The quest for comfort: Which airline has the most legroom?

Whether you’re in it for the long haul or short haul, there’s no denying that flying is largely about the constant quest for comfort. One factor that’s sure to make or break your flight is how much space you have, as the amount of legroom available to you often decides whether or not you’re able to stretch your legs, work on your laptop during your flight or even eat with ease using your tray table.

The fact of the matter is that legroom inches have been gradually disappearing in recent years, prompting the development of new products intended to help protect our space and even the occasional in-flight legroom spat. But not all airlines are created equal when it comes to legroom, so we’ve put together this airline legroom for major U.S. and Canadian airlines to help break it down for you.

To measure how much legroom a seat offers, the industry uses a term called the “seat pitch.” The seat pitch measures the distance from the headrest of one seat to the headrest behind it, offering an idea of how much room a passenger can expect.

Because airlines are constantly updating their cabins and fleets, the figures listed below are subject to change. Still, this guide offers up a general idea of how much legroom to expect on your next flight.

United Airlines

Standard seat pitch: The standard seat pitch on the majority of United Airlines and United Express aircraft is 31 inches. On most planes, standard seats recline between 2 and 5 inches.

Standard seat width: Standard seats are up to 18 inches wide.

Upgraded legroom options: Passengers who want additional legroom during a United flight can upgrade to the Economy Plus seat class, which offers up to 5 additional inches of legroom in the main cabin. For domestic flights, United First Class offers seat pitches of up to 39 inches with up to 7.5 inches of recline and up to 24 inches of seat width. International flights offer two upgraded class options: United Global First and United Business First. Both offer up to 78 inches of sleeping space with lie-down seats that recline 180-degrees. Global First seats are up to 23 inches wide, while Business First seats are up to 22 inches wide.

Delta Airlines

Standard seat pitch: Delta’s wide-body jets have a standard seat pitch of 31 or 32 inches, while most of the airline’s narrow-body jets have standard seat pitches of 31 to 33 inches.

Standard seat width: Standard seat width throughout the Delta Airlines fleet is about 17 to 18 inches.

Upgraded legroom options: Delta’s Economy Comfort class offers up to four additional inches of legroom, as well as up to 50 percent additional seat recline on long-haul flights. Business class seats on Delta’s wide-body jets are lie-flat seats and offer up to 80 inches of sleeping space. First Class recliner seats on narrow-body jets have a seat pitch of up to 38 inches.

American Airlines

Standard seat pitch: The majority of American Airlines’ fleet features standard seats with a seat pitch of between 31 and 32 inches.

Standard seat width: For standard seats on most of American Airlines’ aircraft, seats are between 17 and 18 inches wide.

Upgraded legroom options: American Airlines offers a Main Cabin Extra class with up to six additional inches of legroom. Flat-bed seats in Business and First Class offer up to 64 inches of sleeping space, while recliner seats offer a seat pitch of up to 62 inches.

US Airways

Standard seat pitch: The standard seat pitch on the majority of US Airways’ aircraft is 31 to 32 inches.

Standard seat width: Standard seat width on most of US Airways’ aircraft is between 17 and 18 inches.

Upgraded legroom options: Both First Class and Business Class offer additional legroom for passengers. Recliner seats offer a seat pitch of up to 39 inches, while open suites have a seat pitch of up to 49 inches.

AirTran Airways

Standard seat pitch: AirTran is being integrated into Southwest Airlines; currently, its fleet of 717s features a standard seat pitch of up to 30 inches. AirTran’s 737 aircraft have a standard seat pitch of 30 inches. The 737s are being converted into Southwest livery.

Standard seat width: Standard seats are 18 inches wide.

Upgraded legroom options: Both aircraft feature a business class with additional legroom. The 717s have business class seating with a seat pitch of 40 inches, while the 737s have a business class seat pitch of 36 inches.

Alaska Airlines

Standard seat pitch: The standard seat pitch on Alaska Airlines’ fleet is 32 inches on most aircraft.

Standard seat width: The standard seat width throughout Alaska Airlines’ fleet is 17 inches.

Upgraded legroom options: Passengers can book a recliner seat in First Class to enjoy a seat pitch of up to 36 inches and a seat width of 21 inches.

Allegiant Air

Standard seat pitch: Standard seats on Allegiant Air’s MD-80, the most commonly used aircraft in the fleet, offer a seat pitch between 30 and 32 inches. On the airline’s 757 and A319/320 aircraft, seat pitch ranges from 28 to 30 inches.

Standard seat width: Seats on the MD-80s and A319/320s are 18 inches wide, whiles standard seats on Allegiant Air’s 757s are 17.5 inches wide.

Upgraded legroom options: Allegiant Air offers a Legroom+ seating class throughout its fleet, offering a seat pitch of about 34 inches and unobstructed legroom on the MD-80s and A319/320s. On the 757s, passengers can choose between Legroom+ seats with a seat pitch of 34 inches or Giant Seats, which offer unobstructed legroom and a seat width of 25 inches.

Frontier

Standard seat pitch: The standard seat pitch throughout Frontier Airlines’ fleet is 30 to 31 inches.

Standard seat width: On Frontier Airlines’ Airbus A319/320 and Embraer E-190 aircraft, the standard seat width is 18 inches. On the airline’s turboprop aircraft, the standard seat width is 17 inches.

Upgraded legroom options: Frontier Airlines offers a Stretch seating class that includes seats with a minimum seat pitch of 36 inches.

