[Roundup] An Extra Inch Of Seat Width Matters More Than An Extra Inch Of Legroom

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Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. It’s good that Cathay Pacific is finding other industries to operate in, as Hong Kong seems dead set on destroying Hong Kong’s aviation and tourism industries.

  2. I’m glad someone is finally saying that seat width matters more than pitch. (Yeah, OK, I’m not tall …)

  3. Why is an extra inch of width absolutely better than an extra inch of length? Some of us aren’t morbidly obese and are over 6’3″.

    Gary you makes these pronouncements all the time as if they’re factual rather than opinion.

  4. Airbus undoubtedly knew the dynamics of seat comfort long before this study. As much as people complain about seat pitch, the vast majority of the world can fit into normally pitched (not necessarily ULCC) configurations. Airbus has consistently made its competitive airplanes to Boeing just a little wider so that 17 inch seats are only necessary if a carrier wants to go to an ULCC type configuration. Esp on long haul, width matters which undoubtedly explains why Delta kept 9 abreast economy on its 777s even after most other global airlines including AA and UA went to 10 abreast. Now with a B767, A330 and A350 longhaul fleet, Delta’s seat width across the board is wider than on AA and UA with their 777s and 9 abreast 787s.
    Only when there is no other choice do I fly 10 abreast 777s or 9 abreast 787s.

  5. Unlike pitch – the average width of an airline seat (with rare exceptions like on wide bodies that are 9 or 10 across) hasn’t changed in 50 years. Narrow body aircraft have the exact same width as they always did. It is Americans that have gotten fatter! You can’t expect airlines to expand the width of seats due to people’s weakness that result in their obesity. If you are too fat to comfortably fit in a standard seat then you have a choice – either buy 2 seats and spread out or upgrade to first class.

    Sorry that is a “you” problem and not an airline problem

  6. Not that this is news to Road Warriors, but having started to snag some free upgrades on AA to First from MCE, my S/O reports that working on the flight with a laptop is far easier with extra width rather than just extra pitch. It’s possible in MCE, particularly in bulkhead seats, but the ability to spread out just a little, especially with a drink on the tray, is far easier the wider the seats go. Narrow seats and low pitch make it damn near impossible, even with something as small as a Surface Pro, so maintaining status is now a priority. It’s either that or pay for the seats, and the employer doesn’t always pay.

  7. AC,
    your statement is not true. The A320 family came out decades after the B737 family and the A320 family has a wider cabin and seats. Bombardier upped the game yet again with its all-new C Series (now the A220) which has the widest coach seats on narrowbody aircraft in standard configuration.
    The same principle applies to new widebody models. As I noted above, Airbus created the A300/A330 fuselage after other Boeing models and the A350 was created after the B787; in both cases, they created wider cabins and seats than the comparable Boeing aircraft.
    One of the very few exceptions to the width of a cabin model being fixed for the life of the plane is the 777X in which Boeing has been able to significantly rework the cabin sidewalls so that 18 inch seats are possible with a 10 abreast configuration. However, the B777X is selling very slowly and will likely remain so because the 777X is a very large aircraft in order to get comparable per seat economics to smaller, newer generation aircraft like the A350 and B787

  8. Big thumbs up for extra seat width. Not 6-3, and also not “morbidly obese. 17-inches is ridiculously narrow.

  9. On the incredibly obtuse ‘study’ about seat width more important than leg room … of course that’s what ‘people’ want. They’re all fat. So the rest of us will scrunch into a coach seat (not me) and have plenty of width which helps us not at all.

  10. For me pitch is as important as width. I am 6’3″ and so I usually pay for more leg room because I cannot sit comfortably in most coach seats. That said I am also a bigger guy width wise and so more width is nice to have too. But one usually comes with the other.

  11. Let’s be realistic here: a 17” wide seat just sucks for many adults so comparing that subpar width with 18” or more is just wrong. As to seat pitch, 34” for non-slimline seats is about right for medium to long haul. Then again I’m 6’4, big, and broad shouldered so my perspective is a little skewed.

  12. Passenger comfort isn’t the issue that keeps airline executives up at night. They are worried about profit, and profit depends a lot on operating cost. Wider seats mean wider planes. Wider planes would seem to mean higher cost. All other things equal, wider planes weigh more than the same airframe with a narrower cross section and create more drag. That requires more energy, i.e. fuel, at any given altitude and airspeed. Also a wider seat weighs more. It is curious how Airbus is able to market their aircraft with claims of greater fuel efficiency compared to similar narrower Boeing aircraft. Legroom is most important for me.

  13. Statically Americans are getting shorter.
    Statically Americans are getting wider.
    Yes – it is a passenger problem, however Airlines who are astute should address such problems.

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