Airbus brought out a pretty interesting idea recently that would theoretically make it easier for airlines to charge for aisle seats. How so? It would make them wider. Though I like the thought, I wouldn’t expect to see this on an airplane near you anytime soon.
On the A320 family, Airbus has long touted how the wider cabin allows for wider seats than its main competitor, the 737, in coach. In general, that’s the truth. The standard layout is for an A320 to have 18 inch-wide seats while the 737 is generally 17 to 17.2 inches wide at most. For me, seat width isn’t a big issue. I don’t have much trouble fitting into any seat, and it’s really those with the narrower armrests (like regional jets) that feel tighter even if they aren’t. But for some, this can be a real issue.
Regardless of whether it’s a real issue or not, it’s certainly an issue perceived to be important by some travelers. People say they want more room, and a wider seat would accomplish that. So Airbus has come up with a unique way to give travelers a wider seat without impacting seat density on the aircraft.
The idea is to shrink the window and middle seats by an inch to get them to standard 737 measurements. Then add two inches to the aisle to create a super-wide 20 inch seat. That’s within an inch of a domestic First Class seat width on most narrowbody airplanes. Of course, it wouldn’t be First Class. The legroom and service would be the same as coach. But it would just be wider than a regular seat. Call it Economy Plus: Wide Edition, or something like that.
I can see this being attractive to airlines but I wouldn’t expect to see a huge order coming down soon. Airlines are already quickly finding out that they can charge for regular aisle seats without any sort of physical improvement. So the threshold for justifying the ordering of all new seats is pretty high in terms of additional revenue generation. I’m not sure it can be met. Now, if I were a brand new airline starting up, I might think about adding those seats assuming that the cost to purchase them isn’t much more than the regular set of three. But you know that these would be somewhat more costly because they aren’t exactly standard seats.
Even if I don’t expect that we’ll see a lot of airlines take this option, I do like the thinking behind it. The idea of trying to improve the traveler experience without adding much cost or decreasing seating density is one that has a better chance of success than most crazy ideas out there. While a jacuzzi onboard sounds great, something like this is far closer to reality.