Why are 3 seat rows still most common ?

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  • RoyC

    When the most common travel bookings are doubles and singles why do most airlines and manufacturers still go for 3 seat rows as standard ? I can understand the economics of maximum capacity but surely the improved aerodynamic efficiency of a longer, narrower fuseiage would compensate – making 2×2 (or even 2×3) shorthaul the norm and 2x2x2 or 2x4x2 longhaul the norm,with even the possibility of 2x2x2x2 for 380 types.

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    Airlines usually go with 3-seat rows to pack in more people and make more moolah. The current setup makes it easy for folks to move around inside the plane. Now, while a longer, skinnier fuselage could make things more aerodynamic, there are other factors like manufacturing standards and passenger needs that come into play when deciding on seating arrangements.


    Air France operate A220 on some Intra European routes which have 2 seats on left side and 3 (D E F) on the other, I have used it a few times, in C only one of the two left seats are normally used. Embraer 190 series are all 2 x 2 layout as far as I know, but the narrower body means that the overhead bins are small.


    this is obviously long haul rather than short haul but the beauty of Qatars Q suites is it works so well for different sizes of party size. Single travellers, couples wanted a double bed and family of four. Genius.

    Ive never been forced to share BAs middle two club world seats with a strange but its literally my idea of hell.


    Hello RoyC – over the years airlines inaugurated aircraft with some twin seats in economy but, to boost revenue, they later squeezed in more capacity.


    * Early 707s were configured 2-3. Later this became 3-3.

    * Initially 747s were nine-across 3-4-2 (or 2-4-3).

    * 146s were 2-3 but some airlines changed this to 3-3.

    * Boeing intended its 787s to be -2-4-2. But all airlines, JAL excepted, went for 3-3-3.

    One aircraft that hasn’t changed, as ViajeroUK notes above, is the A220.

    * A380 has always been 3-4-3.

    As we as mentioned many times before in the magazine and in Online News if you want more space and comfort travellers must pay for it.

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    I remember flying on a few DC10’s and they mixed it up a bit.

    I flew on a Delta one which had a 2x5x2 configuration. And a Northwest DC10 that had a 3x4x2 set up.

    Many airlines later also went ten across on the DC10 with 3x4x3 seating.

    Also to add to the list is the 777. For ages you only seen it in a 3x3x3 set up and now 3x4x3 is the norm.


    I know this is regional/ long-haul but Malaysia Airlines still offers a very civilised 2-4-2 seating arrangement in Economy (if, as a couple, you can snag a 2).


    Most airlines flying A330 aircraft are still 2-4-2. Still my preferred setup.


    As most replied, it is space management. The aisle space is a waste as far as airlines is concerned and there is no way they will have 2 aisles for smaller aircraft s. For larger aircraft they forced to keep more aisle space to meet the 90sec emergency evacuation rule.

    BathVIP comments about sedation is hilarious, but I am not sure why for long haul flight no one is coming with some kind of bunk bed idea. There is not much issue to keep seat upright during takeoff and landing in these days of safe design; so let’s say night flights of 6-8 hours airlines ask everyone to have dinner at airport and board in to a bunk system like sleeper trains. I think a good design could pack a lot of bunks if part of cargo space is taken.


    There is little new about bunk beds in long-haul aircraft.
    There is little new about bunk beds fitted in long-haul aircraft.

    Boeing Stratocruisers, Lockheed Constellations, and Douglas DC-6s all had sleeping accommodations (bunks) for transatlantic passengers with some offering luxury hotel type comfort: upper and lower berths with mattresses and sheets, Pullman-style curtains for privacy, windows, reading lights, and sometimes breakfast in bed.
    Sabena DC-6Bs were fitted with luxury bunks the mid-1950s
    KLM seem to have had bunk beds in the 1960’s and there are images online
    Air NZ launched; with something of a fanfair bunk beds for its B787s but never fitted them it seems ?

    This is I believe is/was the IATA regulation re bunk beds but stand to be corrected –
    “Bunk beds in passenger aircraft must have at least two upper bunk guardrails, with at least one rail on each side. Lower bunks with mattress foundations that are 30 inches or less from the floor do not have to have guardrails.”


    From my experience, airlines often stick with the three-seat arrangement for efficiency – it’s a balance between maximizing capacity and passenger comfort. Speaking of efficient layouts, it reminded me of the well-organized setup during my recent desert safari dubai adventure. Sometimes the classics just work.


    Mya652 said “a balance between maximizing capacity and passenger comfort”. Thank you for your comment, but my memory of flying economy class over the past decades reminds me that the balance is about 1% comfort and 99% maximizing capacity. Applying the word “comfort” to economy class is a losing fight in my opinion.

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    Most annoying indeed! For couples, I recommend selecting an Airbus A-330 or similar with rows of two’s on either side of the cabin. I did so in September on SAS for my transatlantic flight from the USA.

    David Granville

    I think one reason we will miss the 767, is the popular 2-3-2 layout – giving 85% of passengers a window or aisle, with the 787 offering 3-3-3, this drops to 67% and lacks the opportunity to seat couples by themselves

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