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Airlines Like Slim Seats, But Passengers Aren’t Fans

Jan 20, 2014 8:00 am

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They may be smaller and more uncomfortable, but airline passengers have demonstrated they are more interested in low price than comfort.

— Jason Clampet

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United Airlines

United's slim-line seats on the Boeing 737. United Airlines


“Slim-line” seats, with thinner seat-back cushions, are increasingly popular with airlines because they weigh less and help squeeze more passengers into a plane.

But the seats may not be so popular with passengers.

A new survey by the travel website TripAdvisor shows that many passengers who have tried slim-line seats are not fans. In a survey of 1,391 travelers, the website found that nearly half weren’t sure whether they had sat in slim-line seats.

But of those who said they had tried the seats, 83% said they were less comfortable than traditional seats, 8% said the slim-line seats were more comfortable, and 9% said they couldn’t tell the difference.

Delta Air Lines is the latest of several major carriers to announce plans to install slim-line seats. Delta spokesman Paul Skrbec said the TripAdvisor survey was lacking because it didn’t ask passengers which airlines they flew when they tried the seats. The airline’s internal surveys show passengers like Delta’s slim-line seats, he said.

United, Alaska, Southwest and Spirit are among the other major airlines that have installed slimmer, lighter seats in the last few years.

At United, internal passenger surveys show that the slim-line seats get higher ratings several months after being installed, suggesting the seats get more comfortable over time, airline spokesman Rahsaan Johnson said.

Among the critics of cramped cabins is Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who fired off a tweet last week about his flight to Washington from Phoenix.

“Are you as frustrated as I am that the airlines keep moving the rows of seats closer and closer together?” he said.

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