One of the most coveted creature comforts when you’re traveling is a great seat. We’ve covered which airlines have the most legroom, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have the most comfortable seating arrangements. The aviation industry has tried to standardized seat sizes a bit, but there is still a wide range of configurations depending on the planes that the airlines use in their fleets.
Comfort Air: The airlines with the widest and narrowest seats in coach
The airlines are looking for any edge they can get over their competitors, so seat sizes are one way many of them try to distinguish themselves from the others. Nonetheless, seat sizes continue to shrink overall from an average width of about 18 inches decades ago to around 16 inches today, according to Fortune magazine.
How are airline seat widths determined?
Airlines have resorted to all sorts of marketing ploys to tout that they have the greatest seat space. A few years back, Frontier Airlines added an inch to its middle seats on its Airbus planes, giving fliers 19.1 inches. But those seats only make up 33% of available cabin spots on the plane.
Delta Airlines trumpets that it has seats as wide as 18.3 inches, but those are only on the Embraer aircraft, which are used by its partner Skywest Airlines on Delta Connection flights.
In fact, most of the airlines that say they have the most space on their planes are talking about a relatively small portion of the seats available on any given flight. That’s why it’s good to check the particular aircraft for specifics (listed below) before you book.
First-class seating arrangements typically give you wider seats — about 20 inches on average — but if you add wider arm rests, which some airlines also include, you’ll get around 28 inches between seatback center, according to SmarterTravel.com.
In the main cabin, passengers lose as much as four inches between seat widths and arm rests, on average. If you are the type of person who wants to choose your airline based on how comfortable you’ll be at 30,000 feet, here’s what kind of seat widths your favorite carriers offer:
Here are the airlines with the widest seats on their planes
Airline Seat Width + Plane Type + Rank
|JetBlue Airlines||18.25”³||Airbus 320||1|
|Hawaiian Airlines||18”³||(Boeing 717 & 767, Airbus A321neo, A330), 17”³ (ATR 42)||2|
|Delta Air Lines*||18”³-16.8”³||Airbus A319, 20, 21 & 330, 17.2”³ (Boeing 717), MD-88 (16.8)||3|
|Southwest Airlines||17.8”³||Boeing 737 Max 8 & 17”³ (Boeing 737-700)||4|
|Spirit Airlines||17.75”³||Airbus 319 & 321 to 17.9”³ (320)||5|
|Frontier Airlines**||17.4″-16.7”³||(Airbus 321) to 17.4 (319 & 320), 19.1”³ middle seats||6|
|American Airlines||17.3″-18″||Airbus 319 & 16.5″ (320), Version 2 (17-18.1″)||7|
|United Airlines||17.1-16.1″||Boeing 737-700||8|
|Alaska Airlines||17″||(Defined as armrest to armrest) on all planes||9|
Comparing seat width is all fine and good, but to save some real money, you’ll want to know when to buy your plane ticket. Here is the best day of the week to do that, according to money expert Clark Howard.