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

Airbus, Sponsored Post, Trip Reports

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

  1. For me it is not only the seat width, but also the pitch (do your knees hit the stair in front of you?) I can tell that having to spread your legs to “fit” in the chair gets uncomfortable, even on a short haul flight.

    1. But even pitch is now a non-standard measurement. Some seats have now moved the pocket higher up which does not change pitch, but affects knee-room. Finding a balance of knee room, width, and comfot/cushion is a challenge!

      1. One item I wish we could have reported on was the distance between seatback and seat cushion, as well as the girth of the seat cushion. I did grab those statistics and they were quite interesting.

        Most airlines give you about 11 inches between seatback & seat cushion… but the girth of the seat cushion makes that null if its a smaller seat.

  2. I like the idea of this series bringing to light the awfulness of coach. Unfortunately I remain sceptical that the airlines will actually change anything. I know some have tried with varying degrees of success. For example jetBlue and Cathay Pacific both introduced the seats where the bottom cushion slides forward. JetBlue was successful and Cathay was not. And all I could read was how bad the Cathay seats were, not the success of jetBlue’s seats. I really wish there would be a standard with seat width and pitch. I just doubt it would happen.

    1. As a tall guy, I detest those seats that slide forward instead of leaning back. They might as well not move at all. Yeah, it’s great if you are shorter and actually have some room between your knees and the seat in front of you. The traditional seats were fine as long as the person in front of you reclined slowly to spare the knees.

      1. I can see why the newly designed seats might not be great for reclining. However, as a tall guy, I detest the standard seat. Seating pitch is too tight these days for that old design. It can completely ruin a trip. On a recent DL Connection flight, I had the pleasure of flying an E-175. But the experience was ruined by a guy who put his seat all the way back to sleep, leaving his head in my lap.

    1. Agreed – i don’t see the point in having to guess the airline. I mean the winner here is clearly the Embraer. The airlines decide how much space they want – it’s a little odd that Airbus even started this whole thing.

  3. I’m a little surprised that the seat widths published on Seatguru don’t match what you found. Seatguru shows 18″ HNL-LAX, 17.7″(Virgin) or 17.8″(jetBlue) LAX-BOS, 18″ BOS-YYZ, 17.5″ YYZ-LHR, 18.0″ LHR-DXB. Perhaps the seat widths are not uniform throughout the cabin?

    1. Aloha Bravenav, each site uses a different way to measure the seat width. We felt the space between the actual armrests was a more realistic measure. And you are correct about the seat width variations depending on where you are in the cabin – on my A320 I was in the last row and I thought (unless it was edited) I mentioned that the normal seats are 17.5″ between the armrests.

  4. Nate is telling us seat widths, but how wide is Nate?

    Shouldn’t slam Boeing and the 787 to much since it’s it the airline that decides what seats are used and how many seats across the cabin they want, eight or nine?

    I see besides a tape measure, tape was also taken to hold it in place. That’s great, I wouldn’t have thought to do that…

    1. Tape measure was used to show actual distance between armrests. many airlines (and websites) use different a different matrix to determine seat width, so we wanted to be as accurate as possible.

      Unfortunately what I couldn’t say in the story is, that the CRJ seats are wider than the 787 seats. Something to chew on the next time you are stuck in a regional jet for an hour (the CRJ flights were not part of my story, as I flew go! from my “base” in Kona to Honolulu).

      There was some debate as to the 787 specifically. However, the response from EVERYONE I spoke with on my plane, without telling them who/what I was, is they felt they just got off a charter-configured aircraft.

      1. Surprisingly, I think the air on the 787 is worse. I took the same route and had allergy issues entire flight, but not on a dirty 777. Business class on the 787 is fairly horrible, too and BA still doesn’t have the entertainment system working. Like others, I am definitely avoiding the 787.

        1. Interesting. One of the benefits of the 787 is that it has a greater humidity level. Allergens often catch a ride on a water molecule, so the drier air of a 777 might be better from an allergy perspective.. Although AFAIK the humidity is something airlines can adjust..

      2. Nate, have you talked with anyone who has flown in economy on a 787 with 8-seat-across? I knew as soon as I heard that United was going to stuff 9 seats in the same space that their 787s were to be avoided. Too bad, because its humidifying feature could make a significant difference on a long flight.

