Airline and Airplane Seat Comparisons
Updated research on this topic can be found here: Airline Fleet Totals, Leg Room Analysis Revisited. This more recent article integrates fleet totals for a more complete view of seat pitch distribution across airlines.
Research on the topic of airline and airplane seat size comparisons was triggered by an article I read recently. Unfortunately, I can’t remember where the article was from, but it was related to plans by American Airlines to order new planes with two less inches of legroom (“pitch” in airline jargon). The article mentioned that airplane seats are designed for people no larger than around 5’9″, and that while the average American has gotten larger, airplane seats continue to shrink. The article cited this as a major safety hazard, and that some passenger interest group was suing various groups (the FAA, airlines) over it.
As a person on the larger side (6’3″, 225ish lbs), this is definitely a topic that interests me. I’m already basically guaranteed to be uncomfortable on planes, so I’m not wild about that situation being worse. I decided to do some research to figure out which airlines or specific planes were my best bet. Fortunately, I didn’t have to search too hard, because a website called “Seat Guru” exists (https://www.seatguru.com/charts/generalcharts.php). I copied Seat Guru’s comparison data lists, then churned out some pivots and charts. I have data for all classes of travel, but for this post, I filtered to only include “short haul economy” (short haul includes domestic U.S. travel).
Well, it’s certainly not a shock to see budget carriers like Spirit and Frontier with the lowest legroom; sadly that 28″ pitch is what the new American Airline planes will be, if I’m remembering correctly. Jet Blue seems to be the industry leader in legroom for economy class, based on this information.
Although the charts are helpful for trends, I’ll also include more complete Pivot Tables below. These include the actual plane, since that might help judge flight booking.