by Cynthia Drescher, Condé Nast Traveler
Newer and more efficient airplanes means airlines are offering longer and longer flights, but can you handle 13 hours with only 30 inches of space? Condé Nast Traveler reports which airlines, both domestic and international, offer the best (and the worst) legroom.
"Pitch" isn't just a term used in baseball. The word is also thrown around quite a bit in air travel, where its definition is the measurement of the distance from a seat to the one behind it. The more popular, not to mention maligned, term is "legroom," and, yes, some airlines offer more of it than others. Condé Nast Traveler's rankings are not universally inclusive; only major, recognizable airlines were taken into account in our survey. Because airlines are constantly updating their cabins and fleets, the figures listed below are subject to change.
In the United States
Our previous report already named the most spacious airlines flying around the United States, and those results hold firm. The airlines in the USA with the most legroom are:
- JetBlue: 33 inches
- Virgin America: 32 inches
- Southwest: 32 inches
The "big three" airlines of Delta, American Airlines, and United all average 31-inch legroom, as does Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines. At the bottom, with seriously squashed legs, are Allegiant (30 inches), Frontier (28 inches) and Spirit (28 inches with no recline). Of course, upgrading ever so slightly for the "economy plus" option on these airlines changes the situation, and you're able to enjoy a few more inches for a few more dollars.
Around the World
As in the United States, 31 inches of legroom is quite standard around the world, with some notable exceptions on either end. Comparing data from searching popular routes and long-haul aircraft on Routehappy and SeatGuru, and cross-referencing with the airline's own sites, we're happy to find that some airlines go above and beyond the minimum to provide precious extra inches. These are the international airlines with the most legroom on long-haul flights:
- Aeromexico: 34 inches
- South African Airways: 33.5 inches
- Asiana: 33 inches
- Air India: 33 inches
- Air Tahiti Nui: 33 inches
Surprised by the winner? Don't be; Aeromexico now flies the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner on its lengthiest routes, including the 11-hour non-stop from Mexico City to Madrid, as well as the five-hour nonstop to New York. The airline chose to match the generous legroom of its Boeing 777s with the delivery of the new 787s, upholding their standard of offering two or more inches beyond everyone else, a difference the International Business Times called "positively luxurious."
As for the least legroom, three airlines stand out for squeezing passengers in space that's below the 32-to-31-inch standard, and they are: Air Berlin, Austrian Airlines, and Aeroflot, all at a measly 30 inches. Stretch those legs before boarding, during the flight, and upon arrival to keep the discomfort to a minimum, and look on the bright side--at least a new study just found that sitting for long periods actually will not kill you.
Looking for more tips to make a long flight tolerable? See our list of 28 Great Books for Long Flights on CNTraveler.com
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