Airline seat comfort

Business-class passengers on a United flight to Hawaii. (Richard Derk / For The Times / April 3, 2011)

With help from Matt Daimler, founder of SeatGuru, a website designed to help passengers find comfortable airplane seats, and Randy Petersen, creator of the Frequent Flyer Network, which includes the SeatExpert guide to airplane seating, here are some pros and cons of flying the cheap seats onboard three domestic and four international airlines. One of the keys, experts say, is seat pitch, which SeatGuru defines as: "the distance from any point on one seat to the exact same point on the seat in front or behind it." Generally, the greater the seat pitch, the greater the legroom.

Domestic JetBlue — Airbus 320

Seat pitch: 34 inches

Pros: For $10 to $65 extra, passengers can buy "Even More Room" to get 38 inches of pitch (and priority boarding). Supportive headrest; leather seats (17.7-17.8 inches wide) and in-flight entertainment with 36 channels.

Cons: LED lighting is pleasant, but mood lighting would be better.

Virgin America — A320

Seat pitch: 32 inches

Pros: Leather 19.7-inch-wide seats. Headrests have wings, tilt and can be adjusted for height; colored mood lighting includes dawn, dusk, daylight and sleep modes; each seat has a power outlet for a laptop, iPod, etc., that doesn't interfere with foot space; in-flight entertainment system offers on-demand food and entertainment (free and paid options).

Cons: Less legroom; many entertainment options are fee based.

Hawaiian Airlines — New Airbus 330-200s

Seat pitch: 32 inches

Pros: Seats are 18.2 inches wide; headrest is adjustable in six directions and has a USB port for charging or playing a portable device; each seat has in-flight entertainment.

Cons: An additional inch of seat pitch and a laptop power outlet would be even better.

International comfort

Singapore Airlines — Airbus A380 and A340, Boeing B777 and B747

Seat pitch: 32 inches

Pros: Specially designed economy seats (19.2 inches wide) increase personal space and legroom; leather headrests slide to accommodate varying heights of passengers; footrests; each seat has in-flight entertainment.

Cons: Passenger reviews on http://www.airlineequality.com say the seats need more padding.

Lufthansa — Airbus A380, A340-300 and Boeing 747s