Airbus has revealed a new research into the impact that seat width makes to levels of passenger comfort on board long-haul economy flights, and is calling on aviation industry to set a minimum standard of 45.72cm for seat width in order to improve the comfort of such flights.
Conducted by the Harley Street Medical Centre and The London Sleep Centre, the research used polysomnography, a type of sleep study, that recorded every standard psychological sleep measurement - including monitoring brainwaves, eye, abdominal, chest and hip/leg movement - on a selection of passengers.
Results showed that a minimum seat width of 45.72cm improved passenger sleep quality by 53 per cent when compared to the 1950's 43.18cm standard.
"The difference was significant. All passengers experienced a deeper, less disturbed and longer night's sleep in the 45.72cm seat. They went from one sleep stage to the next as you would expect them to do under normal circumstances," said Dr Irshaad Ebrahim from The London Sleep Centre.
He further commented that narrower 43.18cm seats caused passengers numerous disturbances during their slumber, which meant they rarely experienced deep restorative sleep.
"When it comes to flying long haul in economy, an inch makes a huge difference on passenger comfort," Dr Irshaad added.
The aviation industry has changed tremendously over the last 50 years, with more passengers flying further for longer distances.
In the last 5 years alone, the number of flights over 6000 nautical miles has increased by 70 per cent from 24 to 41 daily flights.
It's expected that passenger traffic will double in the next 15 years and by 2032, the world's airlines will service more than 29,220 new passengers on freighter aircraft.
While some airlines such as Airbus have always maintained a standard of 45.72cm minimum in its long-haul economy cabins, some manufacturers have taken to narrower seats in order to remain competitive.
"If the aviation industry doesn't take a stand right now, then we risk jeopardising passenger comfort into 2045 and beyond, especially if you take into account aircraft delivery timetables combined with expected years in service," said Kevin Keniston, Airbus' head of passenger comfort.
Varying BMI's and thoughts on personal space have encouraged other industries, such as leisure and automotive, to rethink seat width.
As a matter of fact, a recent research conducted into long-haul economy passengers across international airports revealed that seat comfort is now the most important criteria when booking a long-distance flight in economy.