Think your airplane seat has grown slimmer? You might be right.
Over the past few years, more and more airplanes have been adding an extra seat to economy class rows by skimming as much as an inch and half from other seats.
The latest airline considering a trim is United, Aviation Daily reported on Monday. According to the report, instead of having nine seats across in its economy class, United is considering going with 10 seats a row on its Boeing 777 planes. This would add up to almost 100 extra seats per plane. Premium economy class would remain as is.
“The plan under consideration calls for United to install 28 flat-bed seats in business class, 98 in premium economy and 238 in economy, airline documents show,” reported Aviation Daily.
The airline neither denied nor confirmed the report.
“We evaluate lots of options across our fleet and haven’t made any further announcements specific to the 777 fleet,” Rahsaan Johnson, a spokesman for United Airlines, told the Guardian.
United had previously made adjustments to its fleet in 2013 when it began installing seats with slimmer backs that weigh about 30% less than traditional models; those seats are now on about 25% of United’s aircraft. About 83% of 1,391 passengers who tried the new seats said they were less comfortable than the old ones, according to TripAdvisor.
While the initial reaction to the new seats hasn’t exactly been positive, it gets better over time, says the airline.
“We elected to put on thicker padding when we installed these seats. After the seats have been in use for 12 to 16 weeks, the customer satisfaction scores on those aircraft are in line with the customer satisfaction scores prior to the seating reconfiguration,” said Johnson, who added that the seats come with larger overhead bins, Wi-Fi and complimentary streaming personal device entertainment. “The seats also provide an additional inch of knee clearance given that we moved the magazine pocket higher on the seat.”
With the new design reportedly considered by United not only would these seats have slimmer backs – taking up two inches less in depth – but they would also be slimmer in the seat, leaving the passenger’s derriere with less space. The new seats are about 17 inches wide, down from 18 and 18.5 inches.
This is not the first time that Americans, who take their personal space very seriously, have been asked to do with less. In fact, if United decides to go ahead with the new design, it will be just the latest in a long line of airlines to do so.
“Most 777s are getting 10-across seating in coach now,” said Gary Leff, author of the ViewFromTheWing.com blog and co-founder of Milepoint.com frequent flyer community. “This continues the overall aviation trend of fewer premium seats, a better premium experience, and tighter economy.”
The 10-seats-across design is the new standard, according to Aviation Daily. About 70% of new 777 planes delivered by Boeing are designed that way. In October last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that airlines including Emirates, Air France, Air Canada and Air New Zealand were already using aircraft with 10 seats across in their economy sections. At the time, United was reported to “have refused” to follow suit, “deeming 17 inches too tight for very long trips overseas”.