Lonely Planet Writer

Ever wondered why seats are not aligned with windows on an airplane?

Getting the window seat could be a lot more fun if the window was actually in line with your seat, right?  But most of the time passengers have to lean forward to get the all important view from above.  So why do our seats and windows not actually align?

The relationship between seats and windows on an plane are not as imagined.
The relationship between seats and windows on an plane are not as imagined. Image by Getty Images

Plane manufacturers actually plan for seat row positioning which generally line up with windows. However, all that changes when an airline buys a plane and wants to increase its profit and competitiveness by cramming more seats into the original design. As this video from todayifoundout explains…

Different carriers have different needs, and so require the plane manufacturers to give them options by installing multiple tracks on the floor where seats can be mounted. This allows airlines to push the seat rows closer together or further apart, depending on what they want to achieve. Usually, it boils down to bums-on-seats and getting in more revenue per flight. Many of the budget airlines want to be more competitive than their rivals and lower ticket prices by squeezing in more seats.  Though customers like comfort, they are more attracted to price particularly on short flights and will make their choice on that basis.

Interior of empty passenger jet
Interior of empty passenger jet Image by Getty Images

Manufacturers like Boeing may recommend a layout of 3+3+3 on a Boeing 777 with a 32-inch (81.2 cm) pitch for economy passengers. The advice is often disregarded by airlines and this changes the relationship between seat and window.

Airplane, aeroplane, or aircraft
The distance between seats is a lot tighter than 20 years ago.    Image by Getty Images

Twenty years ago, the distance was 34 inches (86.3 cm) but that has reduced by three inches (7.6 cm) in the recent past to 31 inches, with new incidences of a further three-inch reduction to 28 inches (71 cm) now appearing in some aircraft.  The airlines are also cutting the distance in width – despite the fact that people’s girth has historically never been wider than at present. Airbus built its A330 to have eight seats per row but with several carriers using thinner seat measurements than the recommended width, they can achieve an extra seat per a row.