Taking an airplane flight today is quite common, and literally millions of people board an airplane each day, traveling to virtually every part of the globe. Some will find their ride slightly uncomfortable, because airplane seats are a little smaller. The average seats measure 17.2 to 18 inches across (43.68 to 45.72 cm), which means that anyone with more than a 36 inch (91.44 cm) hip measurement is likely to feel a little squeezed upon sitting down. Some airlines insist that airplane seats measurements have not changed at all, and that more people — especially in North America — are simply bigger, making the seats seem smaller.
There are some exceptions to the relatively small size, with some airlines using their bigger seats as a selling point. First class and business or executive class flights may offer wider seats as well.
Another, and perhaps more crucial difference in airplane seats comes from the measurements between seats aligned vertically. This measurement, called the pitch, has changed considerably. While people are a bit wider, they are also considerably taller than they once were, on average. Much discomfort in long flights comes from the inability to move one’s legs properly due to small pitches.
In first class, pitch is seldom an issue, and most have a generous 80-inch (203.2 cm) pitch. On coach or economy class planes, pitch tends to be about 31 inches (78.74 cm). Some companies offer a larger pitch of 33-34 inches (83.82-86.36 cm), and Boeing, in fact, has standardized a 33 inch (83.82 cm) pitch for in its 777s. Smaller planes are likely to offer the smallest pitch, and international flights the largest.
In all, however, pitch is still by many accounts too small, which in turn makes airplane seats feel too small. A person over 6 feet (1.82 m) tall, with hips wider than 3 feet (0.91 m) is likely to feel squeezed both vertically and horizontally on the smallest seats with the smallest pitch. Anyone who has had the experience of having the seat kicked by a small child in a seat directly behind him will also realize that smaller pitch makes this possible.
Airplane seats are often criticized because adding more seats to a plane often means reducing pitch. Even when a plane is only half-full, the distance between rows is still likely to cause discomfort on long flights, and perhaps on short flights as well. Some companies are attempting to increase pitch, but this then leads to greater ticket prices, because the same amount of fuel transports fewer people.