Flying economy – or coach – class is typically easiest on the pocketbook, but it’s not usually ideal when you want a comfortable airline seat.
The coach section of an airline cabin is known for being the part of the plane that crams passengers together, so finding an air carrier that offers economy travelers a bit of breathing room is – well – a breath of fresh air.
Our guide to the top airlines with the most seat space in economy class will help you flesh out the carriers that are making your comfort a priority – even when you don’t pay top dollar.
Many air travelers aren’t aware that some planes offer more seating room and legroom than others. They’re simply looking for a coach airfare because the price is right and they resign themselves to the fact that they’ll have to suffer without sitting or legroom.
What they don’t know is that often – for just a few bucks more or sometimes even for less – they can fly an airline that offers coach seats pretty decent “pitch,” a benefit that can make all the difference on long flight.
What is seat pitch, you might ask? And, does it really matter? Seat pitch is a term that’s used to measure the distance from one seat headrest to the next – in front of it or behind it. Seat pitch gives passengers an idea of how much leg and stretching room they can expect on a flight. Does it make that much of a difference?
Absolutely, if you have long legs. Or, if you want to place your laptop on the tray in front of you and work comfortably. We’d say that seat pitch definitely matters as well if you’re flying a cross-country or international flight, or when you’re taking a red-eye and want to sleep a bit.
In addition to seat pitch, some airlines offer more seat width (armrest to armrest) than others in their coach or economy cabins. We don’t know of too many things more frustrating on an airplane than having your seat neighbor overflow his arms – or body – into your space. Often, it’s because they’re cramped.
But, it’s still your space! When you know the airlines with the most seat space in economy class, you can choose to fly these carriers and get a seat that allows you – and your fellow travelers – to spread out a little without encroaching on each other’s territory.
Airlines with the Most Seat Space in Economy
So, which airlines offer the most seat space in economy or coach class?
Jet Blue and Air Canada are leading the race for most comfortable airline seats, but you’ll also find a pretty cozy airline seat on Virgin America, Hawaiian Airlines, and American Airlines– among a few international airlines.
The following is a summary of the air carrier that offer the most seat space in economy for domestic and international flights:
Jet Blue is the leader in the “most pitch” and “widest seat” contest because the majority of their economy and coach class seats are roomy.
Jet Blue’s cheapest seats offer a pitch range of 32 to 35 inches (on most flights), with some planes offering a pitch between 37 and 41 inches. Seat width on Jet Blue planes typically runs from 17.8 to 18.5 inches.
Air Canada has the largest pitch range for coach class seats. In the economy cabin on Air Canada flights, you can opt for seats with a pitch that runs from 29 to 35 inches. The seat width on Air Canada planes – in economy class – ranges from 17 to 18.5 inches.
This is compared to an industry-wide standard of 31 inches for seat pitch and 17 inches for seat width (some low-cost carriers actually come in at 28 inches for seat pitch)!
Virgin America is an economy class act. Sir Richard Branson’s airline offers generous seating, with a seat pitch of 32 inches on some airplanes and a roomy 38 inches on others.
The seat width on Virgin America flights is typically about 18.7 inches.
If you’re flying to Hawaii, traveling with Hawaiian Airlines is the way to do it. Hawaiian Airlines’ Airbus A330 planes are some of the comfiest Hawaii-bound airplanes. They feature up to 32 inches of seat pitch and a seat width of 18 inches.
American Airlines’ economy class is one of the most spacious ways to fly between Los Angeles and New York’s JFK airport.
Coach seats on American Airlines A321 airplanes offer a great feature to preserve the legroom of economy passengers: When the person in front of you reclines, the bottom of their seat slides forward to give your legs more space!
If you’re flying coach class to Asia, consider Cathay Pacific. This carrier gives you much more legroom than any U.S.-flagged carriers going to the same region.
Cathay Pacific’s Boeing 777-300 airplanes have a seat width of 18.5 inches and a seat pitch of 32 inches.
Emirates’ economy class seats – especially in the carrier’s Airbus A380 – are very spacious as far as cheap seats go. Coach seats on the Airbus A380 have a notable 33 to 34 inches of seat pitch.
When you’re flying coach, you have to face the fact that no matter what seat pitch or width you’re offered, it’s never going to be the same as traveling first class.
But, if saving money is important to you, you can opt for these top airlines with the most seat space in economy and at least know you’re in the most comfortable situation that your budget allows.