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Airbus calls on aviation industry to set a new standard for long-haul comfort

written by australianaviation.com.au | October 29, 2013

Airbus is sparing a thought for long-haul economy passengers - and it future sales. (Rob Finlayson)
Airbus is sparing a thought for long-haul economy passengers – and it future sales. (Rob Finlayson)

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.”

Confort Zone 403x403cs5

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Comments (6)

  • Murray Heldon


    A passenger Bill of Rights is required:
    * Min 18″ seat width
    * Min 34″ seat pitch
    * Min 35 passengers per toilet in economy

    Airlines must learn that profits are not everything and low cost is not the end-game

  • Dane


    Would passengers be willing to pay the difference of one or two lost rows from the extra seat pitch and extra toilets though?

  • John Brennan


    this is just airline manufacturer spin.

    Airbus obviously has slightly wider aircraft than Boeing.

    Low cost is the future from main airports, but there is now demand for smaller aircraft from 2ndary airports where no dodgy security required (ie corporate jets)

  • Peter


    I avoid B777 flights that have 10 abreast config. in Y class

  • John Harrison


    Well done Airbus in coming out with these sorts of facts & figures. Smaller seats, and less leg room are all well and good on “Low Cost Carriers” over short haul sectors, but no good when there are longer haul flights involved.
    A recent flight on Jetstar (PER-OOL) over 4 and half hours proved to me what a nightmare AB320s on longer flights prove to be. (I am sure a B737-800 would be much the same over same distance !!)

  • Dr Peter


    Comfort is what attracts passengers to specific airlines.The trip from Hobart to Melbourne or Sydney is of far greater comfort on Virgin due to their comfortable seats.Most people I know try to get a Virgin flight every time.If you do go down in Bass Strait at least you will be comfortable.

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