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Photographers say “cheese”, airlines say “squeeze” and everyone says read the instruction manual. I’ve written extensively about the best and worst economy seats in the world and the distinctions are meaningful. Personally, I’m not much for instruction manuals, but when Boeing developed their award winning 777 long range wide body jet and sent out the accompanying instruction manual, I would’ve hoped the airlines would take a different approach. For the record, it clearly stated that the aircraft was built for nine seats across in economy. A few airlines neglected the manual, installing ten across. That was the exception and sadly, it’s now the norm.

Japan Airlines, Qatar, Air France, American, Emirates, Air Canada and Etihad. It’s not a who’s who list of five star carriers, it’s a list of those who’ve already gone ten seats across in their Boeing 777’s. I guess the better question is who doesn’t have ten across? There’s a growing list of carriers including United, and most recently and surprisingly Cathay Pacific mulling the idea of retrofitting their cabins with an additional seat in each economy row. Of the majors, that essentially leaves just Singapore, Delta and British Airways with nine across, fighting the good fight. For those who are scratching their head saying “where does the space come from?!” it’s fairly simple: narrower aisles (as if they aren’t narrow enough), and narrower seats. Even if it makes dollars it just doesn’t make sense. I believe that thanks to blogs like mine (pats back) passengers are becoming more intelligent and with simple tools like SeatGuru are able to very quickly discern everything about their flight in question. I would purposely go out of my way to book an airline on my route with nine abreast over ten abreast without question. Do they assume that we won’t do any research?! Having a cozier economy seat and a walkable aisle is a competitive advantage and a staple of respect for the high paying economy passenger. 

At the end of the day this is yet another example of why miles matter more than ever. Take American’s 777 for example: four across in business, ten across in economy. Time for an upgrade? I think so. You can’t blame an airline for their desire to squeeze an extra forty people onto the plane. You can however hope you are not one of them!

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