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

This meal was served in the economy class cabin aboard a Boeing 767-300 aircraft which operated as LAN Airlines flight 2609 from San Francisco to Lima on March 22, 2013. Would you rather have more meals, drinks, service and in-flight entertainment options in lieu of a wider seat in the economy class cabin? Photograph by FlyerTalk member glu800. Click on the photograph for a trip report written by glu800.

Despite a call by Airbus S.A.S. for a passenger seat in the economy class cabins on aircraft used for long-haul flights to be a minimum of 18 inches wide, could 11 seats abreast in the economy class cabin of an Airbus A380 aircraft operated by Emirates Airline become a reality in the near future?
It is possible, according to an article written by Jon Ostrower and Daniel Michaels of The Wall Street Journal. “We’ve tried it,” Tim Clark — the president of Emirates Airline — reportedly said. “It works.”
The new width for a seat in the economy class cabin of an Airbus A380 aircraft operated by Emirates Airline is 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.
In an attempt to maximize revenue, some 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 an airplane by a number of ways — including but not limited to:

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.
According to Tim Clark, 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. Several years ago, I had lunch with a couple of employees of the SkyMiles frequent flier loyalty program of Delta Air Lines — 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 is offered as one of the options for which you can redeem the coupon while seated as a passenger in the economy class cabin.
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 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 overweight passengers where airlines may have more of a reason to charge passengers an amount of airfare based on their weight.
What about you? Which would you rather have: more amenities or a wider seat as a passenger in the economy class cabin?

  1. I want a comfortable seat. They can keep their amenities. I will happily bring my own snack, drink and ipad to keep myself entertained. I just want to be comfortable without my knees in my face and rubbing against the armrests.
    Large comfortable seat every time.

    1. Snack and drink in the singular: I agree with you, hm212. Give me the wider seat, in that case.
      Snacks and drinks in the plural by keeping them coming during the flight: then I would rather have the narrower seat. The fewer things I can carry, the better for me.
      After thinking about it, the economics initially and generally seem to make sense: an airline can potentially afford to ply its passengers with plenty of food and drink for a fraction of the revenue of the extra passengers its aircraft can carry as a result of narrower seats. It is the exact numbers which would need to be worked out to see if that is indeed true…

  2. Wider seat and pitch. In many seats now I don’t even have enough room to open my laptop and comfortably use it – I must bend my elbows and wrists at an awkward angle. I can bring my own drinks and entertainment, I can’t expand the comfort of the space around me.

    1. The part about not being able to expand the space around you is an excellent point which is not to be overlooked, starflyer.
      However, I look at it this way: I can always get up out of the seat when I feel uncomfortable during a long flight — except whenever the Fasten Seat Belt sign is illuminated, of course…

  3. What good is having food thrown at me when I can’t effectively eat it due to rubbing shoulders and everything else with other passengers, the seats in front of me etc? IFE/no IFE, I already entertain myself effectively. I actually find constantly circulating flight attendants more of an annoyance than anything.
    The only reason I crave first class is the seat. The airline can keep the meal and the free booze.

  4. I guess it depends on the size. I don’t need any of the amenities – those I can bring with me on the plane. What I need is comfort – and even a 2 hour ride is just too painful when squeezed into steerage … I mean, economy class! 6 foot 2 – 250 lbs – its just too damned tight back there…..

  5. Depends on the person. I’m 6’4″, 190 lbs and really don’t fit into a 17-18″ seat terribly well. Amenities you can bring on board, but I can’t change my size to accommodate a small seat. I also have to work on my laptop most flights, so that makes a smaller Y seat pretty challenging.

  6. I would prefer the wider seat. The inflight entertainment is mostly pay-per-view, so I turn it off anyways. I’m normally in an exit row because I’m 5’10”, which means I’m normally sitting next to someone who is larger than I am and who is hoping there will be more room. Trying to sleep on a red-eye in the middle seat is almost impossible when moving 1/4″ to the right or left puts you on your neighbor’s shoulder.
    Even in First Class with a wider seat, there’s still not enough leg room or room to use a laptop because the person in front of you has their seat leaned back.
    Keep the snacks/meals and inflight entertainment. Give me a wider seat and enough room to actually use my laptop/tray.

  7. you know having flown for business for 35 years or so I have “seen” the picture before. They shrink the seats, add more and then one day people wake up and yell loud enough one airline will “add leg room” then they all add leg room. Typical knee jerk reaction.
    If a customer is price sensitive and does not mind being crammed into a tiny metal can for 10 hours ok let them have it, but if someone wants or needs a larger seat then we should have that option as well, hence the “premium” coach section or whatever you want to call it. A three or even four cabin configuration I thunk is doable and can produce profit if priced properly.
    Just my opinion.

  8. If they would put up a divider between the seats I don’t care how narrow they make them. But I do not want to touch a stranger, period. I detest it. I’ll bring my own drink and bring my own food. I don’t care a whit about “leg” room. But please, widen the seats or else put up dividers to strangers can’t touch me.

  9. I don’t need drinks,food, etc. beyond normal steerage service. I do need extra width and pitch. It’s painful for almost everyone on long TPAC/TATL flights.
    I’d pay a reasonable amount more even.
    As edgewood49 Saha, nothing happens until enough of us raise our voices and act in our own interest.

  10. Wider Seat, more pitch. Its almost impossible to sit in anything less then a premium economy isle seat. I don’t know how people do it. When I book, or upgrade ALL I really care about is the seat comfort.

  11. •Large meals
    Larger meal, just give me a good meal, doesn’t have to be larger.
    Attentive service
    Cramping more passenagers into Y will mean LESS attentive service. BTW, when will the airlines learn this the FA’s need to stop spending a lot of time in the galley talking and spend more time walking the isles..
    •In-flight entertainment
    Give me FAST FREE WiFi, I’ll bring my iPad
    •Frequent snacks
    what kind of snacks, the ones filled with sugar and fats, or ones that are good for you like fresh fruits?
    With all the data pointing to health risks airlines need to stop trying to cram as many people as possible into this flying tubes, take two rows out of Y and give some space back to these people..

  12. Do we really want a meal service when you can barely move your arms to even eat the damn thing? Then have flight attendants constantly crowding the aisle with carts? Then everyone using the bathroom to get rid of said meal? I’m good, thanks.
    I like the Virgin America model where you get the entertainment if you want it and they just leave you alone unless you order something yourself. If I can get this and keep and comfy/roomy seat, that’s really all I need.
    I’d pay extra to not have a reclining seat hit the top of my laptop or iPad when it’s all the way back.

  13. Don’t care about the food; don’t drink alcohol. As a 5’5″ female, don’t care about the legroom except that lack of it makes hubby grouchy. But please, give me a bit more seat width for my middle aged rump and so my neighbors will stop encroaching on my armrests and space!

  14. Amenities? The greatest amenity for which I seek is a seat wide enough in which to turn and squirm occasionally, located in a row in which my knees are not in almost contact with the seat back a’fore me, and in which I may stretch my legs.
    Do not ask me to my twice or thrice as much to fly in luxury up front. There are far better and more important things upon which to spend upon than a few brief hours of comfort up in the front of the a/c.
    Simply give me a comfortable, semi-spacious seat in which to ensconce my old and weary bones….

  15. give me a wider seat, entertainment is nice and I could care less about the food etc.
    most times, its an long haul overnight flight, would rather try to get sleep, and most times the seat really does not allow this to happen for more than a few hours at a time,

  16. Seat over other amenities, though I would prefer more pitch and recline than width (because I’m not a person of width).

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