Over the past few years, Spirit Airlines has been a consistent underperformer in customer-satisfaction surveys, but with a fleet-wide cabin redesign bringing more comfortable seats to passengers across the board, the budget carrier is looking to make amends.
Ergonomically-designed by UK-based Acro Aircraft Seating to curve around the passenger’s back for better posture and more legroom, with thick yet lightweight foam padding, additional lumbar support, and more pre-recline, Spirit’s new seats will be introduced in November, with installation continuing through 2020 on all new planes. Compared to the current configuration, the redesign will bring nearly an inch of extra pre-recline to every seat, and even more to the exit rows, plus an extra inch of width for the dreaded middle seat. The airline’s first-class equivalent, Big Front Seats, will also get an upgrade, with a new memory-foam headrest and more memory foam in the seat cushion.
These are incremental improvements to be sure, but the company claims that the end result will be good news for those whose knees knock up against the tray table: two more inches of usable legroom across all categories, when compared to industry-standard flat-back seats with the same pitch. In fact, according to Spirit’s research, today’s customers don’t really get the concept of pitch anyway, placing more value on usable legroom—the distance from the middle of the back seat cushion to the edge of the seat in front—than the distance between the rows themselves.
Per Chartered Institute of Ergonomics & Human Factors (CIHEF) chief executive Steve Barraclough, pitch calculations don’t take into account factors like seatback curvature, seat width, cushion thickness, or usable space, so the usable-legroom metric is a more reliable indicator of a seat’s potential comfort levels.
“It is time for our industry to rethink the concept of seat pitch, a metric many industry experts and aviation media have called antiquated and misleading, given the broad differences in seating measurements that more directly affect passenger comfort,” president and CEO Ted Christie said in a statement. “Our research shows that many guests…strongly believe that comfort derives from usable legroom. Our new seats now offer more usable legroom with their innovative design.”