Airlines are cramming more seats on planes, which means less legroom and narrower cushions. Last week, lawmakers proposed the Seat Egress in Air Travel (SEAT) Act. If passed, the FAA would have to come up with standards for airlines’ seat sizes. In the meantime, it helps to know what you can expect from airlines.
In a statement, Rep. Steve Cohen (TN) explained that the average distance between rows of seats has dropped to about 31 inches from 35 inches in the 70s, before airline deregulation. The average width of a seat, he says, has decreased to 16 ½ from 18 inches.
Lawmakers tried to come up with a seat standard last year, too. It would’ve required airlines to post information about their seat sizes so customers could make a more informed decision. That proposal was shot down, but you’re not out of luck.
SeatGuru offers airline comparison charts so you can look at the specific dimensions of seats, depending on the airline, aircraft, and class. Seatmaestro is a similar service, and they rank the U.S. airlines with the most seat space in economy class. A few on their list:
- jetBlue: Surprisingly, discount airline jetBlue has the widest seats that offer the most “pitch” (distance between two rows, aka legroom). According to Seatmaestro, their cheapest seats have a pitch 32 to 35 inches on most flights, and some planes are between 37 and 41 inches. Seat width is typically 17.8 to 18.5 inches.
- Virgin America: Seat pitch ranges from 32-38, depending on the aircraft, and seat width is about 18.7 inches.
- Hawaiian Airlines: Hawaiian Airlines’ Airbus A330 planes have up to 32 inches of seat pitch and a seat width of 18 inches.
- American Airlines Economy: They don’t offer dimensions, but in our research, seat width is between 17-18.25” and seat pitch ranges from 30-37” on short haul flights. Seatmaestro says their A321 airplanes have a pretty cool feature: “When the person in front of you reclines, the bottom of their seat slides forward to give your legs more space!”
Cheapflights breaks down the seat sizes of major airlines, too. It’s worth checking out next time you have a flight. Seat width might not seem like a big deal, but when you’re crammed next to someone for three hours, you might sing a different tune.