Are Coach Seats That Slide Forward a Good Thing?

American, Seats

The big thing at NBTA seems to be showing off seats. Dozens of airlines seemed to have brought their seats with them to make the travel managers drool. While most simply showed off the best seats onboard, others brought everything from coach all the way up. When I stopped by American, I was particularly interested in their new coach seat which is being installed on new 737-800s and some 757s as well. After all, I spend most of my time in coach, so that’s where I get most interested.

The new seat doesn’t recline like a traditional seat. It now actually slides a little forward and up while reclining less than it used to. This gives a very slight cradling feeling when you’re sitting there. Here’s a short 30 second video I took for those who aren’t familiar with the seat.

I know other airlines have moved this way, but I’ve heard mixed reviews. American’s display was quite misleading because there was no seat in front of you. That meant that when the seat moved slightly forward, you still had a ton of leg and knee room. Obviously, that’s a different story than when you’re on the plane.

Who out there has opinions on this? Is this new design any good or do you prefer the old way of doing things?

(And no, you can’t have it where you get the old seats but the person in front of you gets the new ones that don’t recline very far.)

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33 comments on “Are Coach Seats That Slide Forward a Good Thing?

  1. Most comfortable long-haul coach flight I ever experienced as far as the seat was concerned was Air New Zealand from LAX to AKL.

    34″ pitch and the seat “cradled” on a 747-400. Very nice.

    Qantas Coach from LAX to BNE had the old style recliner. I brought my own pillow to help things along but the seat was no great shakes.

    United Economy from SYD to LAX? I survived.

  2. I noticed that the new CO seat has this as well. I’ve heard that this new feature is good for the people behind you, since they’ll be losing less space when you recline.

  3. In the seats we’ve all been used to, I would recline about a inch or less anyway just so you don’t have the sitting up straight feeling. I never go all the way back as I think of the person behind me. I hate when a person in front of me leans all the way back and I can’t even see the top of my tray.

    My knees touch the back of the seat in front of me now, so if it slides forward an inch, just where will my knees go now? Unless they give more leg room, it will not be comfortable or be able to use for taller people.

  4. The “slide forward” feature is the standard recline mechanism on Amtrak’s Amfleet cars (used primarily on the Northeast Corridor); I never found it particularly comfortable. Amtrak coach seats are wider and have more pitch than airline coach seats, and the seats slide forward quite considerably, perhaps 10-20 cm (haven’t been on one in a while so my estimate may be off). When fully extended, I find the seating position quite unnatural.

  5. @David — I have the same problem with my knees touching the seat in front of me in many econmy configurations, which is why — despite many other flaws — I generally fly UA if I have a choice. The few extra inches of space in E+ make a huge difference. Oh, and concentrating on one airline/alliance has helped me reach high enough status that I don’t actually spend much time in Economy anymore.

  6. Cathay has these and they’re not so comfortable. I am 6’4″ so I’m screwed long haul in coach anyway, but I wasn’t really liking these seats. The seat in front of me seemed really close, so I guess I’m glad that they didn’t recline.

  7. As a physician, I worry about the tilting of the forward edge of the seat which when it rises will add compression to the back of the thigh and increase the potential risk for a blood clot (DVT/deep vein thrombosis) in the legs. Since this is a not common, but not rare either potentially catastrophic probelm, people squashed into seats with no way to move their legs and with added pressure on the veins in the back of their thighs should make sure they get up and move about every hour or so on a long-haul flight to protect themselves.

  8. Graham wrote:

    Cathay has these and they’re not so comfortable. I am 6?4? so I’m screwed long haul in coach anyway, but I wasn’t really liking these seats. The seat in front of me seemed really close, so I guess I’m glad that they didn’t recline.

    Flew SFO-HKG on a 747 with the cradling seats in coach class. Not very comfortable. Leg room was an issue, and didn’t put my back in a good position.

  9. As one who has had degenerative disc problems since 1974, with a typical travel year’s back spasms of 3 to 5, I welcome this new seat. The worst thing for my back is to have an angle (of back to thighs) which increases from 90 degrees, and the support of seats like this – which reminds me a bit of the British Airways cradle seats in Business Class in the 90″s, but much less dramatic – is a real blessing. By the way, I am not short at 6 foot one, and I don’t see this as increasing space problems for those who are moderately tall.

