Talk about di-Spirit-ing.
As if travelers needed another reason to dread flying one of North America’s most notorious budget airlines, Miramar, Fla.-based Spirit Airlines has ranked dead last for passenger legroom in a new survey.
At the best of times, airplane seats can be notoriously cramped — and god forbid the passenger in front of you decides to recline.
But according to a team of researchers from Upgraded Points, which compiled a best-to-worst list of domestic airlines based on coach class seat wiggle room, not all carriers are created equal — and some are vastly inferior.
After crunching the numbers across the eight most popular airlines, Spirit came in dead last for personal space, tying with the also terribly disliked, if slightly less notorious Frontier Airlines.
Spirit and Frontier only provide an average of 28 inches of seat pitch, the industry definition for “the distance between a point on one seat and the same point on the seat in front of it.” That’s a whopping four inches less than legroom leader JetBlue, which offers 32.3 inches of pitch on their Airbus A320 and A321 planes.
“Legroom is a crucial aspect of passenger comfort, especially during longer flights,” Keri Stooksbury, the editor in chief of Upgraded Points, said in a statement.
“Our goal is to empower travelers with information that helps them make informed decisions while traveling. So, we’re happy to shed some light on which airlines prioritize more space for their passengers.”
Fourth came American Airlines, one of the largest airlines in the world, according to the study, with 30.2 inches of space between seats in their fleet of both Boeing and Airbus aircrafts.
Trailing barely behind in fifth was United with a seat pitch of 30.1 inches and Hawaiian Airlines with 29 inches of space.
The new data comes after an onslaught of complaints to the Federal Aviation Administration from disgruntled passengers, lamenting the narrow seating arrangements in the increasingly less friendly skies.
In 2022, the FAA asked customers for feedback on the shrinking seat sizes, welcoming a flood of over 26,000 complaints in a matter of days. “Torture” was the word on more than 200 passengers’ lips, when asked to describe the realities of flying coach.
“Flying is a common mode of transport, it is nice to feel like a human being and not a sardine,” one passenger wrote, CBS reported, highlighting that it is a luxury to be able to afford a premium seat with more legroom.
“The decency of having a modicum of comfort should not be reserved for the wealthy.”
Peter Kim, a conflict resolution expert at the University of Southern California, attributes the rise in bad behavior to the increasingly cramped conditions.
“The space we have in the economy is dramatically reduced from what it used to be when I was young,” Kim told Thrillist.