        1. Leslie, I know I’d have a much different experience on that aircraft – although the last I heard, ANA (largest operator with 8 abreast) is converting everything to 9.

  5. While this might make for a decent series of posts it is hardly an indication of the level of comfort based on manufacturer. The airlines decide how the interior will be outfitted, not the builder. The airline chooses the seat manufacturer as well. Same with the inflight entertainment options and locations of the “boxes” under the seat.

    Airbus had zero to do with the empty seats next to the author and I wonder how his review might change had he been forced to put his bag under the seat in front of him instead of the seat beside him.

    If one is really evaluating the manufacturer, wouldn’t it be reasonable to look at things they control? Such as how the plane handles turbulence, climb performance, initial cruise altitude etc. These things all effect the pax enjoyment of the flight as well. The longer the plane is at a lower altitude the more “weather” and turbulence it is subjected to.

    1. It’d be quite impossible to fairly compare how the plane handles turbulence. Unless you’ve got a really big wind tunnel to put a full size plane with all the passengers and cargo in.

      1. Nonsense. it is widely known that the A330 is pretty poor in how its wing handles turbulence. It is also widely known that the A330 and 340 have horrible climb performance and when fully loaded often can go no higher that 29 or 31 K. Then further step climbs allow them to go higher after burning off some fuel.

        1. “It is widely known” = This is what the opinions I’ve heard say.

          I was being a wee bit facetious about the full blown wind tunnel, but I’d want some type of actual tests than just the opinion of someone inside (or outside) the industry.

          Unlike seats which don’t change much on a given airplane, how a plane handles turbulence directly depends on the turbulence.

          1. and if it matters, I don’t recall hitting many bumps between HNL and LAX.

            A friend is a Delta A330 pilot– he said the plane does climb slower than a 767, but it can fly higher.

  6. I’m sorry, but this post is pure rubbish. Airbus paid for it, and it turned into a piece to make Boeing look bad, despite the fact that the airline installed a seating configuration Boeing doesn’t recommend. THEN you withhold the airline names, so we can’t see who is really at fault here.

    This is an Airbus-paid hit piece on Boeing, pure and simple.

    1. Agreed. Too many confounds make this shoddy “research”. I dread an airline, not the aircraft as I’ve seen either being outfitted really poorly and really well.

    2. wait until you read all 3 posts before you rush to judgement. The sponsor wanted to put these in chronological order and that’s how they appeared.

      1. “The sponsor wanted…”
        Right away, that’s just telling me that this (these) should not be taken objectively, if at all seriously.

        By the way, a fairer ‘review’ would be a 3-3-3 configured A330 with a 3-3-3 B787, and I’d be interested in that comparison.

  7. This is a sponsored post and very clearly marked as such. Airbus decided that it didn’t want any airline names in there, so instead, we’ve made it pretty much as easy as possible to figure out which airline it is.

    In the second part of the report, you’ll see that there is praise for a Boeing-operated flight as well. But that’s obviously not in the first piece here.

    But again, it is a sponsored post. You don’t pay to read this site, and so I need to do these kinds of things when the opportunity presents itself. And this to me was a very interesting idea anyway. I don’t do this often but I will always make sure to mark it clearly when it happens.

    1. An intersting follow-up (pehaps part of an unsponsored fourth post if you can stomach it), would be to analyze the manufacturer calcs for operating costs. Does the 787 really kick every other airframe’s tail with 2-3-2 seating, or do you need that 3-3-3 seating for it to work?

      A more direct comparison of comparable density configurations would be interesting: most dense 787 vs 777 vs 787 vs A380 vs A330; and then a less dense version that doesn’t sardine can people in.

      1. Shane – I know Boeing’s calcs were largely centered around the 8-abreast number, so the 9 abreast just makes things look even better financially… unless passengers run away screaming.

  8. I would just advise, don’t knock the 787 entirely until you try one operated by JL in the recommended 2-4-2 configuration. I was foiled from giving it a try on a trip to India next January, but I’ve heard very good things about it.

    Incidentally, one of my greatest pet peeves is the recent trend to squeeze an extra seat into each row. I especially detest the (unfortunately proliferating) 3-4-3 configurations on the 777, and will go out of my way to avoid flying EK or reconfigured AA 777s long-haul in Economy just for that reason – and I say this as a short/skinny guy. Of course, I think it would be much better for everyone if the consumer would demand an end to this by voting with their wallets, instead of the government dictating minimum seat width, but that’s an argument for another post.

