colors on a white body are to be stripped off and replaced with American's colors, with "an American Airlines company" to appear beneath the TWA block letters on the side.

Bill Compton, TWA's president and chief executive, has said the planes' cosmetic and physical changes have occurred mostly behind the scenes since Fort Worth, Texas-based American acquired TWA out of bankruptcy earlier this year, making American the world's largest carrier.

The new paint job — meant to give the two airlines a consistent look — and added legroom are among the first transition efforts visible to TWA employees and customers, said Compton, a veteran TWA pilot and president of the American subsidiary TWA LLC.

As of late June, American already had removed more than 7,200 seats from its fleet of nearly 700 aircraft.

The paint conversion starts in earnest this fall and should be finished by next spring, Compton said.