The ever-shrinking airline seat

In recent years everyone's been talking about "seat pitch" – the distance between each row of seats. As materials have gotten stronger and lighter, seats have been getting thinner and thus an apples-to-apples comparison of seat pitch from decades ago (when we always seem to imagine things being better) with today isn't really possible.

With most modern planes today, airlines have standardized on 29-31" of seat pitch in economy, 34-38" in economy plus (and most American domestic "First" Class), and 58" or more in long-haul Business and First Class. There's not a lot changing on this front until we get to the standing/saddle configuration that we keep getting rumors of.

But the urge to cram more people into the plane is never-ending and next frontier is seat width. The trend has been to try and put another seat into each row: as much as 11 across in the A380 Emirates wants, and 10-across in the 777. To do that, seats and aisles have to be narrower. So now you need to start paying extra attention to seat width when checking seating charts on SeatGuru. 18" is the generally agreed-upon standard width for economy, but you can see that AirCanada has already started squeezing people down into 17" seats.

One small piece of good news on this front is that JAL just announced that they're re-vamping their 787-800s to actually remove one seat per row and allow for 19" wide seats in economy. The new planes will fly Tokyo-Frankfurt and Tokyo-JFK in early 2015. All this and a Toto Washlet on board? How can I lose?!

JAL's SkyWider II seats


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