Airbus has revealed new research into the impact seat width makes to levels of passenger comfort on board long-haul economy flights, calling on the aviation industry to set a minimum standard of 18 inches (45.72cm) in order to improve the comfort of long distance air travel.
The research showed that a minimum seat width of 18 inches improved passenger sleep quality by 53 per cent when compared to the 1950’s 17 inch standard.
Airbus has always maintained a standard of 18 inches (45.72cm) as a minimum in its long haul economy cabins. The manufacturer said: “However, other manufacturers are eroding passenger comfort standards by going back to narrower seat widths from the 1950s in order to remain competitive.”
In essence, Airbus has used the research conducted by respected medical practice The London Sleep Centre, using polysomnography, to reinforce what is sees as a strong marketing edge over its main rival.
Dr Irshaad Ebrahim of The London Sleep Centre said the difference between passengers resting in 18 inch and narrower seats was significant.
“All passengers experienced a deeper, less disturbed and longer nights’ sleep in the 18 inch seat. They went from one sleep stage to the next as you would expect them to do under normal circumstances. 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 changed significantly over the last 50 years, with more passengers flying further for longer distances. In the last 5 years alone the number of flights over 6,000nm – more than 13 hours’ flight time – has increased by 70 per cent from 24 to 41 daily flights.
This, together with changing body masses and perspectives on personal space have encouraged other industries including leisure and automotive, to re-think seat width.
Kevin Keniston, Airbus’s head of passenger comfort extolled: “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. Instead they will choose airlines that offer better seat comfort, often turning to social media or specialist websites to determine true seat value. Thankfully passengers these days have a choice and they are choosing to put comfort first. We are encouraging them to be aware of the difference an inch makes in long-haul economy.”