American Airlines (AA, Dallas/Fort Worth) is to grandfather in a row of seats on CRJ900s operated by its subsidiary PSA Airlines (OH, Dayton James M. Cox) under the American Eagle brand, increasing the current seat count from 76 to 79/80 but blocking off one seat to comply with a scope clause agreement with pilots.

The airline aims to add capacity to its regional jet fleet amid the current travel rebound, a leaked PSA Airlines internal communique shows.

Asked for comment, an American Airlines spokesman confirmed: "American’s wholly-owned regional carrier PSA Airlines is retrofitting the main cabin of its Bombardier CRJ900 fleet. Once complete, each CRJ900 will safely and comfortably seat up to 79 customers. The work being done is in line with the scope provisions in American’s pilot contract".

According to the letter, a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification process is underway to retrofit the main cabin of PSA Airlines’ entire CRJ 900 fleet to seat either 79 or 80 passengers, an addition of three to four seats.

“The retrofit project will be completed at our facility in Dayton James M. Cox, Ohio. PSA will pull two lines of CRJ 900 NextGen aircraft out of service at a time between mid-August and November [2022] to complete the modification and one line of CRJ 900 Atmosphere aircraft between March and June 2023. We expect the retrofit to take three days for the CRJ 900 NextGen aircraft and up to 10 days for the CRJ 900 Atmosphere aircraft. We do not anticipate any impact to our schedule because of these changes,” the letter read.

“With these modifications, all 73 of PSA’s CRJ 900 aircraft, which currently have 76 seats, will now offer 12 First Class seats and 20 main cabin extra seats. There will be 48 main cabin seats on the entire fleet. However, 35 aircraft will be equipped with a seat blocking device on one seat to accommodate only 47 main cabin seats to remain in line with American’s scope provisions. The seat blocking device will be placed on the right-side window seat in the last row,” PSA Airlines said.

As reported, American Airlines’ scope clause agreement limits the number of regional jets operated under the American Eagle brand to 75% of the total number of narrowbodies operated by the mainline unit. Specifically, large regional jets seating between 66 and 76 passengers, such as CRJ900s, are limited to 40% of the number of narrowbodies, while the remaining 35% are smaller aircraft.

The letter by the airline raised questions among pilots if the scope clause had been given up. However, it was pointed out that legacy US Airways (Phoenix Sky Harbor) CRJ-900s and their replacements can have 79 seats per the scope agreement.

“The existing seventy-six (76) CRJ 900 and E175 aircraft operated on behalf of US Airways, Inc. as of January 7, 2013, are grandfathered as to the seat limitation, and they and their replacements may be operated with seventy-nine (79) and eighty (80) seats, respectively,” the scope agreement was quoted.

A grandfather clause, or legacy clause, is an exemption that allows the continuation of operations approved before implementing new rules.