Around the World in a Daze: Honolulu to Los Angeles, Boston, Toronto, London, and Dubai (Sponsored Post)

Airbus has been focusing a lot lately on the issue of seat width and is even pushing for an 18 inch minimum width standard for full-service long-haul. As part of their efforts, they came to Cranky to get a real world example. We sent Nate (who you might remember from his Emirates series) around the world in coach courtesy of Airbus in order to try out various seat widths. Airbus has sponsored three posts talking about his trip. This is the first. The second half of the trip report will follow Thursday with a wrap-up article on Friday.

Disclosure: This journey was sponsored by Airbus, but the views and content are the author’s own.

12 September
Honolulu to Los Angeles
Airbus A330-200, 95% full
Seat 27C, Economy
Seat width: 18 inches, aisle 18 inches
Flight time: 5 hours 15 minutes


This was the first time I had flown this airplane type and first impressions were quite nice – a good start to my round-the-world trip in economy. I took out my tape measure and saw that the seat clocks in at 18 inches between the arm rests. Upon sitting down, I noticed how comfortable the seat felt at the bum – which is going to play an important part in these posts.

It was good to be able to put my backpack under the seat next to me rather than take up my footroom. The flight was actually quite blah. I was able to snooze a bit, but people kept bumping into me. The inflight entertainment kept me quite entertained, and loved the fact the airline also had Come Fly With Me as one of the selections (a very funny airline-based comedy show by the same writers/actors of BBC’s Little Britain).

The great thing about this aircraft is the cabin layout – 2 seats run along the cabin walls with 4 seats in the center section which is great for people traveling solo or with a companion.

Seat Width Seat Back Padding Leg room Under seat Arm rests Overall
Grade A B C C A A B-

13 September
Los Angeles to Boston
Airbus A320, 100% full
Seat 25F, Economy
Seat width: 17 inches, aisle 17 inches (note: normal seat came out at 17.5 between armrests)
Flight time: 5 hours 30 minutes

The next morning I woke up and expected to see a massive security line at LAX, but surprisingly that wasn’t the case. I was checked-in and through – with my trusty tape measure of course – in about 20 minutes. I ended up with 25F – the last row of the plane and a window – unfortunately at the time of booking that’s all the airline had besides a middle seat.

First impression of the seat was it was very comfortable – solid leather and felt plush. I ended up having 2 seatmates, who were moderately-sized females. They were NOT happy to be “in the back of the bus”, per se.

The Airbus aircraft appeared to have .5 inches more space between seats – 3” instead of the standard 2.5. Flight was pretty uneventful, I was able to doze a bit and watched some TV on the inflight entertainment system. When I landed in Boston, my bum wasn’t sore and I felt rested. I definitely enjoyed these leather seats.

Seat Width Seat Back Padding Leg room Under seat Arm rests Overall
Grade B A A A A B A-

14 September
Boston to Toronto
Embraer 175, 90% full
Seat 15A, Economy
Seat width: 18 inches, aisle 20 inches
Flight time: 1 hour 47 minutes

This was my first time flying on an Embraer 175 and I was anticipating a comfy ride – these planes have slightly larger seats than most commercial jets and this operator also has fairly large seatback televisions.

I took my seat in row 15, which was really only 4 or 5 rows back at the window. First impressions were nice – the seat cushion felt plush and I immediately noticed my shoulders had a bit more support than the last few flights. My seatmate appeared quite comfy and was pleased I didn’t spill over into her seat.

Despite having a great night with friends and plenty of sleep, I ended up dozing off right after takeoff. Upon landing, it was nice being able to pull my carry-on out from the overhead bin directly overhead and not have to “swim against the crowd” to get it from a few rows behind, and deplaning was quick. I felt fairly happy after getting off this plane and my thighs weren’t hurting either.

Seat Width Seat Back Padding Leg room Under seat Arm rests Overall
Grade A A A A A B A

14 September
Toronto to London
Boeing 787, 100% full in Economy
Seat 31K, Economy
Seat width: 17
Flight time: 6 hours 55 minutes


This flight was day 10 for this Dreamliner, but upon getting to the gate area, I did not notice ANY fanfare. NO signs. NO banners. Nada. Even the plane was hard to see from the windows.

Once on board, the new plane smell was still strong in the cabin. A few passengers were getting comfortable in their business and premium economy seats. A few steps back and I saw the dreaded 9 seat across cabin of the 787.

I sighed as I stowed my carry-on and noticed the lack of legroom. I had a window seat and realized my shoulder would not have more space as I had hoped, so I was definitely spilling a bit into the middle seat passenger’s space. I took some measurements and noticed the seat width was BARELY 17″ between the armrests, 11 inches between the seat cushion and seatback, and as I took my seat I screamed inside when I saw there was an inflight entertainment box taking up a portion of the space. I couldn’t sit straight… my right foot had to be at angle to the left. Every seat seemed to have this box, so it’s not scattered as found on some models.

The seat initially felt OK – albeit very tight. As my seatmate appeared, she took her place and even mentioned how tight the seating was, and she was fairly petite.

787-8 Legroom

As we departed, I noticed the air quality was quite nice, and the shadeless windows were interesting (although disappointed because I could not look out and see the stars at night, nor most of London on our approach — I was not able to undim my window until we were over the threshold of the runway).

My run to the lavatory was my only time of comfort on this Dreamliner – my thighs were dreaming of the next flight, where I’d have a comfortable aisle seat on the A380. The person in front of me reclined their seat, making it impossible to eat, use my laptop, use my tablet, and to some extent even watch TV. I could not get comfortable and took 2 sleeping pills, hoping to doze off. That didn’t really happen — I think I got about 30 minutes of sleep after passing out of exhaustion. My seatmate also failed at her ability to sleep, as did the gentleman at the aisle.

I couldn’t wait to get off Boeing’s greatest. Sorry Boeing – but the only thing I was dreaming of on this plane was of comfort. Or wishing I had flown on the 747 that departed an hour after my flight. I spoke with a few of the passengers on my transit bus to Terminal 3, all were shocked this was Boeing’s newest plane. Sorry Boeing, I know that this airline chose to do 9 abreast instead of the 8 recommended, but I will not step foot on another 787 if I have a choice.

Seat Width Seat Back Padding Leg room Under seat Arm rests Overall
Grade F D D D F D D

15 September
London to Dubai
Airbus A380, 80% full in Economy
Seat 68D, Economy
Seat width: 19
Flight time: 7 hours


This was my second time on the A380 but first time in economy. We were a little late getting out of Heathrow due to late inbound aircraft, but the A380 was pure luxury compared to anything I had flown on so far.

This airline does an amazingly good job at herding all of us into steerage in a timely manner and I was surprised by the amount of overhead space available. Upon taking my aisle seat, I was grateful to not have a seatmate –- even though this seat was a surprisingly 19″ wide at the armrests. I liked the fact there was no under-seat inflight entertainment box and the armrests went all the way up. The padding was very nice on this seat, with a movable winged headrest.

During the flight, I was quite comfortable and was able to nap. I also used the inflight internet which was great because they charge based on the amount of data you download – so you could make it last your entire flight as long as you are ok with the speeds similar to 2400 baud modems.

The most comfortable customers seemed to be those at the massive windows -– those seats appeared to be at least 3 inches away from the window, which means more shoulder room.

Upon deplaning in Dubai, I felt much more refreshed than I did in London and was ready to hit the town.

Seat Width Seat Back Padding Leg room Under seat Arm rests Overall
Grade A A A C A A A

The rest of Nate’s trip report will be posted Thursday followed by another post wrapping up his experience on Friday.

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