More and more people are flying business, and we all know why: riding coach is like sitting at the back of a bus for many hours, except without the freedom to switch seats or the pit-stops– and if you’ve got an aisle seat, elbows beware.
Well, it’s about to get way worse.
Having already stripped coach fares of a variety of “perks” — in-flight meals, freely checked bags, many types of advanced seat assignments and traditional boarding privileges — most U.S. carriers are tossing out what’s left of comfort. They’re shrinking the little seat space and legroom to squeeze in more chairs per row, and more rows per plane. What’s more, the new seats are thinner, the angle of recline has been reduced, and the seatbacks won’t recline as far. Thanks to travel expert Joe Brancatelli for giving us these details.
When American Airlines proclaimed their enhanced business class on the Boeing 777 aircraft, they cleverly left out their plans for coach. The new planes are outfitted with an extra row of seats, reducing each seat’s width to just 17 inches. The average desk chair is 22 inches wide. And when you’re sitting at a desk, you’re not bolted to a set of other chairs.
Similarly, when United Airlines last month released details of its upcoming Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the seat map showed the coach cabin configured in a nine-across layout; once again seats are only 17 inches wide. Soon pre-plane dieting will be an economy class requisite.
Then there’s Spirit Airlines, home of the worst seats and least consumer-friendly policies in the skies. Some of its Airbus A320 aircraft offer seats with just 28 inches of legroom and the chairs do not recline at all.
So is there any way to escape what can only be described as the Seven Circles of Coach Hell? Business Travel Columnist Joe Brancatelli suggests three routes:
1) Buy your way out of coach. If you’re an elite-level frequent flyer, you may be able to upgrade to better seats for free, sometimes when you book, sometimes at check-in. Budget permitting, you can always buy (or upgrade) to a business- or first-class seat. Cooktravel.net will give you a free upgrade on international flights for pricier coach fares.
2) Otherwise, United, Delta and JetBlue have many premium-economy services that offer much wider seats, like the older business class seats– at a lower price. American Airlines has committed to adding roomier seats for purchase in coach, too. More and more international airlines are following suit. Call 800-435-8776 to ask about premium seats on international flights.
3) If you can’t escape coach, aim for JetBlue Airways. The airline might not seem hip after a dozen years of operation, but it still offers the roomiest coach seats in the domestic skies. Its Airbus aircraft has chairs that are 17.8 inches wide with 34 inches of legroom. The slightly smaller Embraer aircraft is configured two-by-two and the chairs measure 18 inches between the armrests and have 33 inches of pitch. No other carrier comes close to the comfort level JetBlue routinely provides in coach.
4) Use SeatGuru.com. SeatGuru.com gives you seat width and seat pitch statistics for virtually every carrier, every aircraft and every configuration in the skies. It provides intelligent commentary on all types of seats.