  10. I have no problem with these seats. If you want to lean back, then your leg room has to suffer. Why should the person behind you suffer because you want to recline? People will finally start thinking twice about whether or not they recline.

  11. These seats are what is often called “thin line” seat allows more seats to be put onboard any given aircraft. Notice the thinner profile in the photos and videos. They are pretty much a wash when it comes to comfort, but they help out bottom line to a great deal!

  12. This looks like a good product. Hopefully it defeats the attempts of those who try to use those wedgie things to block someone from reclining. Everyone gets his/her fair share.

  13. I prefer the twist on this design that Cathay Pacific rolled out in the economy-class cabins on most of its flights serving NYC, San Fran, and San Francisco. To give your knees more room, the seat-back pocket has been moved to the space beneath the seat cushion; … you can access it by reaching between your knees. I enjoyed it when flying 14-ish hours across the Pacific earlier this year. It was best for not having the passenger in front of me suddenly slam their seat in my face while I’m eating or sleeping. (Of course, the super-wide personal TV set may also have distracted me from some discomfort.)
    Maybe American can put the seatback pocket under the knees, too.
    Or maybe they can print the emergency card information on the seatback in front of you, like Ryanair does. :-)

  14. I like the idea that the space for your seat reclining comes out of your legroom. It’s fairer that way.

    It’ll also mean less instances where I aim the personal overhead “cold air nozzle” right at someone’s head since they chose to recline their seat all the way backward…. ;)

  15. Was on Delta’s LAX-SYD route sitting in one of these seats and I’m glad the aircraft had them. While it doesn’t mean more reclining, it does mean that the person in front of you is not reclining into your valuable knee-space just as you are not intruding on your rear-seat neighbor’s.

  16. I seem to remember the Mohawk BAC 1-11s sort of worked this way. I remember the sliding, but not the tilt.

  17. I agree with Ryan’s comments and I think this is a fantastic idea. If you want to recline, then you’re the one who loses some room in your personal space. I can’t count the times the person in front of me reclined back so far that there was no way I could use my laptop on the tray table. I’m short, so legroom isn’t really an issue, but having the seat in front of me right in my face drives me crazy. If that person was losing their own space instead of encroaching on someone else’s, they might have thought twice about it.

  18. Like most things form American Airlines, this new seat seems to be AAwful.

    I was on a five hour flight with the new seats and my back hurt a great deal by the end of the journey. My legs felt less comfortable as well. i’m not sure if it was because of possible blood flow constriction, as mentioned by the physician, or due to another reason.

    I try not to recline my seat more than necessary. When able, I will also check the person in back to be sure I won’t harm their computer. On most airlines — UA, DL, VX, WN — I find that just the slightest of recline is required.

    As some others have said, having the person in front of you thoughtlessly recline their seat back all the way is a pain. I’ll usually ask them nicely to raise it a little, and most do. For the few who don’t, well, all of a sudden I have to get up a lot and oops, I keep bumping into their seat. Silly me, I can be so clumsy.

  19. Is it really an issue to so many people, when the person in front of them reclines? I’ve always felt like, we’re all in this together, we’re all trying to make an uncomfortable situation as comfortable as we can, and we each have the same tool to do it… I often put my seat back all the way on long flights and frankly I don’t feel bad about it. I get terrible back aches in planes and the function is put there for a reason. Sure, it’s annoying when I’m trying to use my laptop and the person in front of me reclines, but I just adjust position — perhaps put my own seat back — and move on with my life. Everybody has the same recline option — why should it be such a big deal when somebody actually makes use of it?

  20. See my review of CX SFO-HKG here:
    As I wrote there: “When large people sit in adjacent seats, the biggest area of conflict is not at the waist, but at the shoulder. (That’s why some airlines are looking at slightly staggered seat rows.) The good thing about the classic seat recline mechanism is that adjacent passengers can tilt their seats at different angles, reducing shoulder contact. With the shell seats, this possibility is eliminated.”

