Airline seat

Airline seat

Airline seats are chairs on an airliner in which passengers are accommodated for the duration of the journey. Such seats are usually arranged in rows running across the airplane's fuselage. A diagram of such seats in an aircraft is called an airline seat map.

Features and amenities

On the oldest of planes, seats were armchairs which stood loosely in the cabin, but moving furniture in the aircraft is a safety hazard, and seats are now fastened to the floor. However, airlines usually want the flexibility to move seats around or remove them, so the seats are attached to rails underneath the floor which run along the aircraft fuselage. If the airline wants to reconfigure the seating, this is a minor operation.

For passenger safety, airline seats are equipped with seatbelts, and there is a "Fasten Seatbelts" sign above each seat which is lit up when passengers are expected to remain seated with the seatbelt fastened. This is during taxiing, take-off and landing, although turbulence may also prompt the captain to turn on this sign.

Basic amenities

Seats are frequently equipped with further amenities. Airline seats may be equipped with a reclining mechanism for increased passenger comfort, either reclining mechanically (usually in economy class and short-haul first and business class) or electrically (usually in long-haul first class and business class). Most aircraft also feature trays for eating and reading, either in the seatback which folds down to form a small table in most economy class seats, or inside the armrest which folds out in most first class, business class, bulkhead, and exit row seats. Most airline seats also feature a pocket which may contain an in-flight magazine and a "safety on board" manual.

On small and short-haul aircraft, or on low-cost carriers, some of these amenities may not be installed. For instance, on several aircraft Ryanair has installed non-reclining seats without seat pockets with the safety manuals stitched to the seat back instead. [ [ Airline explores tolerance for frill-free flying], February 26, 2004] ] Even on airliners with reclining seats, some seats may have a restricted recline or no recline. Typically this will be the rear row of the cabin where a rear bulkhead blocks the recline, or seats immediately in front of the emergency exit where a reclined seat might restrict access to the emergency exit, creating a potential safety hazard. Independent seat review sites such as SeatGuru and LoveMySeat often warn passengers against these seats. During take-off and landing the crew ask passengers to put their seats in an "upright" (unreclined) position [ [ Upright position of Seat Backs] FAA safety bulletin] and to lift and stow their tray tables.

Advanced amenities


Seats may be equipped with power ports (either EmPower, AC, or DC) for small electrical appliances and ports for headphones for the audio entertainment. Some airlines also place TV-screens in the back of each seat as part of the In-flight Entertainment system on long-haul aircraft.

Adjustable headrests

Many long-haul aircraft (and a small number of short haul aircraft) feature adjustable headrests in all classes (including economy class), allowing the passenger to adjust the headrest for comfort.

Adjustable lumbar support

Electrically adjustable lumbar support is found on most long-haul first class and business class seats. Rarely, economy class may also include a mechanically adjustable lumbar support on some long-haul aircraft.


Some business class seats, such as the Recaro CL 4420, have a built-in massaging feature.

Lie flat/flat bed seating

Some business class cabins feature seats that recline to a sloped flat position. These "lie flat at an angle" seats allow for greater comfort than traditional recliner seats, but are less comfortable than fully horizontal flat bed seating.

Most international first-class and a growing number of international business-class cabins feature seats which recline to a full-horizontal flat position, forming a bed.

"Slimline" economy seating

Some airlines are now introducing new "slimline" seats in economy class. These seats, in addition to weighing less, allow airlines to increase capacity without significantly affecting passenger comfort. These type of seats were pioneered by Recaro, however, several other manufacturers (such as Weber Aircraft LP) have introduced their own slimline seats as well. These seats may or may not feature moveable headrests, and generally do not feature adjustable lumbar support.

eating layout

Airline cabins are frequently classified as "narrow-body" if there is a single aisle with seats on either side, or "wide-body" if there are two aisles with a block of seats between them in addition to the seats on the side.

The number of seats abreast is affected by the aircraft width. On very small aircraft such as the Beechcraft 1900 there are only individual seats on each side of the aisle (1+1 seating). The widest narrow body aircraft such as the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 have six abreast seating in a 3+3 layout. Asymmetrical layouts also exist, the Embraer Regional Jets have 1+2 seating while the Douglas DC-9 aircraft typically feature 2+3 seating.

On wide body-aircraft the center block of seats between the aisles can have as many as 5 seats on planes like the layout on some McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and Boeing 777 aircraft, although Boeing recommends the 3+3+3 over the 2+5+2 layout. [ [ The Shrinking Airline Seat] The Independent] Very wide planes such as the Boeing 747 or the Airbus A380 have ten seats abreast, typically in a 3+4+3 layout, although this layout is also sometimes used as a high density layout on aircraft normally seating nine abreast, such as the 777 or DC-10.

