A Wider Seat or More Amenities: Which Would You Rather Have On Your Flight?

The new width for a seat in the economy class cabin of an Airbus A380 aircraft operated by Emirates Airline was expected to be 17.2 inches — down from approximately 18 inches, but supposedly still slightly wider than the 17-inch seat found in economy class cabins of Boeing 777 aircraft — as I first reported in this article back on Friday, November 1, 2013…

A Wider Seat or More Amenities: Which Would You Rather Have On Your Flight?

…and since then — in an attempt to maximize revenue — more airlines have been reducing the amount of personal space a passenger can have on a flight in order to fit as many seats as possible in the economy class cabin aboard an airplane by a number of ways.

“The good news is that the legroom for the economy seats will remain about the same as before. The distance between the back of one seat and the back of the next — known as the ‘pitch’ in industry jargon — will be 31 inches for economy seats and 34 inches for ‘Economy Plus’ seats”, according to this article written by Hugo Martin of the Los Angeles Times. “But to fit the extra seats, the economy and ‘Economy Plus’ seats will be arranged in rows of 10 across instead of nine.”

United Airlines already has at least 19 Boeing 777-200 airplanes equipped with rows of 10 seats — but the airline “now plans to deploy more jets in the next few years with the ultra-luxurious Polaris seats and the 10-seat configuration in the economy section.”

Ways to increase the amount of seats aboard airplanes include but are not limited to:

Same Pitch, Less Width

Seats with less width can also be lighter, contributing to reduced costs as a result of saving on fuel. This is by no means a major source of saving money — but every penny apparently helps.

Tim Clark — who is the current president of Emirates Airline — claimed in 2013 that offering products and services to passengers seated in the economy class cabin will distract them from the narrower seat. Distractions could include but not be limited to…

  • Large meals
  • Attentive service
  • In-flight entertainment
  • Frequent snacks


…and there would be plenty of those distractions.

My immediate reaction to narrower seats is that I thought it was a bad idea in general. However — for me personally — I have to admit that if I received plenty of the above “distractions” at no additional cost, I would not mind the narrower seat.

The reason why I enjoy being a passenger in a premium class seat is because of the wealth “distractions” which are offered. I had lunch with a couple of employees of the SkyMiles frequent flier loyalty program of Delta Air Lines years ago — and during lunch, I expressed to them that I do not need to be in a first class seat if I simply received a few of the amenities as an elite status level member which I could enjoy in the economy class cabin. I cited a better snack or more frequency of snacks; perhaps several servings of a non-alcoholic beverage instead of one; or free in-flight entertainment. That is when they told me in confidence that I would be pleasantly surprised by a new concept that they planned on rolling out in the months ahead, which eventually became known as the enhanced Have One On Us coupon where a complimentary snack used to be offered as one of the options for which you can redeem the coupon while seated as a passenger in the economy class cabin — but that initiative has since been long abandoned.

I have mentioned in the past more than once that I do not drink alcoholic beverages and do not necessarily need the extra room in a seat — so what I am about to say may be considered heresy to you:

I would rather have more amenities available to me at no extra cost rather than have a wider seat if I were a passenger in the economy class cabin — regardless of the duration of the flight — as long as I have a reasonable amount of legroom. Go ahead — take the extra inch of seat width from me. Keep the snacks and non-alcoholic drinks coming. Give me reasonably attentive service — I usually feel uncomfortable when anyone fawns all over me anyway. In fact, I would not mind helping myself to the snacks and drinks at a self-service station located somewhere aboard the aircraft, thank you very much. My portable electronic device will keep me entertained with my personal choice of greater than 500 songs which I carefully selected, so I typically do not care whether or not there is an in-flight entertainment system.

In other words, have me say “Wow — we are already at our destination?!?” than “When is this flight ever going to end?!?”

Of course, other passengers seated in the economy class cabin may beg to differ — especially if it exacerbates the ensuing debate pertaining to obese passengers where airlines may have more of a reason to charge passengers an amount of airfare based on their weight.

Which would you rather have on your flight: a wider seat or more amenities?

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

2 thoughts on “A Wider Seat or More Amenities: Which Would You Rather Have On Your Flight?”

  1. Jinxed_K says:

    As an economy class traveler, I would rather have the bigger seat.
    I suppose it’s how I see airlines travel… a means from point A to point B across vast distances, but I want to do it in comfort and generally be left alone. Personally, I couldn’t care less for seatback screen size, movie/music selections, expensive food, alcohol, or personalized service either.

    It’s very wishful thinking, but if an airline can offer something like a longhaul version of Spirit’s Big Front Seat (ie: recliner business class type seating with economy amenities for a fee), I’d probably take it.

  2. Christian says:

    As someone who’s 6’5 and over 250 pounds, I’d go with more space. Long flights in coach usually mean bruised knees for me anyway. Narrower seats mean rubbing on my hip bones as well. Regarding amenities, I can always read a book or try to sleep. For most airlines, the economy experience has been downgraded so often that my expectations are pretty easy to meet.

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