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Cars & travel.

Updated: 1 Jul 2022

Which airline has the best seats?

Fed up with folding yourself in half when you fly? We reveal the airlines with the widest seats and most generous legroom
Which?Editorial team

Plane seats are getting smaller. This won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s played armrest wars in cattle class, knees painfully wedged against the seat in front. 

As well as seats and legroom, aisle space is also shrinking, all in the name of cramming more people on to flights.

Back in the 1950s, you could expect a 40-inch seat pitch (the distance from your headrest to the one in front, and the best indicator of legroom). Compare that to the current 31 inches on British Airways and Virgin long-haul flights and the grazed knees suddenly make sense.

If you’re after extra legroom, you’ll need to pay a pretty penny for the privilege (£50 minimum with BA).

 Looking to travel with some luxury? Read our guide to the best and worst airlines for business and first class

Biggest seats revealed

We reveal the airlines with the most spacious seats in economy and offer insider tips on how to bag the best spot in the cabin.

We’ve compared the seat pitch and width on your favourite long-haul and short-haul carriers to see which offer the biggest seats. 

Long haul airlines

AirlineSeat pitch (inches)Seat width (inches)
Air Canada30-3517-18
American Airlines30-3717-18.1
Singapore Airlines32-3417.5-19

Short haul airlines

AirlineSeat pitch (inches)Seat width (inches)
Tui Airways28-3417.2-18
Using the table: Seat pitch: The distance between two seat rows – an indicator of legroom. Data from SeatGuru. Seat width: The distance between the armrests of a single seat. Data from SeatGuru. 

How to get the best seats in economy

Check SeatGuru

SeatGuru.com, which rates the best and worst plane seats, will help you find the best spot. Type in your flight number and date of travel, and the site will pull up a colour-coded map of your plane’s interior (avoid seats marked red and yellow).

Consider a bulkhead

These are the spots directly behind the walls, curtains or screens sectioning off the plane. With no row in front, you won’t have another passenger reclining into your lap and you may bag some extra legroom, too. Just bear in mind these seats can be narrower if tray tables are stowed in the armrest.

Swap when check-in opens

Even if you’ve pre-selected a seat, find out when check-in opens. By then, frequent flyers will have been upgraded, so you can see if any new spots have opened up. If they’ve vacated one of the plum seats with extra legroom, you may be able to claim it for yourself.

Leave seat selection late (but not too late)

Either reserve your seat as soon as online check-in opens or at the last minute. If your flight isn’t fully booked, a late check-in could reveal the best spots. Any seats still empty are likely to stay that way, meaning you might be able to commandeer a whole row to yourself. Just don’t cut it so fine you miss your flight altogether!

Try your luck at the airport

Checking in at the airport? If the plane isn’t full, politely ask if they’ll put you next to a vacant spot – that way you can lift the armrest and spread out. Alternatively, you could try wangling extra legroom. With more people checking in online, fewer people are asking these questions.