Frontier’s New Seats Give More Room to the Middle Seat (and No Room for Your Laptop)

Frontier has been slowly working on its transition from a traditional kind of airline into a more point-to-point-focused ultra low cost carrier (ULCC). This has been far from smooth-sailing as travelers have needed to adjust to the new reality of the airline. At the same time, there have been some missteps (particularly the rocky switch to outsourced customer service that seems to have calmed down now). But one of the hallmarks of a ULCC is the ability to squeeze people in. Frontier is doing that with brand new seats, and these seats have some creative features. This is all part of Frontier’s effort to be, as Frontier’s SVP of Commercial Daniel Shurz told me in an interview, “a positively differentiated airline compared to our ultra low cost competitors.”

First, I should clarify that there are actually two types of seats on each airplane. Frontier has its regular seating and it has Stretch seating, both made by Acro Aircraft. While Stretch used to just be all about legroom, it now is an entirely different seat with more cushioning, bigger tray tables, recline, and more comfort over all. The Stretch seat looks like this.

Frontier Stretch Seating

Stretch costs $15 to $50 per direction for a domestic nonstop flight, and it’s basically getting you close to what JetBlue gives everyone today in terms of personal space. But Frontier is a ULCC, so of course, its basic offering is going to be far less than that. What does that look like?

Frontier Regular Seating

From the front, this just looks like a regular seat. Seat pitch is now down to 28 inches, though since these are slimline seats, the legroom is the equivalent to what you’d get on a traditional 30 inch pitch seat. Not much. But hey, people want cheap fares, and this is the way to make that happen. At least Frontier has an affordable option to pay for something better.

But there are a couple really interesting things to consider with this seat. First of all, it’s wider than most, and it’s even wider in the middle. Most seats are made to fit either a 737 or an A320 family aircraft, but a 737 is narrower. So usually you find seats in the 17 to 17.2 inch range at most on those airplanes. The A320 can handle wider seats, and Delta is actually in the process of moving to an 18 inch seat there. Frontier is not only putting 18 inch seats in, but it’s giving the middle seat an extra inch above that. It’ll now be just over 19 inches wide, a full 2 inches wider than what you’ll find on Southwest or most other airlines. That’s a big difference.

I asked why Frontier didn’t just split it up into 3 equal parts and make each seat a third of an inch wider. Daniel responded, “we wouldn’t be talking about it today if we did that.” in other words, a third of an inch doesn’t really impact the experience much, whereas an extra inch in the middle does matter.

Whether travelers will actually notice the inch or not remains to be seen, but what they most definitely will notice is the goofy-looking tiny tray table. Look at this thing.

Frontier Tray Table

Frontier went for simplicity here. You might be able to see that there’s no arm extending the tray out toward you. The arms are fixed, so the tray really just flips up and down. This helps to keep things simple and means that trays are unlikely to break as much, but man, that is one tiny tray table. What about people who want to use laptops? Well, Daniel had a good point on that.

Inflight service comes with drinks and a la carte snacks. A drink, a mixer, and a snack can fit. A 10-inch tablet can fit. You can have a full size tray table, but the idea that you can practically use a laptop in that space is unrealistic. Rather than create that impression, we set it up realistically.

And that is a good point. I’ve never successfully used a laptop on a tray table in a slimline seat, even with pitch a couple inches beyond Frontier’s seat. My best hope is to use T-Rex arms and wedge it into my lap. So there really isn’t a need for a full size tray table if you don’t have room to do anything. Daniel was sure to point out that in the Stretch seats, where there is enough room for a laptop, there is a full size tray table. That makes sense.

Frontier Legroom

I also noticed that the seatback pocket was kept low on this seat whereas many slimline operators have been putting those hard shells at the top of the seat to give more legroom. But again, Frontier went simple here. It still uses a mesh pocket, but it’s a small one. It has room for the safety card and a barf bag but not much more. You can’t put your own stuff in there unless it’s small so it doesn’t impact legroom. At the same time, it gives you more headroom.

These seats also don’t recline. Or, to use the trendy term, they are “pre-reclined.” That is technically true since they aren’t in that standard upright position. And as Daniel notes, “I think the majority of customers don’t actually recline in their seats.” So for those people, this will be more comfortable. For those who like to recline, it’s less comfortable. But again, Stretch seats have the usual recline option so there’s always that option to pay for more.

