Spirit Airlines Introducing More Comfortable Seats?!

Filed Under: Spirit

Most people flying Spirit Airlines are choosing to fly the airline for their low fares, rather than their comfortable seats or amazing service. Spirit Airlines management isn’t delusional either — they’ve long said that customers care about getting the lowest fare, and that’s about it, so there’s no real ROI to introducing a better product.

So that’s why Spirit’s latest initiative is quite interesting — Spirit Airlines has announced their “Invest in the Guest” initiative, which sees them trying to introduce more comfortable seats, all while trying to redefine how comfort is measured.

Spirit Airlines Is Introducing New Seats

Spirit Airlines has unveiling new, more comfortable seats that provide additional usable legroom. Spirit Airlines will begin installing these seats in November 2019, and that will continue through 2020 on all new Spirit Airlines deliveries (so don’t expect all planes to have these seats overnight).

Spirit Airlines’ New Economy Seats

Spirit Airlines’ new seats are designed by UK-based Acro Aircraft Seating. The airline claims that these new seats include thicker padding, ergonomically-designed lumbar support, and additional pre-recline (Spirit Airlines seats don’t otherwise recline).

What’s noteworthy about these seats?

  • Middle seats will gain about an inch of width; aisle and window seats will have 17″ of width, while middle seats will have 18″ of width
  • All seats will gain about an inch of “pre-recline” compared to Spirit’s current configurations
  • The new seats have ultra-light weight foam padding made of a composite skeleton, so this increases comfort without increasing weight
  • The new seats have a full size tray table and an elevated literature pocket

Spirit Airlines’ New Big Front Seats

Spirit Airlines is also introducing new Big Front Seats, which is one of the best values in travel. Big Front Seats get you the same service you’d get in the main cabin, but you get a significantly more comfortable seat.

These new seats will feature ergonomically-improved headrests with plush memory foam, additional memory foam in the seat cushion, and more.

What Spirit Airlines’ CEO Says

Ted Christie, Spirit Airlines’ CEO, had the following to say about these new seats:

“Last year I signed a pledge to look at every facet of our Guest experience and determine where we could improve. This investment in our seats and onboard experience is a direct result of that commitment, and it also allows us to enhance our product value while maintaining our industry-leading cost structure. We have listened to our Guests, and we are responding with these new, more comfortable seats.

We also believe 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. Our research shows that many Guests not only misunderstand the concept of pitch, but strongly believe that comfort derives from usable legroom. Our new seats now offer more usable legroom with their innovative design.”

Spirit Airlines Is Trying To Move Away From Seat Pitch

Historically seat pitch has been used as one of the primary metrics for determining seat comfort. As part of their introduction of these new seats, Spirit Airlines is trying to challenge this as a metric.

They’re correct in stating that a vast majority of people don’t know what seat pitch is. Most people believe that seat pitch is equivalent to the amount of legroom you have. That’s not true — rather seat pitch is how much space each seat takes up, and it does nothing to account for how efficiently airlines use that space.

In other words, a seat can have less seat pitch but more usable legroom, depending on the padding, depending on the location of magazine pockets, depending on any protrusions, etc.

Historically Spirit Airlines has offered 28″ of pitch, which is among the tightest in the industry (that’s actually the least pitch you’ll find on any commercial plane). Spirit Airlines is arguing that their new seats offer an extra two inches of usable legroom compared to industry-standard flatback seats with the same pitch.

Bottom Line

It’s interesting to see Spirit Airlines allegedly investing in the customer experience, since historically their focus has solely been on offering the lowest fares possible. However, don’t get it twisted, Spirit Airlines isn’t suddenly turning into a premium airline here.

They’re simply coming up with a slightly more efficient layout, and they’ll continue to offer 28″ of pitch. In other words, they’re keeping at least as many seats on their planes. So I commend them for trying to innovate, though these aren’t likely to be the most comfortable seats in the industry, or anything.

  1. That people don’t understand the term ‘seat pitch’ doesn’t mean that the measure of space from seat back to seat back isn’t crucial. Seat pitch and width tells you how much of an aircraft’s real estate is dedicated to each passenger.

    Within that footprint an airline can optimize its seats but more seat pitch is more comfortable than less seat pitch. It’s better not just for where you put your legs but for how you’re able to work on a laptop, and how claustrophobic you feel.

    Spirit offers cheap transportation in part by giving each passenger less space on the aircraft. These seats don’t change that formulation even if they are better than current seating.

    Giving 18″ width to middle seat passengers (as much width as other airlines give all passengers on similar aircraft) is a win for those aircraft, and underscores that aisle and window seat passengers get less width in order to widen aisles and speed up boarding.

  2. It’s awesome that were excited about this meanwhile when another airline introduces this kind of seat it is normally seen as a downgrade.

  3. That’s interesting that Spirit has a 28” pitch. Compared to that, the regularly sniffed-at Ryanair has 30” pitch (without any seatback pockets that take away space). Easyjet has 29” (with seatback pockets).

  4. I say, “big effin deal”. What about all the other downfalls that Spirit offers to you at their so called “low fares”. In most cases these low fares end up costing just as much as a decent airlines because of their outrageous baggage fees. It could be a low fare for someone traveling without any baggage. But…what about their rude customer service and their I don’t care about you even though you pay my salary attitude. Hmmm…Constant delay after delay after delay and then “Boom” flight cancelled. It’s always the “weather”, even though all other airlines are flying in and out. Why? Because if it’s weather related then they don’t have to compensate you a dime. I can say all of the above because that’s what I experienced along with so many others.

