Which airplane seat looks most comfortable to you?


Airbus brought a mock-up of an A320 interior to an Anaheim, Calif. trade show last week. Photo by staff photographer Stephen Carr.

I mentioned in a post last week that Airbus’s A320 airplanes are 7 inches wider than the comparable Boeing 737. That means Airbus customers can install seats that are 1-inch wider than on Boeing 737s. Not all airlines actually put in wider seats, for reasons I detailed last week, but at least they have the option.

Airbus is darn proud of this fact. So proud that they brought a mock-up of an A320 to a trade show last week in Anaheim. The seats above may look the same, but Airbus is actually trying to show why its setup is better. On the right, in orange, are 18-inch wide Airbus seats. On the left, in brown, are 17-inch Boeing seats.

Which one looks more comfortable to you?

Also, note the flooring. Apparently that’s an option for carriers, though I have never actually seen it in the air. In Airbus lingo it’s call “non-textile floor.” Have you ever seen it?

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Many Airbus planes are wider than Boeings. So why don’t passengers always get roomier seats?

Here’s a fun fact for the day. According to Airbus officials, the cabin of the narrow-body A320 airplane is roughly seven inches wider than on the Boeing 737 – the airplane with which it competes.

Airbus officials made a big deal of this at this week’s APEXIFSA Expo in Anaheim – a trade show dedicated to improving the passenger experience for travelers. They say that the wider interior means airlines can install 18-inch wide seats, instead of the standard 17-inch ones. Or, they noted, an airline might put in two 17-inch seats in a row and then one 20-inch seat. Why might they do that? Because they could sell the extra wide seat for a higher price.

But here’s something that’s interesting. An Airbus official told me that many airlines still put in standard airline seats in the A320s, which means they don’t take advantage of the extra room. There seem to be two reasons. The first is efficiency. Airlines like to have the same seats for their entire fleet. So if they have Boeings and Airbuses, they may just prefer to have all 17-inch wide seats.

The second reason is less intuitive. A lot of the all-Airbus narrow-body fleets belong to low-cost carriers. Many of those airlines place a premium on having their airplanes on the ground for as little time as possible. For those airlines, an extra-wide aisle is very important. With an extra-wide aisle, passengers can take some time to put bags in overhead bins, while still allowing other passengers to walk behind them. This means planes can board faster.

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American Airlines receives its first A319

American received its first Airbus A319 aircraft on Tuesday in Germany.

American received its first Airbus A319 aircraft on Tuesday in Germany.

It probably takes a special type of aviation geek to appreciate the above photograph.

But that’s the first American Airlines Airbus A319, which was delivered on Tuesday in Hamburg, Germany. You’ll see in this picture it’s still wearing its European registration, D-AVYQ.

American has not had an Airbus plane in its fleet since it retired its widebody A300s in 2009. Now, the airline has about 260 Airbus planes on order, with a mixture of A319s, A320s and A321s.

We won’t see the A319s in Los Angeles at first. But starting in 2014, American plans to put the new A321s on the Los Angeles to New York JFK route.

Those will be specially configured planes with three classes of service – first, business and economy. Early renderings (such as the one depicted in the first half of the video below) suggest it will be an impressive product.

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United Airlines tests new fuel saving wingtips

United Airlines took another step forward in the quest for increased fuel efficiency today, when a 737-800 fitted with a new type of winglet flew its first flight in Everett, Wash.

Instead of merely having a wingtip pointed upwards, as on much of the carrier’s Boeing fleet, the new wingtips have two elements – one points up and the other, which is considerably smaller, points down.

United officials say the new winglet results in significantly less drag than the current model used by the airline on its 737 fleet. They say the winglet – called the Split Scimitar – will result in a roughly 2 percent fuel savings the 737s.

Eventually, when United puts the new technology on its 737, 757 and 767 fleet, the airline expects to save $200 million annually in fuel. Currently, some of those planes have traditional winglets, while some have none at all.

There’s a bit of a competition going between Boeing and Airbus over who can develop more efficient wings. Airbus, which has historically had relatively small wingtip devices on its planes, has started helping airlines retrofit their A320 family aircraft with 2.5 meter high “sharklets.” Airbus says their sharklets, pictured below, reduce fuel consumption by about 4 percent on the longest flights.


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