How One Major Airline Is Adding More Seats Without Sacrificing Passengers' Space

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Apparently it’s all about the width, not the legroom.

It seems like every day, we hear about airlines squeezing more passengers on their planes at the sake of our comfort. Legroom and reclining space has only reduced over the years. So, when the news came out that one major airline was adding seven more seats to economy, there was a collective eye roll. That is until they said the addition wouldn't affect passengers.

It was recently revealed that United Airlines has started to reconfigure its international single-aisle Boeing 757s to add those seven seats making the total number 160 in economy. According to the first reports, the new layout would be achieved by reducing the pitch from 31 inches to 30 inches and the recline from five inches to three inches. A closet would also be removed to make room. 

While that sounds like you're losing a lot, the new design actually adds some width to the seats. How? Well, the current seats are thick and take up a lot of unnecessary room. The new Meridian seats that will be installed are comfortable but slimmer. Plus, they're designed to make use of the unused gap between the seats and the wall and don't have a low horizontal bar that runs across the back of each seat, preventing full legroom capabilities. And some manufacturers argue that it's the width that determines comfort levels, not the pitch.

Of course, United is the only airline trying to solve for the space-comfort conundrum. Design firm Molon Labe Seating recently revealed their S1 design that staggers the row and height placement of the middle seat that widens the seats three to five inches and gives everyone two armrests.

"That little bit of stagger means that every single person gets to spread out a little more," Hank Scott, Molon Labe founder, and CEO said in an interview. "No seats are any smaller, one seat ends up being wider, and we've solved the elbow wars."

Other solutions unveiled propose a 2-2 configuration, getting rid of the middle seat altogether while Airbus released a design patent for seats situated on an elevated deck that allowed passengers to recline 130 to 180 degrees.