Readers sought our advice on a wide range of travel concerns in 2016.

The usual suspects were all there: airline delays, baggage fees, damaged luggage, automated check-in, shrinking toilet space, slow airport security checks etc.

But, by far the most common travel issue we heard in 2016 involved airline seats.


Many people are convinced that seats in long-haul economy class seem to be getting narrower and have less padding and legroom.

From our experience, the answer is ‘Yes’ and ‘No’.

Yes, there are certainly variations in seat width and legroom between international airlines and between different types of aircraft.

No, the variations are not great. And, any reduction in seat padding sounds a bit like an urban myth.

To get particularly good legroom you may have to pay more, but there are a few tips that you can follow to help get a more comfortable seat without having to shell out a lot of hard earned.


When planning a trip, we always check a website called As well giving advice on the best seats on a plane, also offers charts that show, among other things, seat width and seat pitch on both domestic and long-haul aircraft used by the various airlines.

For example, it shows that the distance between the armrests on long-haul Economy seats tends to range between 16 inches and 19 inches.

The economy seat width on Airbus planes operated by Qantas is 17 inches to 17.5 inches. On Boeing aircraft operated by Qantas the seat width is 17.5 inches.

The current chart on shows that Canadian operator, WestJet Airlines, offers the widest economy class seats at 20 inches on a Boeing 767-300ER.

Boeing Dreamliners flown by low cost carrier, Scoot, have the second widest economy seats at 18.9 – 19.7 inches.

Legroom too

The also includes information about legroom on the various aircraft.

Use a website called to check whether your plane is heavily booked – or if you may have space to spread out.

You can also ask at the gate about a free upgrade to the bulkhead (the first row of economy class) or the exit row, which both tend to have more legroom.

And finally, realise that a lot of airlines now charge for seat selection and ask you to do it at the time of booking your ticket. It is always wise to check whether this is the case – and also smart to find out the cost of seat upgrades, should you fail to get one free of charge.

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