Around the World in a Daze: Dubai to Tokyo and Honolulu (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 second. The first half of the trip report ran Tuesday with a wrap-up article coming tomorrow.

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

17 September
Dubai to Tokyo
Boeing 777, 100% full in Economy
Seat 19C, Economy
Seat width: 17
Flight time: 9 hours, 26 minutes


The dreaded 10-seat abreast configuration in this 777 scared me. I’ve read about it on the web forums and heard about it from friends… I was expecting 9 hours from hell. I was able to select a seat near the front of the cabin, meaning no one bumping me as they continually walked up and down the aisle. And of course it put me within eye shot of uber-nice comfort.

When I got to my row, my seatmates had yet to arrive and the bin over my row was still completely empty and took my seat. My first impression was of the armrests digging into my thighs; then noticing that none of the armrests go all the way up. I was pleased to discover the aisle armrest was movable – but instead of poking me in my thigh, it was now poking me in my shoulder.

Once my seatmates arrived I buckled in and was astonished to find I had at least 6 inches of room on my seatbelt – I immediately began to feel sorry for the poor soul who uses up the entire seatbelt! The seat did feel cramped; my elbows were definitely in the aisle and spilling into my petite seatmate’s personal space, however it didn’t seem to bother her (maybe not speaking English had a part to play in that one, too!). No IFE box under the seat meant I could cross my feet, and the USB and power ports were a nice addition.

Despite this amazing inflight entertainment, the tighter seat and aisle was noticeable. 8 hours and 54 minutes into the flight had me wishing it was only 8 minutes longer. Attempts to sleep were interrupted by the flight crew as they went between the cabins. The meal service was amazing for economy standards, it just meant more runs to the lavatory – the only solitude I could find on the flight where I could sit and my thighs could breathe. Unfortunately spending more than 10 minutes in the lavatory would probably cause some alarm by fellow passengers and/or crew.

I even noticed the passenger across the aisle — who would be your “average” sized American — was getting up often to use the bathroom for the same reason as me. Walking down the aisle was a bit of a challenge as we both would bump into pretty much every seat.

The seat itself was quite nice, the movable winged headrest was nice and the padding was a lot better than I expected (there is some consistency with this airline and their economy cabins, despite a 2″ difference between A380 and 777) – however I would not voluntarily chose to fly on a 10-abreast 777.

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

19 September
Tokyo to Honolulu
Boeing 747-400, 90% full in Economy
Seat 31H, Economy
Seat width: 17
Flight time: 7 hours, 10 minutes


The last and final leg of my journey was the first in economy of a 747… I’ve been fortunate to always get upgraded or seated in a premium cabin when flying on the Queen of the Skies. I was expecting a fairly light load, only to discover at check-in we’d be almost full.

This plane was recently upgraded by the airline and it was quite obvious with seatback monitors, power ports under the seats, and a USB charger. As I took my seat, I felt comfortable. The leather covered this nicely-padded seat. A spot check showed no underseat inflight entertainment box, the arm rests weren’t jammed into my thighs, and both would go all the way up.

As my seatmates joined, the man next to me noticed I spilled over a bit (but not horribly), and he leaned in to his wife. They both ended up sleeping like this for the entire flight.

Overall, the Queen of the Skies was the best of the 17 inch wide seats. She had a wide aisle, the recent upgrade of the seats was definitely well thought out, and the crew did make a difference. Even though I had a tight seat, I only had to do one “breather” run to the lavatory.

I only got about 2 or 3 hours of rest in, and that was OK… it was a fairly comfortable seat despite the width. Global Entry put me from gate to curb in 13 minutes.

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

The first half of Nate’s trip report from Honolulu to Dubai via LA, Boston, Toronto, and London was posted Tuesday. Another post wrapping up his experience will be posted tomorrow.

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