  5. Agree completely with @Gary Leff. Seat pitch is absolutely still a metric that can and should be used to determine comfort of a seat. Passengers (and seats) take up volume – 3-dimensional space – yet we always speak of “space” in terms of 2-dimensional area or 1-dimensional distance when we’re on a plane. Less seat pitch is still going to result in fewer cubic feet/meters per passenger. Tossing the modifier “usable” in there doesn’t mean much since it’s not passenger-agnostic. Plus, it’s foolhardy to trust Spirit to “redefine” for the better a metric where they’re consistently in last place.

  6. I think what’s driving perception is that spirit has the reputation as being the greyhound of the sky. As such, one doesn’t really approach it with the idea of comparing seats and service with an airline like AA that actually pretends to offer a full-service experience. Because of this, there is ample room for spirit to expand their market by emphasizing that they are, in fact, better than most people fear.

  7. @Cynthia
    They’re not outrageous. You pay for what you use, if you want to use lots of baggages, then fly mainline. If you’re “no frills”, then Spirit is for ya.

  8. TBH thought, I have tried almost all domestic airline (except frontier), spirit does have a decent amount of legroom. I’m a big guy, 6′ and some extra 100 pounds, but I still some space leftover which is in the regular seats , not even extra legroom or emergency exit row. I think the point the CEO is trying to make here is that it looks bad on paper, but might be doable in reality. I mean, the seats are really thin in spirit.

  9. I have flown Spirit on a couple of occasions with their current seat product. I actually find their seats to be more comfortable than some of the major airlines 30in pitch seats at least for short flights. The issue is that the padding is very thin and firm making it uncomfortable after while. The pre-recline allows you to kind of slide under the seat in front of you. The pre-recline also makes the seats much more difficult to get into and out of the seats. This makes me nervous about flying Spirit is, and despite having a fairly good safety record, when you pack that many seats and people in such a small space many of which are not regular flyers, with pre-reclined seats, I worry that egress during an emergency will be slow and difficult.

  10. Despite what everyone says about Spirit, I have found them to be comfortable and reliable. I normally have taken them on short domestic hops but recently I took flew them internationally as well (you can see full reviews on my blog – 0504.blogspot.com). Yes, they are not a full-service airline but they do not try to be and provide a price point and service in that market. I am 6’1 and the seat pitch on Spirit was actually better than I have found on some mainline carriers (American, Latam, etc.). At least in the U.S., on the mainline carriers you pay a higher fare and get one drink and a pack of pretzels for over 3+ hours, and sometimes FAs who just disappear and do not want to be bothered. On all of my flights, the FAs for Spirit have constantly been in the aisles and were pleasant and customer friendly. They are not trying to be a full service airline, so why compare them to one?

  11. Is it just me or from the picture the seat (hip cushions) is shorter.

    That’s probably Spirit’s secret. Shorten the seat and you get more ‘usable’ legroom. Pre recline and your weight shifts to the lower back instead.

    To sum it up, more ‘illusional’ space during flight and back pain after flight.

  12. Usable space is more important than seat pitch itself, I agree with Spirit on that front. A 28″ pitch with seats that are 2″ thick is going to be the same usable space as a 30″ pitch with 4″ thick seats…

    Mind you that’s only important to the extent that seats can be thinner without being just hard uncomfortable plastic, which is another important matter…

  13. @Gary Leff “It’s better not just for where you put your legs but for how you’re able to work on a laptop, and how claustrophobic you feel.”

    We need automatic nomination to the No Fly List for people who try to open up a laptop in coach.

  14. I am a Delta Fortress Hub captive

    Lately I’ve taken to flying other airlines if there’s a direct option

    More and more, Spirit is the best

    Yes, you pay for everything

    However, in November I’m flying Big Front Seat round trip MSP-LAX FOR $280
    (Includes One carry on)

    On Delta, it’s $400 for coach.

    I’m sorry, but I’ll take a much bigger seat for $120 cheaper
    I can buy a coke for $2 or a wine for $7

    My Delta Gold status is almost useless anyway. No love unless you’re a Diamond in MSP

    As for IRROPS, I just use Freebird

    Glamorous? No.
    But I’m over glamour anyway.

    I’ve never flown Spirit in a non-Big Front Seat so cant comment

    But it can’t be much worse than AA Oasis seats.

  15. It will be interesting to see how the new, curved seat-backs, which Spirit touts as an innovation to provide additional legroom at opposite sides of each seat, but requires spreading one’s legs to gain the additional space, plays out once in use, as it will result in “Man-Spreading” for males – and well, not so sure women will view spreading their legs to gain the additional space at opposite sides of each seat-back as “ideally” suited to their comfort.

    I guess time will tell, and this discussion won’t be readily apparent until the diagrams/illustrations included with the marketing materials/press release are seen by others.

    However, an element of Spirit’s “innovation” to offer additional personal space (apart from the 1” wider center seat) is to change the seat-backs from “flat” to “curved” such that additional legroom is made available by curving, or tapering, seat-backs where additional space is offered at the opposite sides of each seat-back – think of it as “u” shaped or “c” shaped (with the “c” turned on its side once counter-clockwise) – and, well, to get that additional legroom one must spread their legs the width of each seat…ergo “Man-Spreading” for men, and something else that likely is hardly optimal for most women.

    We shall see…

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