Some airlines are size-friendly with wide seats and ample legroom. Other airlines are increasing the number of seats on an airplane to increase profits, making seating more cramped with narrow seats and very limited space between the rows. Some airlines, such as Delta, American and United, have created “super economy” fares which limit seat width, legroom and limit carry on baggage.
Airplane Legroom Winners and Losers
Budgettravel.com reports the North American airlines that provide the most and least pitch:
Airlines with Most Legroom
- Air Canada – Pitch of 32 to 34 inches. Air Canada, Canada’s largest airline, also has low prices and wide seats.
- Interjet – Pitch of 34 inches. This Mexican, low-cost, airline flies from U.S. cities to Mexico, Central America and South America.
- JetBlue – Pitch of 32-34 inches.
- Southwest – Pitch of 32-33 inches. Southwest is often the lowest cost carrier in a route; but, the seat widths are very narrow, making the seat uncomfortable for many plus size and big and tall passengers.
- Virgin America – Pitch of 32 inches.
Airlines with Less Legroom
- Alaska Airlines – Pitch of 31-32 inches. Want more room? Then look for “Preferred Plus Seats” with 4 inches of extra legroom starting at an extra $15.
- American Airlines – Pitch of 30-32 inches.
- Delta – Pitch of 31 inches.
- Hawaiian Airlines – Pitch of 31 inches; but, the seats tend to be wider than many airlines flying to and from Hawaii and Figi.
- United – Pitch of 31-32 inches.
- Allegiant – Pitch of 30 inches.
- Spirit – Pitch of 28 inches.
- Frontier – Pitch of 28 inches.
Research for Legroom
The key to a comfortable airline seat is research. You can check out the seating details (seating widths and pitch) of an airliner on Seat Guru. Just enter the airline and flight number and the seat details and seat layout of that flight are presented graphically on Seat Guru along with the class of service of each seat (for example, first class, main cabin extra and main cabin).
How to Upgrade for More Legroom
Seat pitch tends to increase as the seat cost increases. For example, first class has more pitch than coach. Within coach there may be several subclasses of coach, each with slightly more pitch. For example United offers more legroom in “Economy Plus” and Allegiant offered up to four extra inches of legroom in their “Legroom+ Seats.”
To get more legroom you can upgrade your ticket, paying for the additional comfort. Or, you may be able to get a free upgrade. Loyalty programs (frequent flyer programs) often offer free seat upgrades in exchange for a number of miles already flown on their airline. The check-in agent may be willing to give you an upgrade if you are a member of their loyalty program and if the flight is not full. Tip: Keep checking the airline’s app to see which seats are open as you get closer to departure time.
In summary: To get a comfortable seat you need to: Do your research. Know where you do (and don’t!) want to sit on a specific airplane. Pay or ask for an upgrade.