  9. I think we all know it was British Airways who did 3-3-3 in coach. United did it too. What could be an amazing aircraft for all is being configured poorly by the largest carriers. Boeing is partly to blame because they could have designed the plane wide enough so that there would be no way to add an additional seat across without making them under 17 inches across. This was all engineered from the beginning. I love Boeing but most Airbus are configured for a more comfortable ride.

    1. Boeing designed the plane to be roomy for passengers in an 8 across configuration. It wasn’t until after the plane’s design had been locked in that fuel prices soared and airlines realized there was room to cram in an extra seat

  10. I get that this is a sponsored post but by including the equipment type makes it read like a hit piece when the Boeing gets slammed and Airbus gets praise. The issue for discussion should be seat width, not aircraft.

    This is something I wish got more attention as my biggest problem with coach isn’t so much the leg room or seat pitch, (I’m 6′-2″) it’s having someone next to me spill over into my seat space. Anyone who has ever had the displeasure of sitting next to a 300# person knows this all too well.

    Unfortunately this post seems too focused on equipment and not the operators who ultimately decide seat width. I get that Airbus set the rules, but did they require the equipment get published. I’d be fine with regional jet/narrow body jet/wide body jet descriptions. Overall it would be less distracting.

    1. A – Once the next post comes out, you’ll see that there is some love for Boeing in there. (And by the way, the next post will now be delayed until Thursday. I’m writing about the AA/US merger approval tomorrow.)

      I can see why Airbus likes this pitch. They design cabins that can’t often be used with an extra seat in each row. (There are some low cost guys who have done that on the A330, but that’s supposed to be pretty awful so it hasn’t caught on with any of the traditional carriers.) The 777 and 787, however, can operate either way.

  11. Easy to second-guess any of these types of tests. Of course, I believe flying economy around-the-world is cruel and unusal punishment. In any event, I can’t imagine one person would/will be in shape to give a valid account of the situations.

    Probably would be better to select 25 or so people of varying sizes, heights, weights, leg lengths, etc., then go to an airport, like LAX, ORD, DFW, etc., sit on all types/versions of aircraft, simulating various load-types of 3 rows (full rows, rows with some empties, rows where the person is truly alone, etc, making sure of a mixture of people-types along side, in front, in back of, and then have the ability to discuss, compare, contrast, and critique. Otherwise, the result is one person’s view in one situation and not really something that constitutes a representative sample.

    [Looking for someone to be part of a test group at Dulles? Give me a call!]

    1. I don’t think Airbus takes Embraer (or Bombardier, for that matter) seriously as competition at this point. Airbus effectively isn’t in the sub-150-seat market – to be competitive in that space you need an airframe designed to be smaller from the start; the A318 is completely noncompetitive.

      1. Perhaps. Ceteris Paribus, if an Embraer seat is really more comfortable will you go for a connection that features two legs on Embraers or two legs on Airbus equipment?

        Embrarer is pushing their way into the A319 and A320 market.

  12. Wow! I never would have guessed this piece was sponsored by Airbus. While it’s nice that you disclosured the sponsorship (a legal requirement), this piece is patently not objective and falls way below the standards I expect from this site. I won’t both reading the rest of the series.

    1. Yes, Mr. Cranky, this is WAAAY below the belt. If you want to be taken seriously as a pundit in this industry, you need to step up your game. Frankly, I’m surprised you allowed yourself to be co-opted so easily.

      1. Please reconsider until all 3 of my posts have been published here. I don’t have a real dog in this fight – I was the guy fighting off jetlag during this trip(and almost a week after!), and we were also curious as to how this would turn out. Almost every single piece of journalism – be it freelance writing or sponsored, focus on people who have NOT flown multiple types in one single trip. I think that’s where we (CF) have brought some value here. Of all of the blogs & travel sites, none have done what we have here so I think there’s some merits to this sponsored post. But please consider finishing up the series as I feel I really gave this a balanced viewpoint. As a sponsored post, we don’t quite have full editorial control over what the final product will look like, as there was a lot removed where I wrote more about the inflight service, boarding, and other aspects of the flight that *I* felt was important to talk about… but anyway, thanks for your feedback.

