Will slim seats pitched at 27 inches be used in 195-seat A320?

Think that aircraft seat pitch can’t get any tighter than 28 inches? Think again. Ultra slimline economy class seat concepts under development by Zodiac Aerospace and other interiors companies could accommodate a 27-inch seat pitch, and are targeted at the short-haul market.

The latest innovations in seat geometry are particularly well timed. EASA last week issued a Type Certificate (TC) update that provides a path forward to increase capacity on the Airbus A320 to 195 seats – a whopping 15 more seats than the current 180-seaters now flying, and six more than the 189-seat capacity for which Airbus recently sought approval.

A320 seats“Modification 156723 enables the maximum seating capacity to be increased up to 195. This modification defines a virtual envelope of the Layout of Passenger Accommodations (LOPA) and does not constitute an authorization for the installation of seats in excess of 180. A separate approval is needed for the installation of the individual customized cabin layout and the necessary cabin adaptations up to 195 seats,” said Airbus.

The European airframer can incorporate its high-capacity aft galley configuration with modular lavatories to add some seats to the A320. But savvy flyers wonder whether super slim seats will be pitched at 27 inches to accommodate 195 seats. They’re also asking how evacuations can be achieved in 90 seconds, even with larger doors and wider evacuation slides.

We know that Airbus believes seat width plays a far more important role in passenger comfort than seat pitch. Indeed, the airframer suggests that an 18-inch wide seat (featured on the A320) pitched at 28 inches is equivalent to a 17-inch wide seat (featured on the Boeing 737) pitched at 30 inches. It’s not a stretch to assume, then, that the airframer and its airline customers see an opportunity to shave another inch from the pitch, offering 27 inches, and still remain competitive.

Airbus seats

Seat makers have been prepping for the prospect that higher-density aircraft configurations are in the offing. Zodiac, for instance, last year unveiled three new forward facing seat concepts at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg.

Two of the three designs were pitched at 27 inches, even though a 28-inch pitch has traditionally been considered an informal bare minimum standard in the industry. Zodiac executive VP communications and investor relations Pierre-Antony said he believed the seats would pass certification at 27-inch pitch because the requirement is not about inches, but rather “the ability to debark the aircraft very quickly”.

A third design, a carbon-fiber composite seat known as L3, was displayed in a 28-inch pitch, and is now being offered to airlines. Developed in partnership with Hexcel, L3 is “quite advanced with our certification process”, said Vastra. See a video of the three designs below.

Noted travel analyst Henry Harteveldt said he is concerned that airlines would adopt ultra-slimline seats for aircraft that fly medium-haul or even longer. “Particularly for airlines that service North American and European markets – where there is an aging population on flights of four or five hours or more – you need to provide a certain amount of lumbar support for comfort, and the thinness makes me wonder can you support what passengers want to have in terms of comfort and, for instance, use your laptop in a reasonable manner?”

He said his primary concern, however, is safety. “They have to stand up to 16G testing; that takes a certain amount of strength. And then my concern is egress from the cabin. Can you get a plane packed at 27-inch pitch through the number of exits? The question is – will they be able to get across that hurdle?”

Yet, it seems the only thing that held airlines back from adopting 27-inch pitch on the A320 in the past is the fact that the aircraft was only certified for a maximum load of 180 seats. “The A320 has an exit limit of 180, and you don’t even have to go to 27 inches” to achieve that, Lufthansa Group executive VP fleet management Nico Buchholz told journalists at a media briefing in New York in late 2013.

That’s no longer the case.

In addition to certifying the A320 for more seats, Airbus has developed a overhead bin solution for the narrowbody, as first reported by RGN. Like the Boeing 737NG’s Sky Interior, the new pivot bin coupled with mood lighting – shown today at the ISTAT conference in Phoenix for the re-engined A320 – gives passengers a sense of more space.

But at the end of the day, we know we’re a hair’s breath away from being stacked like cordwood in-flight.

Jon O

See Zodiac’s new seat concepts in the video below. Note that I am just shy of 6ft tall.


  1. Wow, that’s not bad knee clearance for 27″ pitch. I think I’d squish into that about the same as I do on a standard 30″ seat (eg: a bit crushed and a spot of pain – I’m over 6′ tall & about 250 pounds 🙂 ).

    How was the comfort & support for your back & bottom though? What would it be like after an hour sitting in one position with very little room to change positions?

