Shaving just a few inches off an airplane seat’s dimensions can make room for additional seats on the aircraft, but what do narrower seats do to passengers’ ability to relax during longer flights? The folks at French jet-maker Airbus say wider seats can result in more well-rested passengers.
Airbus is calling on airlines to make 18″ wide seats the standard for long-haul economy seats. As you can see from this SeatGuru chart, the majority of jets used for these flights have seats that are narrower than 18″, some as narrow as 16″.
While that small difference might not seem like much, Airbus claims that a study by the London Sleep Centre shows that passengers in 18″ seats enjoy a significantly better rest than those in 17″ seats. According to the study, passengers in 18″ seats reported a 53% improvement in sleep quality, falling asleep faster and staying asleep for longer periods of time.
“We’re arguing that one inch makes all the difference,” says the Airbus Head of Passenger Comfort, presumably between rounds of checking to see if you’d like a beverage or a pair of headphones. “That extra one inch basically allows you the wiggle room, allows the space around hips and shoulders and elbows so you are not in permanent contact with your neighbor.”
Airbus is making this push in advance of the expected 2014 release of its A350 jet, which it has designed around 18″ seats. But while the plane may be set up for these relatively luxurious seats, airlines may still order A350s with the narrower seats travelers are currently squeezing themselves into. As long as an airline’s seating request meets regulatory safety standards, Airbus will honor it.
In addition to narrow seats, airlines have recently turned to thinner seat-backs in order to squeeze additional seats onto jets. These seats are also lighter than existing airline seating to make up for the weight of the additional passengers.