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Airport In-Flight Experience

A Quick Guide to Airline Seat Width

Anyone who has flown in economy class recently knows that inadequate legroom isn’t the only problem. Seats are also too narrow to accommodate today’s ever-inflating population. Unfortunately, unlike pitch information, airline seat width postings on SeatGuru (SmarterTravel’s sister site) and similar sources don’t help as much as they should, because airlines measure seat widths in different ways and the information they feed SeatGuru isn’t as consistent as it might be.

Also, airlines can’t adjust seat width as easily as pitch. Cabin dimensions limit width adjustments to large increments; after all, you can’t have 8.3 seats per row. So to cut through the confusion, here’s a quick, and necessarily approximate, guide to airline seat width.

The widest seats you’re likely to find are on the few 777s that still have nine-across seats and the few 787s that still have eight across. These include:

  • All 777s on Air China, Asiana, Cathay Pacific, Delta, Korean, Singapore, Thai, and Virgin Australia. Look for some, if not all, of these lines to reconfigure their planes to tighter seating in the near future.
  • Most 777s on ANA and EVA and some on American and United, although American and United are reconfiguring their 777s to the now-typical tight 10-across configuration.
  • All 787s on Japan Airlines.

Most new 777s and 787s are now delivered with tighter seating, and many airlines with the older, roomier seats are “upgrading” to the less comfortable standard.

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Among long-haul planes, the standard eight-across seats on A330/340s and seven-across seats on 767s are generally a bit wider than the common nine-across layouts on 787s and 10-across configurations on 747s and 777s. But watch out for the rare and exceedingly uncomfortable nine-across seats you find on a few A310/330 planes, including most on Air Transat and XL Airways France.

Among the narrow-body planes, seats on the A320 family are usually up to an inch wider than seats on the 737-757 family.

These guidelines are not absolute. Some lines, for example, elected to equip 767s and A320-family models with narrow 737-width seats and devote the extra space to the aisles. But in the absence of accurate data, they’re about as much as you can find.

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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuses every day at SmarterTravel.

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By Ed Perkins

A nationally recognized reporter, writer, and consumer advocate, Ed Perkins focuses on how travelers can find the best deals and avoid scams.

He is the author of "Online Travel" (2000) and "Business Travel: When It's Your Money" (2004), the first step-by-step guide specifically written for small business and self-employed professional travelers. He was also the co-author of the annual "Best Travel Deals" series from Consumers Union.

Perkins' advice for business travelers is featured on MyBusinessTravel.com, a website devoted to helping small business and self-employed professional travelers find the best value for their travel dollars.

Perkins was founding editor of Consumer Reports Travel Letter, one of the country's most influential travel publications, from which he retired in 1998. He has also written for Business Traveller magazine (London).

Perkins' travel expertise has led to frequent television appearances, including ABC's "Good Morning America" and "This Week with David Brinkley," "The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather," CNN, and numerous local TV and radio stations.

Before editing Consumer Reports Travel Letter, Perkins spent 25 years in travel research and consulting with assignments ranging from national tourism development strategies to the design of computer-based tourism models.

Born in Evanston, Illinois, Perkins lives in Ashland, Oregon with his wife.

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