A Boeing 787 of the travel company Tui takes off from the southern runway at Gatwick Airport: Credit Photographer Peter Nicholls/Reuters
By Ertan Karpazli
Going on holiday abroad could be the highlight of your year, but that’s only if it turns out to be worth the stress we go through to journey to our destination. All the checks we go through at the airport can be stressful enough, but then getting on to your plane and finding out the seats are so tiny that you’ll have no wiggle room is another hassle.
By law, UK-based airlines need to provide at least 28 inches between your headrest and the one in front. This is called ‘seat pitch’ and is the best indicator of how much space you’ll have for your legs when jetting off from the likes of Heathrow and Gatwick airports.
According to Which?, in terms of long-haul flights, the leading airline for seat pitch – giving the most leg room – is TUI Airways, which provides 33 inches. However, they are on the lower end of the spectrum when it comes to seat width, providing just 17 inches.
Emirates and Singapore Airlines come joint second for leg room when looking at long haul airlines, with 32 inches each.
British Airways provides a respectable 31 inches of pitch for long-haul flights, while providing half an inch more than TUI on width. Etihad and KLM provide the same leg room. Virgin Atlantic, meanwhile, only gives passengers a seat pitch of 29 inches, although the airline is more generous when it comes to width, providing 18 inches in that department.
For short-haul flights, TUI is actually at the bottom end of the scale, providing only the bare minimum for seat pitch – 28 inches. but the airline adds an extra 0.2 inches on the width of the seat for short-haul flights. Jet2, KLM and Ryanair come out on top for short haul with 30 inches of leg room each.
easyJet and British Airways fare better on short-haul flights with 29 inches of seat pitch. The former, however, provides an extra inch for the arms, with 18 inches compared to BA’s 17. Jet2 also provides a standard 17 inches of arm room on short-haul flights, but makes up for that by providing 30 inches of pitch.
Here’s the breakdown a little more clearly:
Best long haul airlines for seat pitch (leg room)
TUI – 33 inches
Emirates – 32 inches
Singapore Airlines – 32 inches
British Airways – 31 inches
Etihad – 31 inches
KLM – 31 inches
Air Canada – 30 inches
American Airlines – 30 inches
Virgin Atlantic – 29 inches
Best short haul airlines for seat pitch (leg room)
Jet2 – 30
KLM – 30
Ryanair – 30
British Airways – 29
easyJet – 29
TUI – 28