New Plane Delivers Wider Economy Seats (Finally!)

Last week, Bombardier publicly unveiled its new "C Series" planes, which will feature—at last—seat widths that start to catch up with widening travelers.

The planes are sized just a tad under the dimensions of the smallest narrow-body jets from Airbus and Boeing, but are bigger than the competitive Embraer series. They'll carry from 110 to 150 economy-class passengers, or even up to 160 flyers with really tight legroom. Bombardier says its seats, at five across, will be one to two inches wider than those on current Airbus and Boeing models.

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Although the size of the new C Series planes is somewhat reminiscent of the DC-9/MD 80 series, Bombardier is installing new "ducted fan" engines that promise up to 15 percent better fuel economy—and better noise reduction—than even the newest of today's engines.

As far as I know, Bombardier hasn't yet signed any orders. But the company claims that the C Series hits a sweet spot in the market spectrum. Certainly, the plane's design and economics make it look good, and it's a sure bet that Bombardier didn't commit to an expensive development program without a thorough examination of the market.

The C Series is a welcome sign that the aircraft manufacturers are finally recognizing that during the entire jet age, seats in most configurations haven't gotten any wider, while passengers have. Sadly, many airlines are ignoring this trend: Where they have a choice, most are opting for the very tight nine-across seats on the new 787s and 10-across on 777s. And by deciding to re-engine the current 737 rather than build a brand-new airplane, Boeing has condemned millions of travelers to another 20 years or so of the big squeeze.

A big thumbs up to Bombardier. Let's hope it sells lots of C Series planes.

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(Photo: Bombardier)

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