Spirit Airlines Will Make the Middle Seat the Best Seat, and Increase “Pre-Recline”

The ‘Big Front Seat’ on Spirit Airlines is one of the best deals in travel. However their regular seating is miserable.

As bad as American’s new ‘Project Oasis’ domestic interior is, featuring 30 inches of pitch – the distance from seat back to seat back – Spirit Airlines has just 28 inches of pitch.

Spirit is installing new seats and since they offer packed seating matched only by Frontier they don’t want to talk about comfort in terms of pitch.

  • New coach seats will be angled differently so tall people will have more knee room in the same space
  • Middle seats will get an extra inch of width
  • The Big Front Seat gets new seat covers

Copyright: boarding1now / 123RF Stock Photo

Seat pitch and width remains the best measure we have because it describes how much aircraft real estate each passenger gets. Spirit gives passengers less space than everyone else (other than in some cases Frontier). That will be true even with these new seats, even if they’re better.

Width is just as important here, and one thing many people don’t realize is that Spirit’s seats aren’t as wide as coach seats on similar aircraft operated by major airlines. Instead of 18″ wide seats on an Airbus narrowbody, Spirit has 17″ wide seats. That creates a wider aisle, which means faster boarding. Delays are costly and they’re all about low costs.

Spirit is going to give back that inch to the middle seat passenger only, the window and aisle seats will still be more narrow than comparable major airline coach seats.

Credit: Spirit

The coach seats lean back one inch farther – Spirit calls it “pre-recline” since the passenger doesn’t get to move their seat back – and the bottom of the seat back curves inward, pushing the passenger back up to an inch so taller passengers have more space for their legs in front of the seat.

The Big Front Seat gets “new ergonomically-improved headrest with plush memory foam, additional memory foam in the seat cushion for comfort and thigh support, and sleek Spirit-branded aesthetic with yellow and black stitching.”

Credit: Spirit Airlines

The seat itself is the same up front, but new padding should be a plus. The major win here is for middle seat passengers getting an extra inch of width.

Spirit wants to drop discussion of pitch because they give the least aircraft real estate to passengers, they say passengers don’t understand what pitch is. That’s irrelevant. Aircraft real estate is the primary consideration, and then what an airline does to optimize the space matters next.

The ultra low cost carrier is optimizing within the most constrained footprint of any U.S. carrier. That’s a good thing, but it doesn’t mean their coach is comparable to what other carriers offer. Spirit offers cheap transportation in part by giving each passenger less space on the aircraft. These seats don’t change that formulation.

About Gary Leff

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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  1. I’ve flown the Big Front Seat a few times from ORD when AA/UA first class prices were nuts. For someone like me that cares almost entirely on the extra room/comfort first class seats provide it’s a great product.

    With AA gift cards not triggering the Amex Plat $200 credit anymore, I’m seriously considering choosing Spirit as my airline choice next year.

  2. Traveled Spirit recently..Three hour delay, filthy plane, my seat pocket hsve soiled dirty tissues and a used sippy cup, seat belt covered with sticky gum. DISGUSTING.
    Will never fly with company again

  3. “Man-Spreaders” rejoice! Spirit’s new seats are tailor-made for giving you an excuse to “Man-Spread” to your heart’s content without being “Man-Spread” shamed…

    …although female passengers may NOT welcome this new “Man-Spreader” friendly change nearly as much!

    (Once others see the press release & accompanying diagrams about Spirit’s plans to use curved seat-backs instead of flat seat-backs, Spirit’s new “Man-Spreading” friendly seating will be readily apparent. Oh, and for those unfamiliar with the term “Man-Spreading”, that’s when men spread their legs as far apart as possible when sitting on NYC Subway trains; which not only hogs space, but most women find especially offensive for a variety of reasons.)

  4. The thing I care about the most is the pitch and width of the seat (I can take care of food and entertainment myself) so your recent posts on Spirit have me intrigued by the Big Front Seat. But the routing options going from the SF Bay Area to the NYC area don’t seem great and, as you noted in a previous post, the Spirit site seems to be a PITA to work with. Still, I might give it a shot at some point.

  5. @Gary (and @Steve) —> “The ‘Big Front Seat’ on Spirit Airlines is one of the best deals in travel.” This may be true, BUT you’re still on Spirit!

    My brother-in-law *does* fly Spirit from time to time…usually between LAS-OAK or back (he works in both locations), but *only* when a) Southwest’s prices are crazy *and* the “BFS” is available; or, b) it’s not a last minute booking, in which case he generally flies JetSuiteX (or “JSX,” as they appear to be rebranding)..

  6. Tall person here. (Who has never flown spirit and generally avoids regular seats.) Isn’t that extra legroom lost if my lower back is being pushed forward the same amount? Someone tell me what I’m missing?

  7. Those planes should just have a drain in the floor so you could clean them out with a firehose at the end of the day. Same material they make the back seat of police cars out of.

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