FOR airline passengers, a comfortable seat and enough legroom when flying have been their great desires, especially on long haul flights. But lack of legroom has long been a criticism by travellers who are unable to fully extend their legs for hours. Passengers usually appreciate the comfort and calmness of the intermediate cabin class, situated between the business and economy cabins, as well as the privacy of the fixed-shell seat that offer 40 per cent more room than a seat in the economy cabin. They seek to be given the legal right to at least two inches more legroom to counter the threat of deep vein thrombosis. The gap should be widened from the current statutory minimum of 26 inches to at least 28.2 to take into account the fact that the travelling public are getting fatter and taller.
Although it is often tall passengers who ask for extra legroom on flights, most people express dissatisfaction with the space they are given in economy cabins.
Illnesses including Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) have raised awareness of how dangerous it can be to spend hours on a plane with your legs scrunched up behind another seat. The extra legroom prize supplement follows numerous moneymaking schemes introduced by airlines, including charging extra for food and drinks, and even for blankets and headphones to enjoy in-flight entertainment. Following the credit crunch, airlines have reported vast falls in profits caused by a number of factors including the fear of terrorist attack and fuel prize rises. However, many airlines now offer the option to reserve seats online, either at the time one makes the booking, or when he performs online check-in. This is the safest way to try and get the seat of your choice. The airline may change the aircraft type before one travels, so the seat numbers one has selected might either change, or not be in the position that one had expected. There are also many instances where the airline’s “system” may decide to re-allocate one’s chosen seat to another passenger – and he or she will be left trying to resolve this at airport check in.
In most instances, the least preferred seat is the middle seat – especially on those airlines where the centre section of cabin seating might provide a five across layout – so if one draws the middle seat, one has to ask two passengers to move each time one wants to stretch his or her legs, or use the washroom. Many airlines now charge an additional fee to sit in the exit rows, others will allocate at check-in (remarkably some airlines still favour these seats for much taller passengers!).
One can get a lot more legroom in an exit seat, but on the downsides there are a few pints to remember. A passenger will not be allowed to keep any items of hand-luggage by his or her seat/footwell area during landing and take-off periods, and as the bins above one’s seat may be full by the time one realises it, one will have to hope for a cooperative cabin crew that will take these items off him or her at these periods and return them after take-off and landing.
Also, the exit row seats will not have a PTV entertainment screen on the back of the seat in front (as most seats), but will have the video screen stored in the armrest – similar for the meal tray table which will be stored in your armrest. Because of this design layout, one might find that the actual seat width is less than ordinary seats, and it can be quite cumbersome using the PTV and tray tables like a case of measuring that against the benefit of extended leg space one will get.
Another important point with the extended space around the exit rows, is that on some flights you might find that passengers from elsewhere in the cabin decide that this is a good place to congregate and chat, do their stretching exercises etc, and it can therefore prove a rather busy place. It is also always worth watching out for those middle seat rows in the aircraft that look like there is a lot of legroom. But one can find that his hope for space in front is being used as a cabin cross-over passage, as passengers go to the washrooms etc.
Aside from the obvious fact that being seated next to or right behind the toilet can result in unpleasant odours etc wafting around you, the toilet flush is extremely noisy on most aircraft, and a passenger will find this incessant noise interruption very annoying after several hours of constant repetition. During the darkness / sleep periods you might also tire of the light intrusion every time passengers open the washroom door similar to some bulkhead/exit seat positions, he will find that there are often a lot of passengers milling around his seat area as they queue for the washroom. Being seated next to or opposite the Galley areas can also be a bad choice – you will find that the level of pedestrian traffic (cabin staff and passengers) is much higher, the curtains may not always be kept shut so you get light intrusion, and as hard as staff might try, the preparation and clearance of meals will result in the galleys being quite noisy for these periods of the flight.
On many long haul aircraft, some passengers will find that their footspace (ie the area under the seat in front) is impacted by the location of the control box for the IFE (inflight entertainment). This is something that is gradually being changed and improved by seat suppliers, but don’t expect quick results. Across many airlines, this IFE control box might be located in the aisle seat footwell area, although for some, it is the window or middle seat that suffers. So, no hard and fast rules here.
Airline seat pitch guides give one an indication of how much legroom you can expect. Economy class cabins on long haul flights generally offer 31 to 32 inches seat pitch (the industry standard), with a smaller number of airlines providing 33 to 35 inches of seat pitch. The higher the seat pitch, the fewer the number of seats an airline can fit into the cabin, so in present economic times do not expect to see airlines increasing seat pitch standards! With newer “slimline” seats being introduced by some airlines, the seat pitch dimension can become slightly skewed, a 32 inch seat pitch with a new, slimline seat may offer as much “personal” space as an older style seat in say 33 inch seat pitch – so the ruling is not infallible. Some airlines like Delta Airlines have provided to customers with its own “slim-line” seats, which will allow the airline to add another 19 seats to its Boeing 757-200 aircraft. The move comes as Delta outfit’s aircraft for both greater revenue generation, as well as adding more electrical ports, and larger overhead bins. To do this, the airline expects to spend $770 million through the end of 2016 on aircraft upgrades.
As part of the first phase in the company’s move upmarket for all its customers, Air France has unveiled its new offer in Economy and Premium Economy cabin classes. The first flight equipped with the new Air France cabins has begun operation in summer 2014. In Economy class, of the airline, there are new fully revised seat, with more legroom, a new seat cushion, more comfortable headrests and a wider tray table. The seat has been ergonomically redesigned to guarantee optimum comfort. The seat also features new functionalities including an electric socket, headphones holder, and so on. Until now, experienced passengers have often been able to reserve the seats through nothing more than a polite request at check in. Now, however, they will be sold off, with surcharges payable online or on phone bookings. Frequent fliers with the company’s Flying Blue card will still get the seats at standard price once they reach Gold or Platinum status, the spokesman added.
The charge has already been levied on flights from France to Canada or the United States, and will now be expanded to the rest of the long-haul network. Carriers including Air Singapore have also just started similar schemes on long-haul routes. The number of seats with extra room varies from only four in a small A-330 regional jet, to up to 37 in a Boeing 747. Southwest Airlines have joined this trend with plans for slim fit seats that enable the airline to add an entire new row of seating. While not on travelers’ lists of likes, the new seat designs are expected to add around $200 million in revenue to Southwest Airlines. Air Canada has also added more seats as a way to build revenue and cut unit costs. Part of its expansion strategy has been through Air Canada rouge, a discount subsidiary that provides less legroom in exchange for a cheaper flight. Customers can further personalize their travel by selecting a preferred seat for individual legs of their journey or entire trip through a simplified process at the time of booking or at any time prior to boarding on www.aircanada.com. Air Canada has expanded its kiosk and mobile functions for booking preferred seats up to time of boarding which will be available at the end of August.