Commercial planes in the US are gradually becoming more and more cramped. About 20 years ago, the average seat pitch – the distance between each seat where your legs are – was around 90 centimetres. Now it’s regularly under 80. If you’re planning to fly economy and legroom is important to you, look into these airlines and planes.
These are the US carriers with the most seat pitch in economy if you don’t pay extra for “economy plus” or “premium economy” type upgrades:
- JetBlue (32" – 33"): Their Airbus A321 planes (used for transcontinental flights) have 84cm of pitch in economy. Their fleet of recently retrofitted Airbus A320s have 81cm in economy class.
- Alaska Airlines (31" – 32"): They have a fleet of pre-Virgin America merger Boeing 737s with 31 to 81cm of seat pitch, but they now also have a fleet of Airbuses with 81cm of legroom in standard economy.
- Southwest Airlines (31" – 32"): Their fleet is mainly Boeing 737-700s with 79cm of seat pitch, though they do have some 737-MAXs and 737-800s with 81cm.
- United Airlines (31" – 32"): Their Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners offer up to 81cm, and everything else is 79cm on average.
- Hawaiian Airlines (30" – 32"): Most of their fleet — comprised of Airbus A330s, A321s, and Boeing 767s — have 31 to 81cm of legroom. Inter-island planes, like their Boeing 717, has 76cm.
- American Airlines (30" – 32"): Their fleet of planes mostly have 31 to 81cm of seat pitch, but their Airbus A319s, Boeing 757s, and Boeing 737 MAXs have only 76cm.
- Delta (30" – 32"): Most of their diverse fleet has 79cm of seat pitch, though you can expect anything from 30 to 81cm. The most cramped planes are the Airbus A319s, A320s, A321s, and the Boeing 757s with only 76cm of legroom.
All of these airlines offer economy seat upgrades that can get you anywhere from 33 to 40 inches of legroom, but it will cost you. These upgrades can cost you somewhere between $US20 ($27) and $US200 ($272), but it depends on the airline and how far you’re travelling. Whatever you do, it’s always a good idea to research seat pitch for your flight’s plane before you decide how you spend your money.