analytical Q May-Aug 2000 Sept-Dec 2000 Contact Discussion

The Diary
Anne Ku

15 December 2000 Friday




The sad story of the 28-year-old bride-to-be who died from deep vein thrombosis on a long-haul flight has made some travellers consider the seat width and pitch (distance between rows of seats) in their choice of airline.

Personally, short flights (London to Amsterdam is only 45 minutes) don't bother me. Economy class is fine. But the risk in long haul flights, like London to Singapore (12 to 14 hours) or London to New York (up to 8 hours) does concern me.

First and business classes aside, the concern is really in the economy class where passengers are crammed together. "Economy" stands for "economy of scale" not "economic fares." Virgin Atlantic was one of the first to capitalise on passengers who think economy class but prefer business class comfort. They created a dedicated cabin called "Premium Economy" with 38 inches between the back of one seat and the next (the pitch). British Airways and British Midland will match this magic 38 number in their new enhanced economy classes. Considering the minimum legal seat pitch is 26 inches, the extra 12 inches make a world of difference.

Nothing is given away for free, however. The cheapest roundtrip, restricted, inflexible, direct, nonstop, offpeak economy class airfare from London to New York and back can be as low as £200. Premium Economy would cost just over a thousand pounds. And Business Class? £3,500. Sounds like a logarithmic scale!

Related diary entry:
money and travel sections
Pitch statistics for economy class
American Airlines B777: 34-36 inch
Malaysian B747: 34 in
Singapore Airlines B747-400: 32 inch
British Airways B747-400: 31 inch
Virgin Atlantic B747-400: 30-31 inch
United B777/B747: 31 inch
Airtours Int. B767/A330: 28 inch
For more information, visit Sunday Times airline's economy seating details
The Lords report full report from the House of Lords on health in the air.