Are reclining seats on airplanes being phased out?

Most of us have experienced the annoyance of having the person in front of us on the airplane pressing that recline seat button and almost falling into your lap.

There was a time when most airline seats had this seat recline option but today many airplanes have done away with this.   One could argue that this is a good thing.  But is this true?  Perhaps having the ability to recline your seat should be optional like whether to join a Fair Go casino Login?  Obviously, the answer will depend on who you ask.

How do reclining seats work?

Basically, there is a mechanism hidden in the cushion beneath the seat which causes the seat to recline and return to its upright position.   The fact that it is a mechanism means that it has a tendency to need repair, usually from normal wear and tear, but which is an expense for airlines.

Another issue for the airlines is weight cost.   Today individual lightweight airplane seats are approximately 7 to 10 kilos so any reduction in weight is a saving, say in the fuel needed to transport it.

A further, and perhaps more significant issue is the problems and disruption, sometimes very costly, that these reclining seats can cause between passengers. Often it is flight attendants who have to get between passengers arguing, even resulting in flights having to be diverted for safety reasons.

Is it better if seats don’t have this recline option?

Super lightweight seats were introduced into the market in the second part of the 2000s.    These seats had no recline option – called ‘pre-reclined’. These new seats were fixed at a specific angle, mostly upright but with a slight recline.    Primarily it was the low-cost airline companies that these new seats were aimed at because they usually offer short trips and have more basic amenities.

One of the first carriers to get onboard with these seats was the UK airline Jet2. This airline offered European package deals.  They opted for a pre-reclined seat in 2009 from a new startup called Acro. This company basically transformed the way airlines thought about seating.

In 2009 they were called Clark, but now the name has changed to Series 3.  These seats were different, not only because they didn’t recline.  They were shaped differently from regular shaped seats – into a ‘concave “bucket” shape.’ This created more space for the person behind. They were able to place their legs on either side of the “bucket”.  This seemingly small amount of extra space really makes a difference.

On a single aisle all economy airplane, like a Boeing 737 or an AirbusA320, there are about 30 rows of seats.  Older versions of seats offered about 30 inches from one seat to the exact same spot on the seat in front.  By saving as little as one inch per row, they can add another row of seats to the airplane.

The last ten years or so have seen a lot of innovation in pre-reclined seats and a lot of effort has been made to find solutions to save more space. The German seatmaker, Recaro is well-known for making racing car seats as well as seats for air carriers.  It has made reclining seats for long distance flights and also pre-reclined seats for short distance ones.

The growth of pre-recline seats

Mark Hiller, Recaro’s chief executive officer says “The airline can choose a pre-defined backrest angle position of 15 or 18 degrees within the seat configuration process.  This helps to provide either more comfort via increased backrest angle or fulfil special layouts with specific passenger counts.”

He goes on to explain that “The main advantage increased living space, as a passenger’s living space is not intruded by recline.  In addition, the low cost of ownership – fewer moveable parts on the seat, improved reliability and simplified maintenance – and low weight and cost, with no mechanism, kinematics and so on required.”

These special layouts that Hiller refers to are called “max pax” in the industry – the maximum number of passengers allowed on an airplane.   On an all-economy aircraft that number is 244 passengers.  Some airlines may have some business class seats that are more spacious and therefore the number would be less than 150.   It is not hard to figure out that an aircraft with 230 seats or more is not going to feel very spacious.

However, much effort has been made by seatmakers to give passengers the feeling that they have more space.  They have managed to thin the seatback, moving the form so that it is not bothering the knees and making more room for the shins.

Slimline seats are now to be found on many airlines, and not just low-cost carriers. One of the reasons for this is that many of these full-service airlines are competing with these low-cost carriers for passengers. Many offer “economy-plus extra legroom” which is located at the front.  These seats will likely have a recline option and other amenities not available in regular economy.   They call these hybrid cabins – and cost the passenger more.

So, is the introduction of pre-reclined seats good or not so good?

Pre-inclined seats are, on the whole, probably a good thing on short-distance flights and they definitely prevent angry outbursts from disgruntled passengers sitting behind or in front.   And, of course, the added bonus of extra shin room that comes with the pre-reclined seats.

For long-distance flights, the recline option is not going to disappear and that is probably a good thing.  However, passengers should be courteous and be aware that there is someone sitting behind them before they press the recline button.

Related Articles

Back to top button