Airbus believes it has come up with a solution to uncomfortable, sleepless long-haul flights in economy class: widen the seats by just an inch.

Passengers’ sleep quality is improved by 53pc if their seats are a minimum width of 18 inches compared to the 17 inch standard set in the 1950s, according to the European plane manufacturer.

Airbus wants all airlines and manufacturers to adopt a minimum standard of 18 inch-wide seats in economy class to improve the comfort of long-haul travel for passengers who can’t afford to fly in business or first class.

Kevin Keniston, who oversees passenger comfort at Airbus, said: “If the aviation industry doesn’t take a stand right now then we risk jeopardising passenger comfort into 2045 and beyond – especially if you take into account aircraft delivery timetables combined with expected years in service. Which means another generation of passengers will be consigned to seats which are based on outdated standards.”

Airbus on Monday published research conducted by The London Sleep Centre, which monitored passengers’ brainwaves, eye, abdominal, chest and leg movements to measure the quality of their sleep when travelling in wider and narrower seats.

“The difference was significant. All passengers experienced a deeper, less disturbed and longer nights’ sleep in the 18 inch seat,” said Dr Irshaad Ebrahim of The London Sleep Centre.

“They went from one sleep stage to the next as you would expect them to do under normal circumstances. Whilst, in the narrower 17 inch seat the passengers were affected by numerous disturbances during sleep – which meant they rarely experienced deep restorative sleep. When it comes to flying long haul in economy, an inch makes a huge difference on passenger comfort.”

Airbus says it has always fitted economy cabins on long-haul jets with 18 inch-wide seats but claimed other plane manufacturers are “eroding passenger comfort standards by going back to narrower seat widths from the 1950s in order to remain competitive”.