  21. “Is it really an issue to so many people, when the person in front of them reclines? ”

    Myriam, the answer to your question is a resounding YES. I think that reclining all the way or even a lot is just plain rude. Yes, we’re all in this together, so with that in mind, I make sure I create the least possible discomfort for the people behind me. I pretty much never recline, even a little. We sit up all day at work and other places; why on a plane all of a sudden do we feel the need to lie reclined?

    This is assuming it’s not a red-eye, of course, but even on those, recline if you’re trying to sleep, and otherwise, sit upright so the person behind you can have their own space not encroached on. I travel a LOT, and know plenty of people who do, and I can tell you that road warriors, by and large, keep their seats upright in consideration for those behind them.

  22. And I’ve never been able to use a laptop while lying down, so the argument that everyone should recline and then everybody will be comfortable just doesn’t hold water. If the person in front of me reclines, I am pretty much SOL as to getting any work done on the flight.

    1. Except nobody has a right or expectation to be able to work on a laptop on a plane, or any other unrelated activity requiring extraneous equipment.

      Everybody has the right to be more comfortable and avoid literal pain in their backs, so obviously the “everybody should recline, so everyone is more comfortable” is objectively correct.

  23. Flew on the Qantas A380 SYD-LAX with this seat and I’m shocked that someone actually awarded them ‘Best Seat’. They have obviously never been on this aircraft in coach. With the lack of leg room on Qantas you simply cant recline as your knees end up on your tray table in front and to get my legs under the seat in front of me, I had to turn to one side and slide them under, only to have one foot blocked by the TV box underneath and my hips higher then my legs on the ground. It was a mere 2 hours into the flight and panic of another 10 hours was setting in!

    In contrast on V Australia (had to see what the hype was about) the seat was not only wider in coach (they have one less seat in each row of coach to give a wider seat) but the seat reclined less on the back but moved forward under the seat in front of you instead of going up also. This made a huge difference as you are actually moving forward under the seat in front of you instead of moving forward and up into the tray table in front of you. The fact that I slept for 6 hours (this has NEVER happened before) sold me on my future US travel. Oh, and the price too…

  24. @ Graham:

    Graham is right. if you are tall, you are screwed. I recently flew Cathay in Y, and while I didn’t mind the lack of recline, the seat pitch and less recline must be difficult for taller passengers.

    Cathay’s entertainment system was awesome, however.

  25. I know that Southwest is changing their seats. I have no idea what they are up to, but they have covered their old signs that tell you that the seat bottom cushion can be used as a flotation device. So, maybe just new seat bottom cushions, but surely an improvement.

  26. RobG7aChattTN wrote:

    I know that Southwest is changing their seats. I have no idea what they are up to, but they have covered their old signs that tell you that the seat bottom cushion can be used as a flotation device. So, maybe just new seat bottom cushions, but surely an improvement.

    That is because they’re making their aircraft overwater capable. That means that they have to put life vests at each seat and not just rely on the seat cushion. This allows them to fly the deep water routes from the US to Florida and through the Caribbean from Texas to Florida as well. In general, it just lets them fly over water to avoid congestion and save some money.

  27. Air Asia X has the slide forward seats on their A330 aircraft and they are not comfortable at all.

    Probably about time that the regulators stipulated minimum seat pitch for operators.

  28. Like anyone in the 6 foot club, the leg room issue has just gotten worse. If the kids at my local college are anything to go by the average height is increasing. Airlines have decided to treat us like cattle and couldn’t care less.

  29. Flew in these seats back from KC to DFW in center seat row 30.

    Felt like I was sitting upright in a closet. The guy next to me (aisle) had his shoulder mashed up against mine and the poor little girl on the inner seat was mashed against the airframe hull. When I put down my drink tray I thought i was in a bad magic trick aka the sawed up person in a box.

    Screw these seats and screw airlines that use them.

  30. I flew Thai International recently and they had these seats – they were so comfortable – plus the leg rests that can click upwards to a higher position – so all in all, I am sold on them! Thai used them on their 777-300.
    Now I am searching all airlines and asking if they have such seats as opposed to the older ones that don’t slide forward.

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