American Airlines is replacing a sizeable chunk of the economy-class seats on its 777-200 aircraft with fewer but pricier premium economy seats, CNBC reports.

The airline is imposing a standard seating regime on its fleet of 67 777-200s, ripping out 40 main cabin economy seats in favour of 24 premium economy seats, which are wider and have more legroom.

“What premium economy does is allow an airline to offer a stairway to heaven if you will,” said industry expert Henry Harteveldt of Atmosphere Research Group.

“You have standard coach for people who have the most limited budgets, you’ve got premium economy as an affordable in-between, and then you have business class for people who have the means to enjoy the greatest comfort.”

American Airlines officials say travellers have proven willing to pay for the roomier seats.

Standarisation of the fleet also will make it easier for American to replace like-for-like aircraft when a flight gets cancelled.

The refit of the 777-200 aircraft is expected to be completed by December 2018.