Not all economy seats are created equal. Can you get a good seat experience for decent shut-eye? By doing a little bit of digging you’ll find out enough info to help you make a flight in economy a pleasant flight, instead of an unbearable one. My suggestion is that you should be aware of what one or two inches of leg room can do — it makes the difference between being able to open your laptop all the way or being able to cross my legs comfortably. Seat pitch and width can vary greatly between airline carriers and aircraft type. So, when you’re comparing flights, be sure to check out the comparison chart at the end of the post to help you identify the differences between seat pitch and width on different airlines.

Seat pitch is the distance from any point on one seat to the exact same point on the seat in front or behind it. And while it is not the exact equivalent of “legroom”, it does give a very good approximation of how much seat room you should expect. The Bottom Line: the more seat pitch the better!


Photo: Travis Church

Virgin America – Where JetBlue attempts to woo its patrons with extra leg room and some satellite audio and video content, Virgin has opted for a sensory barrage. Stepping into what is seemingly a “purple palace” in the sky with fully-equipped mood lighting, the brand new fleet of aircrafts at Virgin America provide passengers with some of the latest technology for in-flight entertainment and productivity. The Airbus A320 features comfortable leather seats in coach class, and a comfortable pitch of 32” and width of 19.7”.

Emirates – Emirates is relatively generous to their coach passengers in terms of legroom. Coach passengers flying the A330 can expect their seats to have a pitch of 32”, while flying the B777 aircraft will up the ante to 33”-34”. Seat width remains approximately 17.5” on either type of aircraft.

Singapore Airlines – Singapore Airline were the first airline in the world to put into service the Airbus A380. The A380 has 32“ seat pitch and 19” width. The Singapore Airbus A340-500 used on long haul flight between New York and Singapore is even more spacious than the bigger A380 with 37“ of seat pitch and 20“ seat width.

JetBlue – JetBlue has recently reconfigured their fleet of A320 aircrafts which has helped to increase the seat pitch in coach. Passengers can now expect to have a coach seat with a 34”-36” pitch, and for an additional $10, passengers can request an “Even More Legroom” seat, which increases the pitch to an impressive 38” – these seats are limited, and you must call a JetBlue agent to book one of these seats at 1-800-JETBLUE.

Virgin Atlantic – Flying Virgin Atlantic offers two choices for economy passengers: Economy, and Premium Economy. Economy passengers can expect their seats to have a pitch of about 31”, while Premium Economy customers can expect a tad bit more leg room and a wider seat at 21”, compared to 17.5”. Economy seats also feature seatback TVs, video on-demand, and some seats feature video game consoles with up to 35 different games.

Qantas – Qantas provides ample legroom for economy passengers on both their domestic and international flights. The B747 fleet provides 32” pitch seating, and a width of 17.25”. Qantas recently began offering International Premium Economy seating for select flights, and these seats offer a wider 19.5” seat and footrest. Each seat also has its own personal fold-out 8.4” touch-screen monitor built-in to the armrest for watching movies on-demand.

Cathay Pacific – Cathay’s fleet of B-777s offer a seat pitch of 32”, and a width of 18.5”. Flying coach class aboard their larger A340-600 aircrafts, from Hong Kong to New York nonstop, offers a marginally slimmer seat width at 17.75”. These long flights offer economy passengers an innovative view from the nose of the plane via a nose-wheel cam that broadcasts a signal to the TV screens on-board.

British Airways – On the British Airways Boeing 747-400 the World Traveller (economy) class has 31″ of pitch, and a seat width of 17.5”. Each British Airways aircraft also features 4-5 rows of World Traveler Plus economy seating with larger 38” pitch, 18.5” width, and slightly greater reclining capabilities.

Japan Airlines – Japan Airlines offers both an Economy and a Premium Economy choice for seating. The economy seats offer a spacious 34” of pitch and a 17” width, while the Premium Economy seats offer an increased 38” of pitch and 18.9” width. Premium Economy seating is available on JLA’s Boeing 777-300ER aircraft (a total of 46 seats per plane). These seats also offer an incredible 120-degrees of recline.

United Airlines – United offers two choices to its economy passengers; Economy and Economy Plus. Economy passengers can expect differing amounts of leg room depending upon the specific aircraft. All aircraft seats have a seat pitch of 31” except for: the A319 (31”-33”), the A320 (31”-33”), the A321 (32”), and the A330-300 (32”-34”). Economy Plus seating adds an additional 4” of legroom, and this seating option is available to Premier or high status members of United’s Mileage Plus frequent flier program, or to full-fare/unrestricted economy passengers.

