Alex McWhirter looks back on yesterday's travel. This month: A 1970 article on B747 economy seating
Boeing’s far-sighted B747 design team wanted to offer economy passengers more space. They knew the average human was becoming larger thanks to improved nutrition.
So Pan Am asked Boeing to provide B747 economy seating of a standard never before seen. The B747’s seats of 1970 were configured 3-4-2. Cushions were two inches wider than the B707’s equivalent, and seat pitch was at least 34 inches.
Other B747 airlines adopted this low-density layout too – not because they were especially generous but because they worried about how to fill the extra seats. A B747 carried two and a half times more passengers than a B707. (In 1970, airlines had no pricing freedom thanks to IATA, so they couldn’t be creative on pricing like today.)
Sadly, this generosity lasted only a decade. By the 1980s, mass travel and the arrival of business class prompted the airlines to tighten up economy class to today’s standards.