Why are airlines getting rid of reclining seats?


Why do airlines get rid of reclining seats?

Not long ago, all airline economy seats had a built-in reclining mechanism. Today, there are several models of seats that simply do not have such an opportunity.

Why did this happen, who benefits from it, and in general: is it good or bad that the passenger cannot recline his seat? 


How does the reclining seat back work? Hidden in the design under the seat cushion is a mechanism connected to a button on the armrest and a pneumatic system that returns the seat to an upright position.

For airlines, this is obviously a direct cost.

Firstly queue — for maintenance: any mechanism will break down someday, either due to normal wear and tear, or due to inaccurate use by passengers.

The second is weight gain. Most modern and lightweight aviation seats today weigh anywhere from 7 to 10 kilograms. Every kilogram saved means a reduction in the amount of fuel needed to transport it.

And thirdly, perhaps most importantly, — this creates extra work for flight attendants. If passengers argue with each other over the rules of etiquette for reclining seats, then the flight attendants have to resolve all such situations, thus delaying the service process. There were cases when the neighbors in the rows became so irritable that even flights were canceled for safety reasons. 

By 2010, a new generation of high-tech ultra-light seats began to enter the market. Their ultra-lightness was due to the lack of a reclining function. They were “pre-reclined”, with the back fixed at an angle between fully upright and unfolded.

First they were noticed by low-cost airlines. Typically operating flights of only a few hours, these airlines are “famous” for the fact that they exclude any “excesses” of its activities.

One of the first to introduce a new configuration was the British low-cost carrier Jet2 for package tourists. In 2009, he opted for pre-reclined seats from then-chair manufacturer Acro. The event passed almost unnoticed, but it was a revolution in the way airlines treat economy class seats.

Then called Clark, now — Series 3, the Acro chair featured several key highlights.

The first of them — the absence of a folding mechanism, and the second, even more important — both seat and backrest have a fixed concave shape.

This shape allows tall rear passengers to position their knees on either side of the recess and gain up to 5 centimeters of extra space.

Those 5 cm really matter. A single-aisle economy class aircraft, such as the Boeing 737 or Airbus A320, can accommodate about 30 rows of economy class seats, spaced about 76 cm apart. Subtract the back thickness from this and get usable space.

Saving 5 see in each row, the airline receives “extra” one and a half meters or the ability to add an extra row of seats.

Over the past ten years, many seat manufacturers have joined in the development of pre-folding seats and other ways to save centimeters and grams.

One of the most respected and successful — German company Recaro, known for its racing car seats. In addition to full-featured economy class seats for long haul flights, Recaro Aircraft Seating now offers slim, fixed seats for short haul flights.

Interestingly, an airline can choose a predetermined 15 or 18 degree backrest angle during seat installation. This helps to provide either more comfort by increasing the angle of the backrest, or to increase the number of passengers.

In addition, reclining does not violate the living space of passengers. Of the other obvious pluses — low total cost, fewer moving parts per seat, increased reliability and simplified maintenance, light weight and cost.

Each aircraft model has a certified maximum number of passengers — max pax. This, for example, is 244 economy class passengers on the Airbus A321neo narrow-body aircraft. However, some airlines with a spacious business class carry less than 150 passengers.

Obviously, the 244-seat version of this aircraft cannot be the most comfortable and spacious.

Over the past few For years, thin lightweight seats, previously used mainly by low-cost carriers, have found their way into full-service airlines, because they have to compete directly with cheaper “colleagues”.

However, the way out seems to be found. Airlines “invented” new format: the so-called “premium economy”. Extra legroom seats in the front of the economy class have been on sale, which have a more or less fully functional reclining seat model with AC outlets, while the regular seats in the economy are just pre-folded and have no power except USB sockets, and even then not always.

By the way, movable adjustable head restraints may also soon disappear, and the upholstery is increasingly changing from fabric to artificial leather.

However, on long-haul flights, it is unlikely If anything changes in terms of seats, they will allow passengers to lean back, only they will have a more modern shape with extra knee room. The same as the pre-reclined seats.

In the meantime, before pressing the button in the armrest, check what is behind you, lean back and raise the seatback slowly and smoothly, and preferably without assistance crew.

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