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Airline Seats--Wider or More Legroom?

The study reported on in the link below looked at self-reported comfort levels with various airline seat dimensions. This study finds that going from 17" to 18" seat width was perceived as adding roughly the same amount of comfort as adding 4" of pitch.

I guess my own buying patterns support this, as I avoid coach in 10-across 777's and 9-across 787's.

How about you? If you could only choose one, would you be more comfortable with more width or more legroom?

Posted by
2134 posts

I'm all about legroom and making sure i have enough space so that no one reclines back into me. Of course, I'd rather have legroom and width but I'll take the legroom first.

Posted by
5623 posts

Legroom and knee room - that’s key.

I was once on a flight where an extremely plus-sized gentleman needed 2 seats - he was that wide. He’d paid for both. An extra inch wouldn’t have gotten him anywhere.

Posted by
5262 posts

There may be less than meets the eye in this study, though admittedly I didn't plow through the whole article with all the measurements and two-decimal-place distinctions. The study focused on stress as measured by a questionnaire and after controlling for multiple (but perhaps not all?) sources of stress other than seating dimensions. Discomfort = stress, for sure, but it's not exactly a 1-1 relationship. But if the student got credit for it, who are we to complain?

For me it's mostly about legroom, since I'm tall with extra-long legs, and not especially wide or broad-shouldered. I'll pay extra for a couple of inches of pitch. I won't complain about a wider seat, but that's less important to me, as long as my seatmate doesn't hog the armrest or spill over. My wife is short and doesn't care about legroom, but she has back and joint issues that make it painful to sit in one position very long, so she wants a wider seat she can move around in. If we could afford first class we'd have the best of both worlds, but premium economy will have to do.

Posted by
743 posts

Bulkhead seats (usually only available in premium economy any more)...those are for me. I like the wall in front of me. So I guess I like legroom. Pitch is difficult to rate, it depends on the shape of the cushions in the seat, I think. Wouldn’t lumbar support be wonderful?

Posted by
131 posts

It’s pitch for me too but not because I’m tall, I’m not, but because I can’t stand the TV screen in the back of the seat in front of me being in my face. Actually makes me feel sick. No coach for me anymore. I usually fly Delta and the few extra inches in Comfort+ makes a difference. I’m going to try their “Premium Select” to Zurich next year, hopefully some day I’ll move up to the beds!

Posted by
331 posts

A couple of years ago I found mysel on a BA flight to South Africa. Therre had been a recall on some of their 787s, and the flight was on an old 747 which I was dreading once I found out.

It turned out to be one of the most comfortable flights I've had in a while - because the old plane had a 34" seat pitch as oppossed to the "normal" 31 inches.

Posted by
10057 posts

I was recently asked by my daughter-in-law where I like to sit on the plane. “Business class,” was my reply.

Seriously, for overseas I won’t put up with coach any longer. For total comfort we scrimp and save and hoard points until we can go in style. Even domestic we do economy plus.

Posted by
13091 posts

TimW, the 747 has always been my favorite plane, and I am sad that BA has retired them.

As for seats, I am with Laurel—-those lie-flat seats in business class are pretty much a necessity for my husband’s comfort (bad back). He is under 6’ and slender so width and legroom are not the issue, but he cannot stand sitting upright for the 9+ hour flight. So I work hard at scrounging miles so we can fly that way.

Posted by
6644 posts

The most discomforting thing to me on any flight is other passengers. Adding width to the seat gives me more space and marginally further away from my increasingly larger neighbors. So I vote for width. If I was taller, legroom would be more of an issue.

Posted by
8295 posts

I have the same issues as Dick’s wife (back & joint issues) so I’d pick width.

Posted by
92 posts

I would say it depends on your build and your tolerance to flying. My husband is 6'4" tall and I'm 5'10". We try not to travel regular economy anywhere. Circulation to my legs get cut off in coach, never mind my hubby's and a long flight would be dangerous for us. Domestically, we travel economy plus. Internationally, we only fly business class now. Too old for coach and the hassles involved as well.

Posted by
349 posts

At this point, I just want to fly somewhere, anywhere! I'd take both the 17" with little legroom if there were no damned covid! I want the no covid, no mask, no vaccine card, no worry that others are inflected but just don't care about anyone but themselves, no quarantine, no swabs and no swabs two days later, etc. Did I miss anything? Other than that, I'm 5'1" and now at a normal BMI, so either width or legroom, just get me on a damned safe flight to a damned safe country.

Posted by
914 posts

Watch or rewatch the Agatha Christie Poirot episode Death in the Clouds. THAT’s the amount of space I want on a plane. And I want my coffee served in a cup with a saucer and spoon. No murder, though, please.

I’m tall, so it’s all about the legroom.

Posted by
5697 posts

After I hit a certain age I started getting shorter but wider -- so I would vote for width.

Posted by
2326 posts

I'm 6'2", so legroom. Or more specifically knee-room. When the seat in front of me gets reclined, I sometimes have no space.

One thing not mentioned yet is the location and angle of the headrest. I find this a problem in many theatre seating, stadium seating and airplanes. The change of angle of the back toward the head-rest is too low and it pushes me forward around the shoulder blades instead of the neck. This can be quite uncomfortable.

Posted by
1893 posts

I'm with Allan regarding headrests, but from the other angle - in both planes and in the shotgun seat in cars the headrest often taps me in the wrong spot, like the barber is trying to hold me still while he razors the back of my neck. If I have to lean forward or point my chin to compensate, that exacerbates the motion sickness after a while.

Posted by
2580 posts

don't forget, Seatguru goes into great detail about the seats on a given flight. each airline has decided to outfit its planes in its own way.

and yes, don't fly until you've saved up enough to fly business. or at least econ plus, although again that section varies by carrier. Life is too short.

Posted by
4697 posts

This study finds that going from 17" to 18" seat width was perceived as adding roughly the same amount of comfort as adding 4" of pitch.

As a relatively short person, I would agree with that. My most uncomfortable flights have been when a large person has been seated next to me. I once spent an entire flight leaning towards the aisle because I was seated next to a huge guy in the middle seat. His shoulders were so broad that the extended into my seat area. I’d rather bump into the back of the seat in front of me than be crammed into the stranger next to me.