The new seats first rolled out on an A320 in February of this year, and all A320s are now done. The A319s only have 7 done, but the project is scheduled to be completed in September. What’s remarkable is that the A319s now have 150 seats on them. Back in the day when Frontier was struggling to find its place, it offered great legroom and had only 132 seats onboard. There wasn’t even any extra legroom seating, so this is an enormous change. The days of Live TV are gone as well, as that’s being removed. Frontier is studying wifi, but Daniel was quick to point out that they’ve yet to “find anyone who is able to come up with economics that work for us.”

What do people think about all these changes? Apparently they don’t think much. Daniel says there’s been less feedback than they expected, and the feedback they do get has been “on balance, close to neutral.” That’s probably good news here.

Looking at this from the big picture perspective, I like what Frontier is doing. It provides a cheap, no frills option for those who want it, but there’s also a more traditional experience available for not much more money. Let people decide what they want.

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51 Comments on "Frontier’s New Seats Give More Room to the Middle Seat (and No Room for Your Laptop)"

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JMR
Guest

The extra inch for the middle seat has two positive sides to it, I think:

– Nobody wants the middle seat, but now there’s a good reason to actually choose it over the other seats (nevertheless, I personally wouldn’t choose it anyway, though for larger people this might be positive)
– The window seat has some extra ‘free’ space on the side, so does the aisle seat. Now you’re less stuck in the middle

I like the way Frontier talks about their changes: straight forward, clear. No the standard marketing bullsh*t where negative aspects are brought as ‘improving your experience’.

Simon
Guest

And credit to them for not going down the European LCC route of making it all bright orange or covering it with adverts for the in-flight food and drink service.

Nick Barnard
Member

Wouldn’t surprise me if thats in the works.

James Burke
Guest

As someone who ends up in the middle seat a lot (I will sacrifice the window seat to my wife) I think this is a great idea. I always feel like I need to pop my shoulders out of socket to have a modest amount of personal space.

j marcus
Guest

Try sitting in these “prereclined” seats for a 3-4 hour trip.It is like sitting on stiff cardboard with mesh on them & they are immensely uncomfortable.

Susan Tanner
Guest

I second this one. I thought the 2nd row was a good choice but am going to change my seat. I really dread these seats.

Josh G
Member

The seat cover design looks a lot like the new DL quilted design. I don’t get how it’s better, can’t imagine it’s any more comfortable to sit in. But DL reupholstered their entire fleet DeltaOne, Frist and Comfort+ (formerly Economy Comfort).

David SF eastbay
Member

Do those little trays lock in the up position or can they come down in an accident and hamper an evacuation?

Since they are so small, I guess parents with kids won’t be happy there is no room for their kids to color or play on them to keep them amused for a few minutes.

Nick Barnard
Member

Good question. I wonder if the tray is small enough that the hinge could include a lock on its own.

Ron
Guest

The tray table is like that on a Peter Pan bus!

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A
Guest
So they want to put fat people in the middle seat so one person is jammed up against the wall and the other falling into the aisle? I jest, but that’s what I see happening. Honestly, I think they missed an opportunity here as a ULCC. Why not put the wide seat on the aisle (sorry window folks but I think it’s more coveted) and charge more for it? And I can’t imagine the seat is any worse than the hard as rock one I just sat on in a DL MD-90. That 2 hour flight felt like an eternity.
Mallthus
Member
It’s not a product I’d ever choose, but at least they’re being honest about their thought process and, more importantly, they’re thinking of ways to balance the economics and the comfort equation. Truth is, there were horrible ways to fly even back in the “good old days”. Ask anyone who ever sat in one of Martinair’s dreaded DC-10 middle seats. They had the same very comfortable layout as AA’s DC-10s, 2-4-2 with a cocktail table in the middle, when they were operating on behalf of other airlines. When they were flying on their own, that cocktail table switched to a… Read more »
OhioExile
Guest

What is the pitch on the Stretch seating?

Matthew
Member

36″ I believe.

Doug Swalen
Guest

It’s a free market. And I choose not to fly Frontier or Spirit or any of the ULCC. I’ll pay a higher fare as a result but it’s worth it to avoid stuff like that. What gets me is the big boys with the big fares are starting to borrow stuff from the ULCC but still charge non-ULCC prices. That burns me up.