>Airline Economy Seats Chart

Seat Pitch Seat Width Seat Recline
32” 19.7“ 32”
32“ 17.5” 6”
32” 19-20” 6-8”
32“ 17.5” n/a
31-32” 17.2” 6 degrees
32” 17.75” 15 degrees
31“ 17.5” n/a
34” 17” 32 degrees
31-35” 17-18” 5”

Footnotes

A tip of the hat goes to SeatGuru for compiling seating charts.


37 Responses to “Ranked: The 10 Most Comfortable Airline Economy Seats”

  1. Ian on April 23, 2008 7:43 am

    The below is incorrect – JetBlue’s EML seats can be reserved online:

    >>>For an additional $10, passengers can request an “Even More Legroom” seat, which increases the pitch to an impressive 38” – these seats are limited, and you must call a JetBlue agent to book one of these seats at 1-800-JETBLUE.

  2. Wes on April 23, 2008 11:59 am

    You missed Midwest Airlines! When I first boarded a Midwest flight from Dallas to Milwaukee, I thought to myself, “wow, this is a really big 1st class section!” Then I realized, that there IS no 1st class, and that all the seats are leather and wide and comfortable. Unfortunately, there are no TV screens loaded with movies and video games (like there are on Singapore Air), but it’s still my favorite domestic airline.

  3. Trev on April 24, 2008 12:20 am

    Is Virgin USA the widest in class to deal with the extra girth of the native travellers ?

  4. Aran on April 26, 2008 2:44 pm

    As someone who works for United I can tell you that two of the aircraft types that you listed for us (the A321 and the A330-300) are not nor have ever been in our fleet.

  5. It's Time To Fly In Comfort | Bandwidth Bandit on April 28, 2008 4:09 am

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  6. Kurt on April 28, 2008 1:37 pm

    Wes,
    You forgot the freshly baked chocolate chip cookies they pass around in a wicker basket. Midwest Express was the best.
    BTW, the WORSE economy seats were Asiana from LA to Seoul. Concrete seats I swear.

  7. Thor on April 28, 2008 3:14 pm

    I have to disagree with you about the high marks for Virgin America. Between a deeper back-of-seat casing to hold the electronics and the fact that their seats recline more than average (a good 6″), once the seat in front of you reclines, it is virtually impossible to stand up, and quite difficult to get up from your seat and out your aisle except in a highly contorted and stooped manner. Also, the hard white plastic casings of the back of VA’s seats make for a sleek interior (reminding me of Kubrick’s 1968 “2001″), but given some bad turbulence and a loose seatbelt, I fully expect to start hearing about lawsuits over broken noses and knocked-out teeth.

  8. cindi on April 28, 2008 4:32 pm

    What about Lufthansa??

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  10. Share It on April 28, 2008 8:06 pm

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  11. Kyralessa on April 28, 2008 8:55 pm

    British Airways!?

    I flew them this past summer to Europe and back. I can’t recall the seat pitch being that extraordinary. If it was, it just goes to show that there’s a lot more to a flight than seat pitch. The flight attendenants were surly, the food was abysmal, and the video systems were always broken.

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  16. Lise on May 12, 2008 3:57 am

    I actually think Qantas’ economy (read: sardine class) seats stink. To fly 14 hours to LA from the east coast of Australia in such jammed up seats should be illegal. The Asian airlines, Virgin and Air NZ offer far better quality if you’re flying to the States. Thai Air has from memory 34 inches in economy, and whilst 2 inches doesn’t seem alot, ask any guy!! At nearly $10,000 for business to the States from Australia (around $6,000 to the UK, far longer journey) business is a no go zone for most. At least we now have the option of premium economy with Air NZ and Qantas is offering it later in the year. The combo of long haul flights and no space is a claustrophobe’s nightmare, time to change your space airlines!

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  18. Airfare Watcher on May 15, 2008 1:04 pm

    Being 6’2″, JetBlue takes the cake for seat comfort. I don’t care how soft and leathery that Virgin America’s seats are, I’ll still take the extra 2 to 4 inches of legroom on JetBlue any day. Forget the bells and whistles and neon lights, a couple extra inches of legroom makes a big difference.

  19. Virginia Web Design on May 21, 2008 12:40 pm

    Seatguru.com has come in handy more than once for me – especially for international flights! China Air had the most room of any airline I’ve been on so far.

  20. Yolanda Lever on June 7, 2008 3:34 am

    What about EVA Air. They have the Evergreen deluxe which provides business class type seating but with economy service. Sure makes a flight from Taipei to Amsterdam a lot more comfortable.

