Good Advice Seat statistics

Seat statistics - a few notes

What is seat pitch?

The distance between seats, measured from a fixed point on one seat to the same point on the seat in front of it. The exact point differs from airline to airline, and note should be made that new seats have thinner cushions, and so offer more room despite the seat pitch measurement remaining unaltered.

What is seat configuration?

This refers to the way the seats are arranged across the aircraft. On many airline websites it is possible to see the seating configuration on the different craft on the fleet. At first you might feel this is a little too much detail to go into, but you may change your mind once you are halfway into a long-haul flight and realise that you are going to be kept awake all night by a stream of passengers heading for a nearby toilet or the clatter from the galley.

How is seat width measured?

This is far more complicated than you might imagine. Airlines obtain seat width either by measuring the seat cushion (see page 10), or between the armrests, or in some examples, from the outside of one armrest to the outside of the other (using the justification that the seat cushion is this wide).

What about degrees of recline?

This can be measured in a number of different ways and despite our best efforts over many decades compiling Business Traveller's Class Survey we have never managed to standardise it.

Take economy class for instance. Would you consider the angle of recline to be the difference between the seat when upright and when reclined (so perhaps 7 degrees) or should that fully reclined position be recorded as the difference between vertical and the reclined position (so perhaps 25 degrees), or should it be from a horizontal position (so 119 degrees). And if horizontal, should that be from the angle the seat cushion is at (often not horizontal), or true horizontal, whatever that is when an aircraft does not fly horizontally.

In the case of business class, a seat can recline 180 degrees and still not be fully flat, although it will be lie-flat. Some find these seats adequate and certainly you can fit more of them into a cabin than in the case of fully flat, but how can this be recorded in statistics? Beyond a certain point, does anyone care? Well they would if we could find a consistent way of recording it, because a few extra degrees of recline in an economy seat on a 12 hour sector can often seem the difference between life and death - if not your's, then the person behind who keeps banging your seat, or the person in front, who has reclined too far. 

Individual Entertainment?

It is common now, but still by no means universal, to have individual screens in the seat backs rather than communal ceiling-mounted screens. Having your own screen means you can control which channel and programme you watch. Most systems run on a continuous loop so if you want to start watching a particular movie you have to wait for it to come round to the beginning again.

The next stage in sophistication for in-flight entertainment, and one that is only gradually being introduced across the airlines, is know in the industry as AVOD (Audio and Video on Demand). This means the ability to stop, start, rewind and pause your entertainment so you can pause the film you’re watching to have a meal or go to sleep.

Power Source

There are two types of power source on board: those which require special adaptors and generally only retain the charge in your laptop (rather than boosting the charge), and those which are like mains power, meaning that they will recharge your laptop or mobile phone. Often these do not need a special adaptor.