Aircraft Seating Is Cramped But There’s A New Seat In Town


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Aircraft Seating Is Cramped But There’s A New Seat In Town

By Jim Douglas

September 11, 2010 - It’s not appalling enough that the airlines herd passengers onto aircraft as if they were animals traveling on a freight car, if you fly an airline that charges an extra fee for placing your carryon in the overhead compartment, you’re more than likely to place that carryon under the seat in front of you to avoid the fee.

You take your seat with barely enough room to fit, your knees resting on the seat in front of you. Your feet are cramped due to your carryon bag taking up the space where your feet should be and the passenger next to you crowds your space in an attempt to gain some comfort.  

But not to worry, there are air carriers considering further reducing your seating comfort in order to increase passenger loads thereby increasing profits.  There is one company who is willing to accommodate the seating designs to achieve these goals, but that in a moment.  

It was not to long ago that the CEO of Ryanair, Michael O'Leary, Ireland’s low-cost air carrier, held talks with Boeing about redesigning their aircraft to accommodate for “standing room seating” for their passengers.

This would allow the budget airline to squeeze more people onboard  increasing its passenger loads by 30 percent and cutting cost by 20 percent thereby increasing profits. The idea as of yet has not been approved by the Irish Aviation Authority. 


“Standing room seating” is a seating in which the passenger is more or less standing, perched on a seat that has a seatbelt. The purpose of standing room seating is to reduce the space from you, to the seat in front of you, referred to as the “seat pitch,” which would allow more seats on an aircraft. The seat pitch is an indication of legroom, referring to the space between a point on one seat and the same point on the seat in front of it, usually given in inches. For many carriers, the pitch in Economy Class is 30 to 32 inches.


More seat pitch can mean more legroom, but it is also affected by the thickness of the seat back. The seat pitch should not be confused with seat width. The seat width is the distance from armrest to armrest, in Economy Class this is typically around 17 inches. The largest seat pitch in any commercial airline's short-haul economy section is 37 inches which is on Finnair's Airbus A319s. American Airlines' Business Class seats in their Boeing 767-200s are 62 inches, the largest in any short-haul Business Class. US Airways' First Class flatbed seats in their Airbus A330-300s have a seat pitch of 94 inches. The seat pitch on low cost carriers can be as low as 28 inches such as Spirit Airlines. 

Spring Airlines a low-cost air carrier in China has also requested approval from the Civil Aviation Administration of China to be allowed to redesign its aircraft to accommodate standing room seating for its passengers, although China’s Civil Aviation Administration to date has not approved the idea. Spring Airlines' Zhang Wuan stated "the process of plane making is really long. We already ordered 14 new jets but some of them will only be delivered next year, and you have to wait for at least five years to lease a plane, and it is also very expensive." Spring Airlines believes if standing room seating is approved the airline could accommodate 40% more passengers. 

Since 1974, Aviointeriors has been a major supplier of customized aircraft cabin interior products and mainly focused on passenger seat design, engineering and manufacturing. The company has a new product line called the “SkyRider.” The SkyRider is a new design in aircraft seating which provides a “seat pitch” of 23 inches compared to the Economy Class of 30 to 32 inches. The company will be attending the Aircraft Interiors Expo Americas in Long Beach, California mid September to showcase their product line. You can be assured that all of the major airlines will be there to test the waters. 

Below is the seat sizes of some of the major air carriers by width x pitch (aircraft carrier, seat width and pitch). The width is the distance between the armrests (in inches). The pitch is the distance between a seat and the seat in front of it (in inches). For example 17 x 31 would be a seat 17 inches wide with 31 inches from one point on one seat to the same point on the seat in front of it. (see Ryanair Airlines CEO Comments Suggest Safety Not A Priority)

737: 17 x 32
CRJ700: 17.3 x 31
Q200: 17 x 31-32
Q400: 17 x 29-30 

American Airlines
737/757/767:17 x 31-32
A-300: 18 x 31-32
MD-80, MD-11: 18 x 31-33
777: 18.5 x 32

767/777: 17.9 X 31-32
737/757: 17.2 x31-32

737: 17 x 31-32
757/767: 17 x 31
747: 17 x 31-32
MD-88/90: 17 x 32

717: 18 x 30-31
767: 18 x 32

Jet Blue
A320: 17.8 x 34-38
ERJ190: 18 x 32-38

Northwest Airlines
A319/A320: 17 x 30-32
A330: 17.5 x 31-33
747/757: 17 x 31-33
DC9/MD-80: 17 x 30-31

737-300: 17 x 32-33
737-500: 17 x 32-33
737-700: 17 x 32-33

United Airlines
767, 777: 18 x 31-35*
A319/A320: 18 x 31-35*
All other: 17 x 31-35*
*35 in “Economy Plus”

US Airways
737: 17 x 31
757/767: 17 x 32
A319/A320: 18 x 31
A330: 17 x 31

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