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Airbus Study: Coach-Class Comfort Matters

Coach passengers have lately had their case for more comfortable seats made by a seemingly unlikely ally: aircraft manufacturer Airbus.

In October, Airbus came out with a strongly-worded statement, backed by research, in support of increasing the width of coach seats from the current industry-standard 17 inches to 18 inches. The company chided the airlines for sticking with the narrower "crusher" seats even as flyers' average heights and girths have expanded and average flight lengths have increased.

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In a follow-up round of coach-comfort proselytizing, Airbus is touting another study that found that seat comfort is increasingly top-of-mind among coach flyers. According to the company:

International research from Airbus reveals that a new generation of discerning passengers are increasingly researching in-flight seat comfort prior to booking long haul full service flights. They are also prepared to dig deeper into their pocket to pay for more comfort in economy. Some 54 percent believe an increase of seat comfort is critical, leading to 41 percent prepared to pay more within economy and five per cent considering investing in an upgrade in search of more comfort. This growing cohort of economy passengers are increasingly not prepared to accept crusher seats and 34 percent are turning to specialist websites, in order to determine true seat value prior to booking flights.

With seat comfort firmly established as a key determinant in the choice of carrier, the implications for the airlines are clear: Upgrade coach seating, or suffer the financial consequences.

Any such changes will be expensive, and subject the airlines to the risk that the investment won't pay off. o any move in the direction of upping the comfort quotient isn't likely to happen quickly.

But if it comes—or when—coach flyers should direct a silent "thank you" to Airbus as they settle into their more spacious seats.

Reader Reality Check

Has the time come, finally, for an upgrade to coach seating?

This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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