Rethinking How We Measure Seats, Using “Seat Space”


APEX Seat Space
Image: Marcelo Cáceres

Every year, APEX/IFSA assembles a Board of Governors to identify key priorities for the association. In 2018, one of these was to explore new standards to more accurately measure seat space and comfort.

During the unveiling of Spirit Airlines’ redesigned Big Front Seats at APEX EXPO last year, the airline’s president and CEO, Ted Christie, called for the industry to “ditch the pitch.” He was referring to seat pitch – the distance between a point of a seat to the same point on the seat in front.

APEX has formed a task group of airline and supplier representatives to establish APEX Seat Space.

Gesturing toward the new seat, Christie said, “Under traditional measurements, this seat is a 28-inch-pitch product, but as a 6’2″ individual, I have the complete and adequate ability to recline and use the space in front of me.” When the backrest contours are taken into account, up to two additional inches of space are gained, he added.

The above scenario illustrates the need to explore an alternative to measuring seat space and comfort – an industry issue identified by 2018’s APEX Board of Governors as one the association needed to address. Currently, seat pitch and seat width are viewed separately from each other, and they do not take into account other factors that contribute to overall seat comfort, such as shoulder space or work space.

As a result, APEX has formed a task group of airline and supplier representatives to establish APEX Seat Space – a measurement that encompasses seat depth and width – which would provide a comparative rating system. Airlines could use it to help with the selection of a new seating program, and the traveling public could refer to it when gauging seat comfort during the booking process.

The adoption of a new seat-measurement standard, however, is not being initiated without some concern: It would be difficult to include variations in seat comfort affected by cabin layouts and configurations; a popular, cheaper seat could result in a low measurement, meanwhile scoring high with passengers; and seat suppliers and OEMs may be reluctant to disclose information from their IP-protected seat designs that would be required for an accurate APEX Seat Space comparison.

Additionally, the task group hopes to explore an expanded measurement called APEX Seat Space Comfort that will encompass other elements such as headrest, recline, seatback in-flight entertainment, etc. Ultimately, they believe that defining standards for measuring aircraft seat space and comfort more holistically will be beneficial to airlines, suppliers, OEMs and travelers. However, this will not be possible without the industry’s feedback and support.

This was originally published in the 10.1 February/March issue of APEX Experience magazine.