Airbus Calls for 18” Wide Economy Seats as International Standard

By Paul Riegler on 28 October 2013
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10-abreast seating on a 777-300ER

10-abreast seating on a 777-300ER

Capitalizing on the trend towards narrower seats, Airbus called for airlines to adopt an 18” (45.72 cm) standard for the width of economy seats on long-haul aircraft on Monday.

In recent years, numerous airlines including American, Air Canada, Air France-KLM, Dubai’s Emirates Airline, and United Airlines are cutting back on shoulder space by adding an extra seat into each row in coach.  Until recently, the standard on a Boeing 777 was nine seats per row.  In 2012, the airframe maker says that almost 70% of the largest versions of that aircraft were shipped with ten seats per row.

A look at the new measurements is telling.  The seat width in economy on a new American 777-300ER is 17”; on a new United 787 Dreamliner, a seat in coach has a width of 17.3”.

Most Dreamliner customers, 90%, have specified what United has: nine-abreast seating instead of what launch customer ANA’s Dreamliners came with, namely a roomier eight-abreast version.

Boeing is not the only aircraft manufacturer building plane with narrow seats.  Ten airlines have taken delivery of Airbus A330 aircraft with nine 16.7” seats per row, instead of the eight it was originally designed for.

In proposing the 18” standard, Airbus cited new research by the London Sleep Centre that showed that a passenger sitting on a seat that is 18” wide saw an improved quality of sleep by 53% when compared to sitting on a 17” seat.  The researchers used polysomnography to record physiological sleep measurements including monitoring brainwaves, eye, abdominal, chest, and hip leg movement, on passengers.

In a recent survey of frequent flyers by Frequent Business Traveler, the top three complaints that were cited related to insufficient personal space on an aircraft including insufficient legroom, seatmates who take up too much space width-wise, and forward passengers who recline too much.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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