Skift Take

Holiday travelers have already booked their tickets, but they'll want to know what to expect from their seat this very busy Thanksgiving flying season.

If you are flying in the U.S. on the day before Thanksgiving, as million of passengers are expected to do, you’ll have a much better chance of finding a roomy seat for free in coach if you take a long-haul flight of more than four hours. Taking a shorter flight? Get ready to be cramped unless you want to pay extra.

The problem is that about 90% of the domestic flights on November 21, one of the most-frenzied travel days of the year, will be short-haul flights of four hours or less, and only about 4% of these flights boast roomy seats in non-premium sections of economy.

That makes for a lot of cramped legs as passengers navigate their way toward Turkey dinner the next day.

For those people taking longer flights greater than four hours, they have much better odds of landing roomy seats as roughly one-fifth of these flights have room to stretch your toes for free in coach.

These numbers come from Routehappy, a New York-based search engine and community of flyers focusing on the amenities you’ll find at the airport and on board your flights. The website defines roomy seats as having 33 inches or more of pitch, or 32 inches of pitch with seat width of 17.5 inches or more.

Options from good to bad

If you are looking for a guaranteed roomy seat in coach on a short-haul flight and you don’t want to be shelling out extra dough, then fly JetBlue or Virgin America because they “are the only two U.S. airlines on which every seat on every flight is considered roomy,” Routehappy states. Southwest, once a leader in comfy seats, squeezed in an extra row of seats on many of its planes this year, reducing the pitch to 31 inches.

You have a tiny chance of scoring a roomy seat in coach for free on a short-haul flight if you choose US Airways that day as 8%, of its short-haul flights will have roomy seats for the non-elite traveler flying with the economy crowd. Do your best to avoid Allegiant, Hawaiian, Spirit, and Delta on short-haul flights if you value circulation in your legs because all of their seats are tight, with seat pitch of 28-30 inches.

Delta has the unwanted distinction of having the most long haul, domestic flights with tight seats the day before Thanksgiving: 92 of them. And Spirit has tight seats on every single one of its long-haul flights on November 21.

When it comes to airlines such as US Airways, you can’t make blanket statements about whether a particular airline offers roomy or tight seats because it depends on the route and flight duration. While only 8% of US Airways’ short-haul flights the day before Thanksgiving have roomy seats, more than half of its long-haul flights that day offer such seating comfort.


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Tags: health, in-flight

Photo credit: Seats on a Southwest plane. piagphotography /

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