Seat size—determined by seat width and pitch (the latter, one measure of legroom)—are important considerations in choosing the best airlines to fly. Understandably, flyers often cringe at the prospect of buckling up in narrower seats with less legroom as cost-conscious airlines stuff more seats in their economy class cabins.
Seat pitch refers to the space between one point on a seat and the same point on the seat in front of it. According to SeatGuru.com, the pitch of economy seats generally averages between 28 to 36 inches, while first-class seats offer 42 to 100 inches. This makes first-class seats pretty inviting but not everyone has elite flyer status or can afford the significant cost of flying first-class—which runs about three times the price of an economy ticket.
RouteHappy.com, a New York-based start-up, recently took a look at the size of economy airline seats for some major airline carriers. Before you book air tickets, you may want to review some of their findings. They classified the size of economy seats in three categories:
- Roomy (a pitch of 33 inches or more, or 32 inches or more with a seat width of 17.5 inches,
- Standard (a pitch of 31-32 inches, and
- Tight (seats with a pitch between 28 and 30 inches).
Here's what they found:
- About 86 percent of the seats on all economy flights fall into the standard category; only 4 percent of available seats would be considered "roomy."
- Long-haul international flights (over 4 hours) generally have a higher proportion of "roomy" seats than the short-haul ones: 20 percent compared to 4 percent.
- On short-haul flights, Virgin America and JetBlue are the only US carriers that uniformly offer "roomy" seats on every flight.
- The greatest number of tight short-haul seats are on Allegiant, Hawaiian and Spirit Airlines: 100 percent on every flight.
- On long-hauls, flying US Airways offers the greatest odds (more than 50 percent) of sitting in a "roomy" seat. However, JetBlue has the most flights with "roomy: seats, followed by US Airways and Virgin America.
To find out the size of airline seats when booking air tickets, check SeatGuru.com, which compares seat size by class, divided by short hauls and long hauls, and sorted by individual airlines. If you worry about your knees butting up against the seat in front of you, you may want to pay an upgrade for premium economy seating, which generally offers 5 to 7 inches of pitch over economy, 1 to 2 additional inches of seat width, and an extra 2 to 3 extra inches of seat recline.
Check out the prices for these economy seat upgrades when booking your flight; they include United's Economy Plus, Delta's Economy Comfort, or JetBlue's Even More seats.