Andrew
Guest

Maybe I’m odd, but I never use my laptop on a tray table. That puts it at an awkward height, and difficult to type. Much more comfortable to have it sitting on your…well, you know, lap.

jaybru
Member

To each their own, of course But…!

30″ seat pitch is tough. 29′ seat pitch is impossible. 28″ is ultra, ultra, did I say ultra impossible. Fares could become $1 a seat and I would still not fly them.

Angry Cheese
Guest

No recline? That’s awesome. Kudos, Frontier. Because there are few things I hate more than when the meathead ahead of me insists on shoving his seat all the way back the instant his overweight sack of fluid body is in the seat. How anyone—anyone—with a shred of gray matter could possibly think reclining seats makes any sense in an era of sub-30″ seat pitch is beyond me. It should be gone from *all* of the standard/no frills economy seating.

Until then, I’ll just continue to shove my knees into your seat back while you snore. Have a nice flight!

Fred Schmidt
Guest

Shoving your knees into one’s back could be assault, especially since it isn’t your seat that you’re shoving your knees into. Depending on your size and reaction time you might just see your nose broken or teeth smashed out from someone defending themselves.

Angry Cheese
Guest

Yeah, dream on. I’ve fully shoved seats forward with my legs before when people have insisted on reclining all the way back, suddenly, as soon as they’ve sat down. Not once (not once!) has anyone had the pair to even look back at me. Because they know what they did was wrong. Bad boy, go lay by your dish.

(Note: this in no way applies to people who’ve been adult enough to *ask* if it’s OK if they recline. That’s amazing, and I would never in a million years do something that forceful to anyone who does that.)

Jason
Guest

I’m 6’3″ with shoes off..I am dreading my four hour flight back. The seat pitch is too straight and even though I had a stretch seat(what they called the exit rows) no recline. The stuartess did send me to an empty row, but I just could not get comfortable

tr5642
Member
I too appreciate the openess of the dialog from Frontier. And the creativity of the wider middle. However, when are we going to see revolt at criminally unacceptable seat pitch. This whole “it’s slimline so there’s really more room” thing is not wholly true. It’s time for some limits to be set on two things: 1) Minimum healthy seat pitch. If the industry can’t agree on a viable standard, customers need to revolt or governments need to regulate 2) Reasonable accommodation for taller passengers. The industry got itself exempted from the ADA in this country. Otherwise there would be lawsuits… Read more »
David M
Guest

Wasn’t a wider middle seat Bombardier’s idea? Or were they just the first to get attention for it when they announced that the C-Series would offer it?

Dan Barber
Guest

The seats in economic section are hard as rocks. My last flight to DEN from MEM was 1.5 hrs but felt light 3. The trays are a joke. They are low enough that combined with the pitch it hits your knees and they also hit the seat back if you are 5’11” to 6’1″. Not exactly abnormal sizes. Kudos however for the no incline policy. I never do it unless the jackass in front of me does.

Ian L
Member
Flew AUS-DEN on a slimline 320 a little under a month ago. I made sure to buy Stretch on the way back just in case I got another 320 with slimline seats in it. Got an older 320 with “normal” seats instead. Go figure. My guess is that my ticket in early August is for a slimline 320. So my Stretch seat ($25) is already purchased. I know what the “normal” seats are like (iffy but bearable legroom for this almost-6′ thin guy, not-actually-a-tray-table so my laptop bag gets used as a substitute) so I should find out pretty soon… Read more »
SDFDuck
Guest

Being 6’4″ myself, I can’t even begin to imagine a 2-3 hour flight in a seat with seat pitch under 30″. But I do appreciate that the upgrade for more leg room is reasonable enough that I don’t have to sell one of my kidneys to afford it.

Christian From Squeeze Pod
Guest

Those seats looks to crowded. If you’re seating on an 8hrs flight or more chances are you’ll experience backpain. Major letdown for not having comfortable space for using laptops as well.

Ian L
Member

I don’t think Frontier has any routes more than about 6.5 hours (DEN-FAI, assuming they still do that), and hopefully they have the sense to keep non-slimline planes on those routes for as long as possible. That said, there’s a reason I bought up to Stretch after an hour and 45 sitting in one of those seats.

