The Airline with the Most Legroom Is This Little-Known Carrier

November 7, 2017 - Comment

The One Bag Traveler recommends Gear, Destinations and Adventures. Wondering what’s the airline with the most legroom? Seat pitch, the distance from any point on an airline seat to the corresponding point of the seat in the next row, is the most reliable measure of total front-to-rear seat space, and therefore legroom. These days, the

The One Bag Traveler recommends Gear, Destinations and Adventures.

Wondering what’s the airline with the most legroom? Seat pitch, the distance from any point on an airline seat to the corresponding point of the seat in the next row, is the most reliable measure of total front-to-rear seat space, and therefore legroom.

These days, the average economy seat pitch is 30 to 31 inches on the “Big Three” U.S. airlines (American, Delta, and United), 28 to 30 inches on low-fare lines, and 32 to 33 inches on some niche carriers. Seat pitch on transatlantic airlines is usually about the same; the average is a bit higher on transpacific lines.

But talking about averages skirts the fact that each big airline operates dozens of different types of planes, often without one standardized seat pitch. Newer planes may have different-pitch seats than older ones, and pitch can change when planes are refurbished. Given those uncertainties, we can identify only a few lines on which you can rely on an above-average pitch for any and all flights—and there’s one clear winner for the title of the airline with the most legroom in North America.

The Airline with the Most Legroom

With 34 inches of seat pitch across all its planes, Interjet is the unexpected airline with the most legroom. The Mexico-based, low-cost carrier flies from a handful of U.S. cities to lots of destinations in Mexico, plus a few in Central and South America, including Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, and Guatemala. Interjet operates Airbus A320s and Sukhoi SU9 Superjets, and says it foregoes about 30 seats on each plane to give its passengers more space.

Runners-Up for Airline with the Most Legroom

JetBlue is a strong runner-up, with 32 to 34 inches on all planes. The entire JetBlue fleet was once the airline with the most legroom, at 34 inches or better—but in recent years JetBlue has been adding more main cabin seats and decreasing legroom. We may one day see the airline’s legroom shrink to 31 inches of pitch, but it’s not quite there yet. JetBlue’s affordable Even More Space option, however, remains some of the best legroom in the sky, at 37 inches of pitch—several more than any other line’s stretch option.

Virgin America features 32 inches of seat pitch across its fleet of A319, A320, and A321 aircrafts. Alaska Airlines now owns Virgin America but hasn’t yet announced whether it will conform the seat plans to match their fleet-wide standard. Porter also offers 32 inches of pitch on all its Bombardier Q-400 turboprop planes, and aims for a higher-end niche on its regional flights in Canada and the Eastern U.S.—but turboprop planes are generally considered louder and less-desirable than your now-standard jet.

Southwest recently downgraded to a fleet-wide pitch of 31 inches—a decrease of one to two inches. Similarly, Alaska is downgrading its main cabin pitch to 31 inches on all of its new planes as well as refurbished older models—all which were once at 32 inches fleet-wide.

Other Airlines with Above-Average Legroom

While most North American airlines’ average economy pitch is 30 to 31 inches, the larger lines still have some planes (typically older models) that retain 32 inches or better. Among them are Air Canada E175s at 32 to 34 inches; older Alaska 737s that remain at 32 to 33 inches; some American 757-200s at 32 inches; Hawaiian 767-300s at 32 inches; and United B787s at 32 inches.

Legroom on Legacy and Budget Airlines Lags

Overall, the big airlines keep economy seating tight. Most planes—both long-haul and short-haul—on American, Delta, United, and Air Canada have 31 inches of legroom. The low-fare lines range from 30 inches on Allegiant to as low as 28 inches on Frontier and Spirit.

Long-Haul Airlines that Reach North America

Many long-haul carriers based outside of North America retain pitches of 32 inches or better on at least some of their intercontinental planes. On a few airlines—mostly those based in Asia—you have a good chance at 33 or even 34 to 36 inches of pitch:

  • Air India: 33 inches to 34 inches
  • Air Tahiti Nui:  33 inches
  • ANA: Some at 34 inches
  • Asiana: 32 to 34 inches
  • EVA: 33 to 36 inches
  • JAL: 33 to 34 inches
  • Air China: Most long-haul planes at 32 to 33 inches
  • Turkish: 33 to 34 inches

Quite a few European and Asian lines give you 32 inches of pitch or better, at least on many planes:

  • AeroMexico: 31 to 36 inches
  • Air France: 32 inches
  • Air New Zealand: 32 inches
  • Cathay Pacific: All long-haul planes at 32 inches
  • China Airlines: Most long-haul planes at 32 inches
  • China Eastern: 32 inches
  • China Southern: 32 inches
  • El Al: 32 inches
  • Emirates: 32 to 34 inches
  • Ethiopian: 32 to 33 inches
  • Etihad: 31.5 to 33 inches
  • Finnair: 32 inches
  • Icelandair: 32 to 33 inches
  • Korean: 32 to 34 inches
  • LATAM Brasil: 32 inches
  • LATAM Chile: 32 inches
  • LOT Polish: 32 inches
  • Philippine: 32 to 33 inches
  • Qatar: 32 to 33 inches
  • Royal Jordanian: 32 inches
  • Saudia: All long-haul planes at 32 inches
  • Singapore: 32…

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