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Economy Seating Gets Worse on Some Airlines

United Airlines just released the seating chart for its new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The bad news? The airline has opted for nine ultra-tight 737-size seats in each row, instead of a comfortable eight. (See image below.)

And although American hasn’t yet posted any seating charts for its newest 777s, reliable industry reports indicate that the line is installing ultra-tight 10-across economy seats in each row instead of the more common—and much more comfortable—nine across. That’s bad news for those of you who regularly fly in the back of the plane. You’ll be stuffed into seats that are at least two inches too narrow to accommodate Americans on those long international flights.

At this point, seating on most plane models is standard just about everywhere. But you’ll find important variances on three models:

Boeing 777

Nine-across economy seating in the 777 is among the best flying, and, according to posted seat maps, the “good guys” that use this preferred arrangement on all their 777s are Air Canada, Air China, Air India, Alitalia, Asiana, British Airways, Delta, EgyptAir, El Al, Etihad, EVA, Korean, Malaysian, Qatar, Singapore, Thai, Turkish, United, and Virgin Australia.

Ten-across is much less desirable than nine. The “bad guys” that cram too many narrow seats into all of their 777 cabins are Air France, China Southern, Emirates, and TAM.

A few lines have some of each: Air New Zealand’s 777-200s are good; its latest 777-300s are bad. American’s 777-200s are good; its newest 777-300s will be bad. ANA’s and JAL’s 777-200s and 777-300ERs are good; their 777-300s are bad (but used mainly for short-haul domestic flights). And KLM’s 777-200s are good; its 777-300s are bad.

Boeing 787

So far, seating data is available for only two 787 operators: ANA’s at eight across are good; United’s at nine across will be bad. See for yourself:

Airbus 330/340 series

The general standard among large lines is eight seats across, which is better than the often competing 10 seats across in 747s. But a few small carriers cram nine seats into each row instead of eight, which is really miserable. Among them: Monarch’s A330-200s, Transat’s A330-200s, and XL Airways’ A330s.

Choosing a Flight

Obviously, seats aren’t your only consideration in selecting a flight. But where you have a choice, you’ll have a much better trip if you avoid the overcrowded versions. You can check by logging onto our sister site SeatGuru, or the similar SeatExpert.

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