Aircraft manufacturer Airbus has urged the aviation industry to increase its standard economy class seat width to 18 inches for long haul flights, after research showed that the small change can improve passenger comfort.
According to research conducted by The London Sleep Centre on a selection of passengers, a minimum seat width of 18 inches improved passenger sleep quality by 53 per cent when compared to 1950’s 17-inch standard.
“All passengers experienced a deeper, less disturbed and longer nights’ sleep in the 18-inch seat,” said Dr Irshaad Ebrahim of The London Sleep Centre.
“Whilst, in the narrower 17-inch seat the passengers were affected by numerous disturbances during sleep – which meant they rarely experienced deep restorative sleep. When it comes to flying long haul in economy, an inch makes a huge difference on passenger comfort.”
Air transport has evolved significantly in the last 50 years with more passengers flying long distances. Flights travelling more than 6,000 nautical miles or those that have a flying time of more than 13 hours have risen by 70 per cent in the last five years alone.
“If the aviation industry doesn’t take a stand right now then we risk jeopardising passenger comfort into 2045 and beyond – especially if you take into account aircraft delivery timetables combined with expected years in service,” said Kevin Keniston, Airbus’ head of passenger comfort.
“Which means another generation of passengers will be consigned to seats which are based on out-dated standards.”
Airbus said that it has always maintained an 18-inch minimum seat width in its aircrafts designed for long haul travel. However other manufacturers are eroding passenger comfort standards by going back to narrower seat widths from the 1950s in order to remain competitive, it said.
Recent research conducted among long haul passengers in international airports revealed that seat comfort is prioritised even over flight schedules when booking for a long haul trip, the European planemaker said.
“Our research reveals that not only does seat width have a dramatic impact on passenger comfort but also there is now a growing cohort of discerning economy passengers who are not prepared to accept long haul 17-inch crusher seats,” said Keniston.
“Instead they will choose airlines that offer better seat comfort, often turning to social media or specialist websites to determine true seat value.”