Fighting Over the Width of Airline Seats
Airbus this week called for an industry standard that would provide for a seat at least 18 inches wide in economy cabins, but its U.S. arch-rival Boeing says it should be for airlines to decide.
As you can imagine, there is a lot of money at stake here:
Boeing says its revamped “777X” will hold 406 people based on economy seats over 17 inches wide and set out 10 in each row.
Airbus says the competing version of its A350 will carry 350 people in 18-inch-wide economy seat laid out 9 abreast.
But it’s more than a battle between two companies. It’s a battle between the past and the present:
Between the early 1970s, when the Boeing 747 jumbo defined modern long-haul travel, and the turn of the century, the weight of the average American 40- to 49-year-old male increased by 10 percent, according to U.S. Health Department Data.
The waist of the average 21st-century American male is 39.7 inches, according to U.S. health statistics, which equates to a diameter of 12.6 inches. This leaves 2 inches either side in many plane seats, which are narrower than at an average cinema.
Airbus says that is not enough for long-haul travel and says its rival is sticking to a seat concept from the 1950s, when the average girth of the newly christened ‘jet set’ was narrower.
Airbus says it has commissioned research suggesting an extra inch in seat width improves sleep quality by 53 percent.
What would happen if every seat were adjustable and could then be priced per inch (or, even better, per pound)?