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Wider Seats And More Legroom In Economy Coming To This U.S. Airline

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When it comes to airplane seats, size matters. With an average width of 17 inches and no consistent industry standard, many travelers feel that flying has become more uncomfortable in recent years as airlines try to maximize the number of seats they can fit on a plane. Spirit Airlines, which serves the U.S., Latin America, and the Caribbean, has just announced several changes onboard its new planes in an attempt to address those concerns.

A woman relaxes on a plane, airlines

The announcement was made at the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) Expo in Long Beach, California on Thursday. APEX is a global association of the world’s largest international airlines. Spirit Airlines officially unveiled the changes, showing off the new seats, and spoke of them as a continuation of guest experience improvements that began in 2019, including a refreshed interior design and larger tray tables. The changes were made based on feedback from customers.

Spirit Airlines unveils upgrades to economy seats
Photo courtesy of Spirit Airlines

Vice President of Guest Experience, Brand, and Communications for Spirit Airlines, Lania Rittenhouse, said, “Our cabin refresh in 2019 was a significant enhancement in the Guest experience, and these new seats are another great step forward in increasing value for our guests. We’re adding new features while, at the same time, continuing to provide more go with our same ultra-low fares.”

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A spirit airplane takes off airlines
Photo courtesy of Spirit Airlines

What updates can Spirit Airlines customers expect?

The company has categorized the upgrades into 3 areas: more room, more comfort, and more fuel-efficient. The changes will be part of Spirit Airline’s 33 new A320 planes that will come online throughout 2023, beginning in late January.

More Room:

All seats will increase by a half-inch. This is made possible by taking advantage of previously unused space by installing seats closer to the aircraft’s wall. The middle seats will remain one inch wider than the window and aisle seats. The new window and aisle seats will be 17.5” and the middle will be 18.5”.

Increased knee space. The seats are designed in such a way that allows for an additional two inches of knee space when measured against comparable seats with flat backs. This is possible because of the curved seatback design.

new spirit airline seats on display
Photo courtesy of Spirit Airlines

More Comfort:

All seats will benefit from the addition of additional cushioning and new headrests. The airline’s premium Big Front Seats will have a wider seatback, easier-to-reach tray tables, and an additional inch of pre-recline.

More Fuel-Efficient:

The changes to the seats will have a knock-on effect on the overall weight of the plane, and thus its fuel efficiency. Each seat will be 11 ounces lighter, allowing the plane to fly while burning less fuel. 11 ounces might not seem like much, but the benefits will be multiplied when considering the quantity of these new, lighter seats across the 33 new planes on an airline that averages 500 flights a day. That all adds up to a reduced amount of fuel consumption which is less harmful to the environment.

A spirit airline plane is set amongst a bright blue sky

Which Airline Has The Widest Seats?

The FAA does not currently regulate the width of airplane seats, but they do regulate the maximum size of a child restraint system that can be allowed onboard. This means that airline seats, which must accommodate the child restraint seats, need to be at least 16 inches wide. According to a summary from Condé Nast Traveler, all U.S. airlines go beyond the FAA’s minimum requirements, but some economy seats are more generous than others.

  • Southwest Airlines: 17.5 inches
  • Jet Blue and Silver Airways: 18 inches
  • Delta, Breeze, and Hawaiian Airlines: 17.6 inches
  • Alaska, American, and United Airlines: 17 inches     
Young Woman Using Phone Pictured Inside An Aircraft

Spirit’s recent announcement is welcome news to travelers hoping for a more comfortable flying experience and is hopefully a trend that other airlines can follow. As Travel Off Path reported last week, the FAA is currently seeking public comments to determine if airlines should regulate the size of airplane seats. The deadline to provide feedback is November 1, 2022.

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Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.


Saturday 29th of October 2022

I am not sure that extra seat space will make it anymore comfortable when an obese person sits next to you.


Thursday 26th of January 2023

@Dondonsurplage, I hope an obese person sits ON you.


Monday 31st of October 2022

@Dondonsurplage, the best is to book the wider seat so that no obese person will sit next to you.