Airline Seats: Feel Cramped? That’s Normal.

Once, when my husband and I were flying (before kids), I had a window seat and he had the middle. The man next to him in the aisle seat was as broad shouldered as my husband is. My husband wondered sweetly if I would mind switching with him. “Yes, yes I would,” I said. There was no way I wanted to be sandwiched in by shoulders. With the window curving out slightly, I had some room for one of my elbows.

According to the latest travel complaints, a small seat is becoming the number one cause for people’s unhappiness while they wing from one place to another.

Here’s what comfortable seats would look like:

  • A seat wide enough so you aren’t rubbing shoulders with the person next to you. 19-20 inches is adequate.
  • Lap-level workspace
  • A seat pitch that’s 35 to 36 inches. (The pitch is what gives you leg room and is determined by the front-to-back placement of seats.)

The reality:

  • Most airline seats are 17 to 18 inches.
  • Most seat pitch is 31 inches.

If you want wide seats, try Midwest Airlines.
The seat best pitch is on JetBlue airplanes.

For more details about where to find seat comfort, check Ed Perkin’s article, “Finding the Least Worst Coach Seats” at Tribune Media Services. Along with mentioning particular airlines, he tells which models are the most and least roomy. Also, at Skytrax you can view regions of the world, the airlines that fly to them and check out the pitches of the airplanes.