Fon
Guest

That tinny table was enough room for my little netbook :)

Bob Merrick
Guest
One of my biggest complaints about air travel today is the crowded space in the seats. I am alway feeling squeezed in and my legs have to bend up to fit. Another problem is when the passenger in front of me drops their seat back and I find their head right in my face. When traveling on a flight of a long duration, this can be very uncomfortable. I like the fact that the new seats on Frontier do not recline. At least that is a plus, however they seem too cramped. I would probably choose the Stretch seating. It… Read more »
Dan H
Guest

Does Frontier offer power outlets on their international flights? Figured we’d watch a flick or 2 on the netbook for our 3 1/2 hour flight to Cancun from Cleveland but not sure the netbook has enough juice for that

Ian L
Member

Nope. No power, no WiFi.

Wayne Mattox
Guest

Unbearably uncomfortable seats. Bring a strap to hold your knees together. ULCC has surpassed it’s limits.

Kat
Member

Recently I flew twice on Frontier and had a bad experiences with their new seats. I sat in row 6, paid extra, not sure why! I had to jump out of my middle seat with SEVERE LEG CRAMPS. I did not know not the seats don’t recline. I had no room to stretch my legs. I have never experienced anything like that before. After writing to Frontier, I was offered a 25 dollar credit. I was asked to sit down due to landing. It was painful.

Travel and Visit
Guest

Yeah! No room for laptop but enough room for myself ;)

FREDRA KODAMA
Guest
HORRIBLE, just horrible seats. I just returned from a round trip flight and being only 5 ft the molded plastic with minimal padding was horrible. My back went into spasms and the seat would not recline. Everyone around me was complaining, both ways. SMALL seats, small lap trays. These photos look a lot better than they really are. I was in row 4 and it was the worst flight ever…..NEVER will I fly Frontier again. They are advertising and making Youtube videos to make what they did sound GREAT….NOT…believe me….NOT…Check out the jump in complaints with the FAA and Consumer… Read more »
Debbie W.
Guest
PAINFUL. I just flew from Cleveland to Denver, a 3 hour flight siting on the new seats. Within 30 minutes I was very uncomfortable. I had a neck pillow and I sat on it instead of putting it around my neck. My husbands hip was giving him allot of pain because there is very little padding in these seats. I’m calling Frontier this morning to see if I can purchase stretch seating. If it’s available. We were so miserable on that plane. I use to love flying Frontier. My husbands fussy, he only likes Non Stop flights. We just purchased… Read more »
Sheila Warren
Member
My husband and I just flew round trip from Denver to Portland. Worst experience of my life. I could not stretch my legs, my husband sat in the middle and he was so cramped due to the larger gentlemen on the isle. One the way back we spent the extra money for more room, I did not feel it was any different probably 1/2 inch. We are going to stop using our Frontier credit card and start using the United one. I hope to never fly them again. I wonder what will happen if they ever get sued because someone… Read more »
Harry
Guest

Stop complaining …. Open your wallet , fly business or first with a traditional carrier….anyone who flys on a discount airliner deserves the treatment they receive ….life’s too short to fly in a tight, uncomfortable seat….

Dave
Guest

Strongly agree with so many others, the seats are torture! 3.5 hour flight left me sore for days! Dealbreaker. There is low cost, and then there is just poor choice. Mine will not be Frontier.

Gary
Guest

Harry, I’ve flown southwest (and it doesn’t get any more ULCC than that) and had no problems sitting for 3 or 4 hours, but on the frontier flight from Mco to den today after an hour my backside hurt so much I had to stand up and walk around a bit, this repeated 3 times. Back to the big 3 (Delta, American, United)…

Susan Tanner
Guest

Agree completely with Dave and Gary.

stevie
Guest

Only one word to describe these seats:
godawful

Connie Brannoch
Guest

My husband and I just got back from our rndtrip flight on Frontier after 3 1/2 hr trip each way and were never told the seats did not recline! I had such a backache and headache! I will never fly frontier again! Not to mention the flt attendants to our destination were not friendly at all. Coming back they were an improvement but could have been better. And we had to pay xtra for everything! Didn’t realize that soda or juice was not complimentary anymore!

Laura
Guest
Just flew Frontier from SLC to Maryland. I was originally so happy with the fare. I had saved $100. I had an 8 hour layover in Denver and figured I could get a cheap hotel and still be ahead. And then I checked in. $22 for the cheapest seats and $40 for a CARRYON! I now had to spend the night sleeping on the FLOOR of the Denver airport. After that misery, I had to sit in the most uncomfortable seat for almost 4 hours. No food. No drink. Unless I wanted to spend even more money. We all found… Read more »
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