The airline industry has been packing more passengers into smaller seats over the last few years and now one of the world's largest jet manufacturers is calling for an end to the crush.
Airline seats with less legroom and thinner seat back cushions have been part of a growing trend in an industry trying to fit more passengers per cabin and increase profits. The squeeze has prompted an outcry from fliers, particularly tall and ample-sized travelers.
Now, French-based Airbus is calling on the industry to adopt a comfortable standard, at least for the seat width. It released a study last week that says a minimum seat width of 18 inches improves passengers sleep quality by 53%, compared with 17-inch-wide seats.
"When it comes to flying long haul in economy, an inch makes a huge difference on passenger comfort," said Irshaad Ebrahim, a spokesman for the London Sleep Center, which conducted the study for Airbus.
Airbus said it has always maintained a standard of 18-inch-wide seats, but the company noted that many airlines have installed narrower seats to remain competitive.
The study was based on 1,500 participants at airports in Singapore, France, Germany and the Netherlands.
Airlines for America, the trade group for the nation's airlines, rejects the idea of a standardized seat width, saying each carrier should be allowed to install the seats that best suit its needs.
"We believe individual airlines should be able to determine fleet configurations that best meet their customers' needs, as they do today," said Victoria Day, a spokeswoman for the trade group.