Window seats are located at the sides of the aircraft, and usually next to a window, although some aircraft have seat rows where there is a window missing. Window seats are preferred by passengers who want to have a view, or a wall which they can lean against. Passengers in seats adjacent to the aisle have the advantage of being able to leave the seat without having to clamber over the other passengers, and having an aisle they can stretch their legs into. If a seat block has three or more seats, there will also be middle seats which are unpopular because the passenger is sandwiched between two other passengers without advantages of either window or aisle seats. [ [ Air Traveller's Handbook] ] Middle seats are typically booked last. [ [ Window Or Aisle?] CBS News July 4, 2003]

On most commercial aircraft, seats are forward facing. There are exceptions. On military aircraft seats are frequently rearward facing. Southwest Airlines previously offered a few such seats on some aircraft, rearward facing seats are also common on business jets to provide a "conference" type layout. British Airways also has rearward-facing seats in its Club World (Intercontinental Business Class) Cabin. It has been argued that rearward facing seats are safer because in the event of a crash, the sudden deceleration will propel the passenger into a rearward facing seat instead of out of it. The force is therefore distributed over the entire seat back, instead of the straps of the seat belt. The argument against such seats has been based on passenger comfort, safety and cost. An argument against rearward seats has been that passengers who desire the natural layout of forward facing seats may be uncomfortable with a rearward layout. On the safety aspect, the argument has been that during a plane crash, debris such as luggage, will fly forward in the cabin, quite possibly into the passengers in rearward facing seats. On the cost aspect, rearward facing seats need additional strengthening which adds extra weight and therefore higher costs. [ [ Flying backward, flying safer] , Mail Tribune, J.T. Bushnell, August 2001]

eat size

When evaluating the size (and comfort) of a seat, the main terms used are "pitch" and "width".

eat pitch

It is a common misunderstanding that "pitch" is the same as "legroom".

"Seat pitch" is an "indication" of legroom, referring to the space between a point on one seat and the same point on the seat in front of it. For many carriers, the pitch in Economy class is 30 to 32 inches. More seat pitch can mean more legroom, but it is also affected by the thickness of the seat back. Airlines have claimed that a reduction of seat pitch can be compensated for by a thinner seat-back design. [ [ The Shrinking Airline Seat] The Independent]

eat width

"Seat width" is the distance from armrest to armrest, in Economy class this is typically around 17 inches. [ [ The Chair] St. Petersburg Times, July 21, 2003]


Airline seats are designed to be lightweight, but at the same time strong and fire resistant, while also taking into account passenger comfort. A typical design is an aluminium frame with blocks of urethane foam attached to it. A layer of fire-resistant fabric, for instance Kevlar, goes over this, and at the top is a layer of cloth or leather. [ [ Millennium Watch - fire-resistant airplane seat upholstery - Brief Article] April, 2000]

Leather seats are more costly than traditional cloth seats. Even so, several airlines, including some low cost carriers, choose leather not only to present a more "luxurious" product, but also because such seats are easier to clean and prevent spilt liquids from soaking through to the padding. [ [,9171,1000418-2,00.html Blue Skies] July 30, 2001]


In the fairly early days of aviation airline seats were typically of earthly and soft colours such as light browns and gray, intended to calm the passengers. During the 1970s brighter colours such as red and orange became more commonplace. After this shades of blue and gray, with a more business-like tone, have become the most common choice. [ [ History of Airline Design] Published on]

However, certain airlines such as Austrian Airlines, Emirates Airline and Singapore Airlines still use soft colours on seats.


Every individual seat (except for the very last ones at the rear of the cabin) has a small set of auxiliary controls built into the seatback for the passenger directly behind the seat. The seat itself normally contains a somewhat small flip-out, extendable tray (which must be locked into stowage during takeoff and landing), and, on newer aircraft, an LCD television screen directly above the tray. Directly above the seat (on the cabin ceiling) is a small console for the passenger's use. The controls on this console include:

*An air-conditioning nozzle that can be tilted, swivelled, and adjusted by the passenger to either induce or reduce the output. This feature is found on most narrowbody aircraft, however, many airlines have chosen to omit them on many newer widebody aircraft (such as the Boeing 777).

*A reading light (very similar in appearance to the nozzle) that can be turned on by the passenger for extra light, especially when the main cabin lights are turned off. The buttons to turn the lights on and off is usually located directly on the overhead console on most narrowbody aircraft, while on most widebody aircraft, the buttons are usually found together with the in-flight entertainment controls, generally located on the armrests, on seat backs, or through the touch screen interface on some personal televisions.

*A call button, that, when pressed, alerts an attendant on board to serve the passenger(s)in the row with the pressed button (the attendant is directed by a small light on the console and alerted by a quiet audio signal). As with the reading light buttons, the call button is usually located directly on the overhead console on most narrowbody aircraft, while they are found together with IFE controls on most widebody aircraft.

At window seats there are window shields for protection of sun light. They have to be slid up during landings and takeoffs by ICAO regulations and/or law. This rule is in place to provide visibility into the aircraft during emergencies. Many armrests provide ashtrays, devices for reclining the chair, and control interfaces for in-flight entertainment systems.


Airline seat manufacturers include Recaro of Germany [ Recaro Aircraft Seating] , EADS Sogerma [ EADS Sogerma] and Sicma Aero Seat [ Sicma Aero Seating] of France, Avio Interiors [ Avio Interiors] of Italy, Contour Aircraft Premium Seating [ Contour Aircraft Premium Seating] , Thompson Solutions [ [ Thompson Solutions aircraft seat design eng and prototype ] ] , and European Aviation of the United Kingdom, B/E Aerospace [ B/E Aerospace] and Weber Aircraft LP [ Weber Aircraft LP] of the United States, Koito Industries [ Kotio Industries] of Japan, and Greiner PURtec [ Grenier PURtec Aircraft Seating] of Austria.

External links

* [ by TripAdvisor]
* [ Airplane Seat review site Seat Expert]


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