Airbus calls for airlines to offer minimum 18-inch seat width in long-haul economy


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The study was carried out by The London Sleep Centre on behalf of Airbus and found that an 18-inch seat width improves sleep quality by 53% compared to a 17-inch wide seat.
The study was carried out by The London Sleep Centre on behalf of Airbus and found that an 18-inch seat width improves sleep quality by 53% compared to a 17-inch wide seat.

Following a study into passengers’ in-flight sleep quality, Airbus has called on all airlines to introduce a minimum 18-inch seat width on economy long-haul flights.

The research was carried out by The London Sleep Centre using polysomnography (a multi-parametric test used in the study of sleep) to record every standard physiological measurement – including monitoring brainwaves, eye, abdominal, chest, hip and leg movement – on a selection of passengers in economy seats on long-haul flights.

The results revealed that an 18-inch wide seat improved passenger sleep quality by 53% compared to 17-inch seats and that it took on average 14.7% less time to fall asleep in the wider seat.

Dr Irshaad Ebrahim of The London Sleep Centre, said: “The difference 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.

“In the narrower 17-inch seat the passengers were affected by numerous disturbances during sleep, which meant they rarely experience deep restorative sleep. When it comes to flying long-haul in economy, an inch makes a huge difference on passenger comfort.”

Kevin Keniston, Head of Passenger Comfort at Airbus, added: “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expected years in service – which means another generation of passengers will be consigned to seats which are based on outdated standards.”

Passengers avoiding ‘crusher seats’

A 17-inch wide long-haul economy seat does not compare favourably to seating in theatres and sports stadiums, which explains why Airbus’ Kevin Keniston, Head of Passenger Comfort, labelled them “crusher seats”.
A 17-inch wide long-haul economy seat does not compare favourably to seating in theatres and sports stadiums, which explains why Airbus’ Kevin Keniston, Head of Passenger Comfort, labelled them “crusher seats”.

Providing a warning to airlines that offer seat widths of less than 18 inches in economy long-haul, Keniston continued: “Our research reveals that not only does seat width have a dramatic impact on passenger comfort, but there is also 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 seat comfort first. We are encouraging them to be aware of the difference an inch makes in long-haul economy.”