    While lack of recline isn’t such a big issue (the person in front of you is already pretty close so it’s actually a bonus 🙂 ) the padding looked pretty slim.

    • Mary Kirby

      These are, without a doubt, the slimmest slim aircraft seats I’ve ever sat on. I don’t have much padding on my bum so I think I could deal with it for about a two-hour flight (which is about the flight length being targeted here). One feature on L3 that I should have highlighted in the video is how the seat bottom is a single bench-type design (with slight grooves to set the line of demarcation between each seat). L3 is the closest to market entry. I wonder if these could be pitched at 27 inches. I had quite decent legroom at 28 inches (stretching out fully beneath the seat in front of me). 😀

      • Interesting that there’s no “wall” between the seats. That could allow for those airlines that want to charge extra for those who spill over into more than one seat (or make it easier to lie down & relax for those of us lucky enough to get 3 seats to ourselves 🙂

        So long as the bean counters don’t start thinking about using those seats on long-haul. That’d be yet one more reason for me to save more $$$ to cover premium economy (or better 🙂 ). For anything over 2 hours, I like my comfort as arriving refreshed & ready is worth a few $$$ 🙂

  2. Robert

    Cabin Crew are expected to evacuate all passengers in 90 seconds?? People will never get out of the row in time.

    • Uwe

      What I’ve understoodf of evacuation design door egress is much more of a bottleneck than leaving a seat row. ( You can block 2 for egress from a seat row while you can block ~50 with a pile-up just in front of a door. For terra firma evacuation concepts you can place a large !nocorners! object in the exit pathway ahead of a limiting door. Not available on aircraft due to space limitations.)

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  4. Ian Hodgkiss

    90 seconds for evacuation is for the cabin crew while they are in training and gym junkies. Watch what happens in the real world when fat, old people try to get out carrying their bags of medicine!!!!!!!!! The current race to squeeze more and more seats into a finite space is plain stupidity. It will take a forced landing followed by a major fire that kills most of the passengers to change the situation. Until comfort and safety return, I will only fly when absolutely necessary. Paying money to be subjected to this type of pain and the risk of DVT from lack of fresh air really is starting to make me think again about going on holiday by air.
    The width of the new seats is the defining measurement for comfort when flying for more than an hour if you have any sort of medical condition that requires you to change your position on a regular basis for blood flow or muscle stress. As we age, this gets to be something you have to do, not something you want to do, and the discomfort is certainly not something you pay for! I can’t imagine how bad it would be to fly with so many people around coughing and farting and smelling of stale BO with breath that could take the chrome off a tow ball but apparently even though economy class probably gives the airlines a quantifiable profit, they treat people in that part of the aircraft as scum.
    Off topic but relevant – back when you paid real money for a seat and had space, I suppose we were all flying what is now called premium economy? Going upstairs meant you were first class and business class was at the pointy end. Hot towels and a boiled sweet anyone?

  5. Ray Sharradh

    Sure, take away pitch and increase width and you get the same or more personal space. But when you take away pitch, it’s not like a person 6’2″ (such as me) can snap his fingers and shift four inches of height into width. And I wonder why I quit flying except when ABSOLTELY necessary over five years ago.

  6. There is no hard evidence to confirm this possibility, but the herein reported developments (A320 —> 195 pax, A321 —> 240 pax, 738 —> 200 pax etc) bring testimony to the hypothesis of a recent hush-hush agreement between industry actors (Boeing, Airbus, FAA and EASA ? but in the absence of Airline involvement, as well as of international Flight Attendant Unions – eg AFA-CWO etc – involvement), where the controversial (very messy indeed !) cabin emergency evacuation demonstration in 90 seconds may have been CANCELLED with immediate effect, to be replaced by a simple ETSIA computer-simulation paperwork LOPA safety clearance :


    If this assumption is correct, it would be of some diligence to have these developments CONFIRMED by the parties concerned ?! In particular, the professional opinion of Airline HSE from around the world, as well as Flight Attendant Unions, should corroborate or invalidate the decision to abandone the demonstration, which so far has served faithfully as the Cerberes guarding airline Passengers from crossing Styx …

  7. Uwe

    Citroen for the 2CV Series and Fiat for the Panda line used to have hammock like seating that was rather comfy to sit on even for longer travel times.
    ( Nothing said about crashworthyness in this context.)

    Is there some scientific research writeup around that covers the tradeoffs between seat width, seat pitch and cushion height?

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