Spirit Airlines has become the latest carrier to offer new fixed recline seats, with the announcement that it is deploying Brice Seating’s new ‘B3100 Featherweight Super Light seat design’ across its Airbus narrowbody fleet (see specs).
The US low-cost carrier may receive some negative press for its move to a fixed recline, but is the solution really that bad? I recently spoke to Airbus head of aircraft interiors Bob Lange about fixed recline seats. Here is what he had to say:
We’re seeing a step forward in short-haul in particular in that we’re seeing a move to combine [lightweight slim designs] with a fixed recline. Traditionally the recline in the seat is very comfortable for the guy sitting in the seat, but is an intrusion for the person in the row behind. When it comes down to seats for short flights – a couple of hours or less in duration – there is a strong argument to optimize the angle and fix it, instead of having the recliner adjustable.
As well as optimizing the comfort, what that means is the increased living space gets shared between the passengers and the airline. You can improve somebody’s knee room but at the same time close up the seat pitch by an inch and get another row of seats in the aircraft. So for price sensitive carriers, they can also translate some of that benefit into more seats in the aircraft and keep prices down.
It drives other [efficiencies] as well. By fixing the recline, the seat manufacturers can drive more weight out of the seat, so they are helping the aircraft to burn less fuel, keep costs down, get a better environmental footprint and they are also able to keep costs down in terms of price of the seat and its maintenance costs because typically in economy class seats without in-flight entertainment (IFE), the recline mechanism is the least reliable part of the seat. By eliminating it, they can improve reliability, keep weight down, and simplify the seat.
The seats for short range flying are proving to be as comfortable as the seats they replace. So far the airlines are not going for fixed recline for longer-range flights because passenger value the ability to adjust. In a longer range flight, you would typically not close up the seat pitch to that extent.”
Here are the specs for Spirit’s new fixed recline seats. The 28in seat pitch looks tight, but remember that additional room for knees and shins has been carved out (not that I’m jumping up an down about this…I’ve got a 36in inseam for God’s sakes).
Air France recently introduced new fixed recline seats for short-haul flying. The solution, offered on Air France’s A320 family aircraft, was jointly designed by Air France and Recaro (see photo above).
AirAsia X’s experiment with fixed recline on long-haul flights was NOT a success, however, and the carrier recently began replacing those seats.