Long the butt of every joke about shrinking space in air travel, Spirit Airlines on Monday unveiled new seats at an airline industry expo, including a revamped “Big Front Seat,” larger tray tables, more padding, and middle seats that are wider than those on the window or aisle.
The new seating will be installed starting in November on new planes. A spokesman for the airline also said they would retrofit some of their existing fleet but would not provide any details on the timeline or how many planes would get the new seats.
“We have listened to our Guests, and we are responding with these new, more comfortable seats,” CEO Ted Christie said in a statement.
The first change Spirit flyers will notice is an overhauled Big Front Seat, Spirit's pseudo First Class offering that offers far more space at the front of the cabin. Already a great alternative for travelers looking to spend a bit more for more comfort, Spirit is adding memory foam to the headrests and back supports of these seats while branding them with the airline's signature black-and-yellow look.
But more changes are in store for the bulk of Spirit flyers at the back of the plane. The airline promises these new seats will be more comfortable thanks to a composite shell with more foam padding. Those changes, they say, will increase the “usable legroom” compared to comparable slimline seats.
Spirit has its place in the airline industry, thanks to its low fares. And we found in a recent review that it certainly does the job to get you somewhere for cheap. But there's no denying that its seats can be uncomfortable. Whether these new seats are a true improvement remains to be seen.
Spirit is also giving some extra space to passengers stuck in the middle seats, which will expand to 18 inches wide. But it comes at the expense of your neighbors. While most Spirit seats flying today measure 17 3/4″ inches across, that will shrink to just 17 inches.
And finally, the airline is adding full-sized tray tables and higher literature pockets. That will certainly be an improvement over Spirit's puny tray tables.
Only time will tell whether Spirit's new seats live up to its marketing. There are certainly upsides and downsides. And until we know just how much – if at all – Spirit plans to retrofit its existing fleet, it's a mystery whether you're more likely to get on the newer seats or fly in the older ones.