Why not more seats in economy class? Airbus unveils 11-seat rows for A380

An Airbus A380-800 jetliner belonging to Emirates lands at Toronto Pearson International Airport. (File Photo). Larry MacDougal/The Canadian Press

If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “Gee, I wish there was a way to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with 10 friends on a long-distance flight,” you’re in luck.

Airbus plans to squeeze more seats into its largest jet, the A380, in a “Budget Economy” configuration that will be 11 seats across — three-seat outer sections on either side of the cabin and five seats across the middle.

Although the Budget Economy section won’t be available to airlines until 2017, the layout is being showcased at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany this week.

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Airline passengers may be concerned about just how cramped the cabin might be, but according to a statement from Airbus the seats will be 45.3 centimetres wide — the same width as seats on other Airbus aircraft.

As Mashable reported, it could be worse: budget airline Ryanair offers wonderfully smaller seats that are just 43 centimetres wide.

The size of seats has become a cause for concern, so much that the U.S. Department of Transportation heard established an advisory group to examine the issue.

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“In a world where animals have more rights to space and food than humans,” said Charlie Leocha, the committee’s consumer representative, “it is time that the DOT and FAA take a stand for humane treatment of passengers.”

But as some air carriers shrink seats or cram more in, also revealed at the expo was Southwest Airlines’ plans for wider seats.

Southwest, which hails itself as “the operator of the largest Boeing 737 fleet in the world” is awaiting the 2016 delivery of Boeing 737-800 and Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

The airline unveiled what it calls the “next generation in aircraft seating.”

“The new aircraft seats are the widest economy seats available in the single-aisle 737 market, and offer a unique design that gives our customers what they asked for: more space,” Bob Jordan, Southwest’s Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer, said in a statement.

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So, just how much room will you have to relax during your flight? The new seats will be 45.2 centimetres — about 1.5 centimetres wider than the seats on its current fleet of planes.

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But, there is a catch.

In widening the bum space, Southwest is slicing arm space. The new seats appear to have slimmer armrests.

Airline news service Runway Girl Network showed an armrest comparison on Twitter, using two Euro coins to demonstrate the difference in width.

Want to see how airline seats have changed over the years? Check out our infographic below.

Leo Kavanagh, Global News

Infographic by Leo Kavanagh, Global News

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