  21. Ben on June 10, 2008 4:02 pm

    Funny you mention Emirates as one of the best economy seats. They are the only airline that squeezes and extra column of seats in economy on their 777′s. All other 777′s go 3-3-3 Emirates go 3-4-3. Squishy if you ask me. Check out Etihad airways their economy is great.

  22. J Goria on June 15, 2008 12:50 am

    United’s Economy Plus is the best in terms of comfort. I really love being in 35′ pitch and it’s a joy to fly on United. JG

  23. Janet Schmidt on June 22, 2008 11:35 am

    How does Thai Air economy seating stack up against the top 10 other airlines? In the Winter Months they switch to a 747 for the LAX-BKK itinerary….it does not appear as spacious as the Airbus 340-500 they use for LAA-BKK other times of the year.

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  25. Ghazal on July 24, 2008 2:12 pm

    Midwest airline is far better than United! In fact I would vote for United as the worst Airline in US! I do not care if now they offer better seat comfort as long as their other services still socks. 8 out of 10 times you lose your connection in Chicago even if you have two hour layover. Half of the time your bags arrive at least a day later than you. Once their machine could not print me a boarding pass and their agent on the phone kept me waiting for half an hour before she could figure out their problem and finally they told me now I have passed the 40mins deadline for checking bags and have to take the next flight few hours later.

  26. Shorty on September 4, 2008 5:12 am

    I’m only 5ft3, I find the leg room on most economy flights uncomfortable, my boyfriend is 6ft something and fying with him in the seat next to me is a bit like watching a trapped octupus (not that I actually know what a trapped octupus looks like!). It’s not really too much to ask of airlines to offer a decent service as well as decent legroom for its passengers.

  27. Lebat on October 23, 2008 8:12 am

    I was recently on Virgin America flight and it’s probably one of the better ones out there for sure.

  28. Anthony on October 29, 2008 1:10 am

    I think Emirates is the best Airline in the world and its economy seat is great, especcially the entertainment system onboard

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  31. Chuck36 on December 30, 2008 2:42 am

    I just flew the new Qantas A380 return from Los Angeles to Melbourne Australia. Okay… it’s new, clean, quiet but in coach, it’s the same old thing. It’s remarkable that the FAA allows a airline to fly with passengers so packed in together. It truly should be illegal. It would be near impossible to get everyone out of a plane like that in the event one had to quickly. I’ve never been so packed in … in all my life. Truly remarkable.

    The seats are some Australian designer design … and there thin and very close together. The flight attendants were very nice and the flight was fine … just too tight. One other thing … on their website they talk about the snack bar available anytime to coach passengers. Really really really stupid. It had a bowl of apples, stale cookies and soda. STOCK IT WITH SOME REAL FOOD!!! Although, the food they served has got to be the worst I’ve had on a airline in a long long time.

  32. Luis Martinez on January 9, 2009 9:53 am

    Well the list shows some of the best economy classes… I can speak for AeroMexico, which offers 31” – 32” pitch on short-haul flights, with seat width of 17”, on-board Boeing 737-700/800 and MD-82/87/88′s, while for long-haul flights they offer 34” pitch on their Boeing 767/777 fleet, and 18.5” of width…

  33. Luis Martinez on January 9, 2009 9:55 am

    BTW, Mexicana offers in long-haul flights in Economy Class:
    35” pitch
    19” width
    On-board their Boeing 767-200/300 and Airbus A330-200 aircraft.

  34. Lopar on January 19, 2009 9:02 pm

    It’s not surprising to see Singapore Airlines make this list, they’ve always been front runners is making flying more comfortable and on long flights it’s worth going with the best!

  35. recovering deleted files on February 9, 2009 9:50 am

    I think I am definitely going to fly Virgin next time those seats look so awesome!

  36. A.Mushan on March 15, 2009 12:17 pm

    Hi everybody.. I hope someone will tell me about it. I booked to flew by emirates to Dubai from London. seat no 19A,19B and 19c, are this seats comfort and windows show .

  37. aduckisaduck on March 26, 2009 1:07 pm

    The person who couldn’t wait to fly Virgina because of how awesome the seats look, don’t do it if you can help it. When I first walked onto the Virgin flight I was WOW, Ahhhh this is nice, they have the mood lighting mellow dance music going on… but then I sat in the seat and the person in front of me put their seat down… I thought I can’t breath! Virgin America has the TV for entertainment, because of the thickness of the seat and how far they lean back I felt SO cramped. I went back to Jet Blue. They have the TVs also but they have most leg and seat room. When I can I pay the extra money and go Jet Blue.

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Hi! I am a self-confessed geek with an insatiable appetite for gadgets and travel. Currently I own a MacBook Pro, 30GB iPod video and a big credit card balance.
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