        1. I would love to read your comments about the inflight service, boarding and other aspects of the flight that were not included in this piece, plus any comments that flight attendants made to you about the B787 or the A380.

  13. This piece is flawed because the airline, not the plane manufacturer, chooses the seat, IFE, and layout. As example, by stating “I will not step foot on another 787 if I have a choice.”, it eliminated considerations of other carriers who put 8 seats across instead of 9, and gives a false impression that all 787s are equally uncomfortable.

  14. This Airbus supported post clearly falls into the industry effort they are making regarding an increase in minimum seat pitch:

    There have been many news outlets that picked up on this story, and I think it is an effort that warrants our (frequent flier) support.

    I tend to travel mostly in prem. economy or business, but also find myself in regular economy seats on many flights. I am 6ft exactly and weigh 185lbs (or 1m83 and about 84kg). I am usually OK on intercontinental flights, although not truly comfortable (obviously). I love the A330 for economy, but also find the AA 777 in regular economy passable.

  15. I know this is sponsored and I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been already said (airline chooses pitch, etc.) but I’m going to say the 787 is the MOST comfortable plane I have ever been on, and I’ve flown all of these besides the A380. I’ve taken it on multiple trips from LAX to Narita (United, 9 across) as well as intra-Asia on ANA and notice a huge difference. Full disclosure, I am a petite person, so the pitch difference for me will make less of an impact (UA E+ is plenty of legroom). That being said, I notice a HUGE difference in comfort on the 787 with the humidity difference and the natural lighting and bigger windows. Seeing the paragraph on the dreamliner being “so terrible” when it’s a really innovative ride ruined the credibility of this article for me. There are a lot of aspects to consider besides pitch.

  16. I’m awaiting the rest of the series and I get the whole sponsored post thing.

    But as others have said where the first post fell apart was your assertion that you wouldn’t step foot on another 787 if you had a choice even after acknowledging that it was the airlines fault for choosing 9 abreast instead of 8. On an Airbus sponsored piece designed to confirm their assertion of an 18″ minimum width (one that is driven by their inability to offer the choice Boeing does of comfort or high density) you should have known that statement was going to massively undermine the entire series. And then to shower love on the A380 for its 19″ seats without noting that an 11 across 17″ configuration is possible (and in fact being considered by Emirates) creates a further impression of bias. There was also the fact that the chosen IFE system forced your legs into an awkward position which you mention but don’t seem to take account of. Nor is the seat pitch accounted for though that seems to have been a major factor in your 787 experience.

    If later in the series you can fly 17” and 18″ seat widths on similar sector lengths with equivalent pitch that will be especially interesting.

    But of course we know 18 is going to be better than 17. And if Airbus had the ability Boeing does on the 777X to go 10 abreast in the A350 without resorting to a clearly insane 16″ seat width the entire 18″ minimum campaign would never have begun. What it really reminds me of is Airbus’s “4 Engines 4 Long Haul” fight that argued the twin engine 777 wasn’t suited to long sectors because it didn’t have enough engines.

    1. I did collect data on seat width, pitch, girth, etc. But we couldn’t include absolutely EVERYTHING on the post. I’ll talk with Brett tonight to see if we should post my chart with all the measurements for comparison.

      And about the 787, if it wasn’t for the fact my seatmate had the same feelings about the seat, I may have been less “harsh” on the 787. But she was maybe 5’7 and 130 #s and didn’t sleep either as she couldn’t get comfortable. Hence the series on seat comfort.

      (the air quality was nice though!)

      1. This article is pure unfiltered Airbus marketingh BS, masked as an “opinion piece sponsored by Airbus.”. By publishing this obvious hit piece, you’ve surrendered any pretence of impartiality. It’s a wonder this site is still operating.

  17. Boeing or Airbus….who cares? You are flying in an aluminum tube. It is the airline that makes the choice on all of the factors you choose to evaluate.

    To say you will never fly in a 787 again because of the seat is silly.

    I bet you would fl in one again if it had 15 seats.

  18. I just flew on LAN airlines from Santiago to NY on the 787. I was excited. Unfortunately, the seats were uncomfortable and the 9 abreast seating really tight.

    On my flight back, via Dallas, I flew on their 767-300. The seats were much more comfortable and larger.


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