Hawaiian Airlines

Standard seat pitch: The standard seat pitch on Hawaiian Airlines’ aircraft is between 30 and 32 inches.

Standard seat width: Standard seat width on Hawaiian Airlines’ fleet is 18 inches.

Upgraded legroom options: Hawaiian Airlines offers a Preferred Seating class with seats that offer at least five additional inches of legroom.

JetBlue Airways

Standard seat pitch: On JetBlue’s Embraer 190 aircraft, the standard seat pitch varies between 32 and 33 inches. On the airline’s Airbus A320 aircraft, the standard seat pitch is 34 inches.

Standard seat width: Seats on JetBlue’s Airbus A320 aircraft are 17.8 inches wide, while seats on the Embraer 190 aircraft are 18.25 inches wide.

Upgraded legroom options: The Even More Space class offers seating with a seat pitch of at least 38 inches. On the airline’s new Airbus A321, Even More Space seats will feature a seat pitch of up to 41 inches.

Southwest Airlines

Standard seat pitch: On Southwest Airlines’ 737-700 and 737-300 aircraft, the standard seat pitch is 31 inches. On the airline’s 737-800s, the standard seat pitch is 32 inches.

Standard seat width: Standard seats on Southwest Airlines are 17 inches wide.

Upgraded legroom options: Southwest Airlines maintains a single seating class with no pre-assigned seats. Passengers looking for additional legroom during the flight can purchase early boarding access to try to claim the exit row seats first.

Spirit Airlines

Standard seat pitch: Spirit Airlines’ Airbus A320, A319 and A321 aircraft have a standard seat pitch between 28 and 29 inches.

Standard seat width: Standard seats are 17.75 inches wide.

Upgraded legroom options: Each Spirit Airlines aircraft features Big Front Seats, which are located at the front of the cabin and have a seat pitch of 37 inches and a seat width of 20 inches.

Virgin America

Standard seat pitch: In the main cabin, Virgin America offers a standard seat pitch of 32 inches.

Standard seat width: Main cabin seats are 17.7 inches wide.

Upgraded legroom options: For additional legroom, Virgin America passengers can opt for the Main Cabin Select seating class, which offers a seat pitch of 38 inches and width of 19.7 inches. The airline’s First Class cabin has a seat pitch of 55 inches with seats being 21 inches wide.

WestJet

Standard seat pitch: On WestJet’s fleet of 737-600/700/800 aircraft, the standard seat pitch is between 31 and 32 inches. On the airline’s Bombardier Q400 turboprops, the seat pitch is 30 inches.

Standard seat width: Seats are 17 inches wide throughout WestJet’s fleet.

Upgraded legroom options: WestJet’s Economy Plus seating class offers passengers extra legroom with seat pitches of up to 40 inches on its 737s.

Air Canada

Standard seat pitch: Air Canada’s wide-body jets feature standard seat pitches between 30 and 35 inches, depending on aircraft type. Narrow-body jets have a standard seat pitch between 29 and 35 inches.

Standard seat width: Standard seat width ranges between 17 and 18.5 inches on wide-body and narrow-body aircraft.

Upgraded legroom options: Premium Economy is offered on select wide-body jets, offering a seat pitch of up to 38 inches and seat width of up to 20 inches. Business Class seats on wide-body jets are open suite-style with a seat pitch of 70 inches and a width of up to 21 inches. On narrow-body jets, First Class offers seat pitches between 35 and 39 inches with recliner seats on most planes. Seats in First Class are up to 21.1 inches wide.

Porter Airlines

Standard seat pitch: Porter Airlines’ fleet is made of Bombardier Q400 aircraft, in which the standard seat pitch is 32 inches.

Standard seat width: The width from armrest to armrest is 17 inches, while seat cushions are 18 inches.

Upgraded legroom options: Premier seats at the front of the cabin have a seat pitch of 34 inches.

How to get more legroom?

Many airlines offer upgraded economy classes with a few extra inches of legroom. These often include emergency exit row seats and bulkhead seats. While you have to pay for this upgraded seating class, the extra few inches of legroom can be well worth the cost – especially on longer flights. If you don’t purchase an upgraded seating class, you have two options to try to score extra legroom: ask the desk agent upon check-in or at the gate if there is any available seating with extra legroom, or ask the flight attendants if you could be moved to a seat with extra legroom if there is space after you take off. Either way, remember to ask politely and that you won’t be guaranteed extra legroom.

What to do if you don’t have much legroom?

Even if you don’t have a lot of legroom the next time you travel, you don’t have to suffer during the entire flight. Try these tips to stay comfortable:

  • Start your flight off right by wearing loose and comfortable clothing. Restrictive clothing will make your flight a little less comfy.
  • When the seatbelt sign is turned off, use this time to walk to the lavatories and stretch your legs (be careful not to stand in the aisles, as you could block your fellow passengers and flight attendants).
  • Between periods of standing to stretch your legs, you can also stretch out from your seat. Extend your feet, point your toes and flex your arches to keep your legs limber.
  • Switch up how you sit during the flight. For example, don’t keep your legs crossed the same way the entire flight. Instead, shift which leg is crossed on top of the other and try putting both feet flat on the floor. Changing how you sit can improve your circulation during the flight and help ease discomfort.

(Featured image: jseita)

Article by Marissa Willman (897 posts)

Marissa Willman earned a bachelor's degree in journalism before downsizing her life into two suitcases for a teaching gig in South Korea. Seoul was her home base for two years of wanderlusting throughout six countries in Asia. In 2011, Marissa swapped teaching for travel writing and now calls Southern California home.