Sept. 16, 2019, © Leeham News: Los Angeles—Spirit Airlines, a US ultra-low-cost carrier, is upgrading its passenger seating experience, the airline’s CEO announced last week at the Apex Expo 2019 event.
Ted Christie unveiled new designs for its Big Front Seat—Spirit’s version of First Class—and coach seats that are ergonomically designed and intended to add more room and redefine how seats are measured.
The Big Front Seat appears little different than the previous version—more padding seems to be the main feature.
But the changes to coach seating, where most people fly, are billed to have the potential to make a big difference compared with the ever-slimmer, increasingly uncomfortable seats offered by many suppliers and installed on most airlines.
The coach seats, by ACRO, a UK-based company, are more ergonomic and certainly more comfortable than some of the slim-line seats introduced years ago.
But the all-important legroom doesn’t quite live up to the billing when Christie unveiled the seats before a large crowd of Expo delegates.
The seat’s frame still interferes with leg positioning that is not closed and the bulge in the seat back—making space for the rear end of the passenger in front of you—tends to eat into knee room.
When legs are stretched underneath the seat in front, these problems are solved. But on long flights, where shifting positions are needed for comfort, isometrics or DVT avoidances, the 28-inch seat pitch still seems like 28 inches, though Christie said the space is the equivalent to 30-inches.
This brings us to the topic of redefining “pitch” and “space.”
Christie said 44% of passengers surveyed didn’t know the term and only 5% could correctly recite the definition. All others fell in between Very Familiar or Slightly Familiar with the term.
This isn’t a new concept. Embraer began talking about total passenger space when it introduced the E-Jet in 2004. Bombardier and now Mitsubishi placed emphasis on passenger space with the C Series (now the Airbus A220) and SpaceJet, respectively.
Christie’s other feature touted last week: a wider middle seat.
The new coach seats are 17 inches wide for the aisle and window seats and 18 inches for the center seat.
However, the normal Airbus seat width is 18 inches for each.
Spirit takes two inches away from the three-seat row and makes a wider aisle, a plus.
But by going to 17 inches, the window and aisle seats on Spirit’s Airbus A320s are narrower than the 17.3 inches on the Boeing 737, a long-standing complaint where passengers become shoulder-scrunched.
One report about the new seating said Spirit would charge more for the wider center seat.