I’ve never liked airline seats, but you’ve got to admit they’re much better and way more comfortable than sitting in a car for hours—especially if you’re traveling internationally. But I’ve always wondered how international flights differ from flying domestic—particularly regarding their seats. Do international flights have bigger and better seats, or is it just in my head?
International flights do not typically have bigger and better seats than domestic flights. However, some airlines adjust their seats to make passengers more comfortable during long trips. Of course, this isn’t common for all international airlines and depends on the seating class and plane size.
International flights are similar to domestic flights in several ways—they just involve longer trips and more time in the airplane cabin. So, it’s understandable you’d be concerned about their seating situation. In this article, I’ll dive into everything you need to know about seats on international flights and how the class you’re flying can affect your seat quality.
Are International Flights Roomier?
The Federal Aviation Ministry (FAA) regulates all air travel in the United States but allows airlines to handle their international flight operations as they wish — as long as it’s legal. Therefore, it’s common for airlines to use larger aircraft for international flights since it’s better for their bottom line and allows them to transport more people using fewer trips.
International flights are roomier if the airline uses bigger planes for their operations. These planes typically sport bigger cabins and offer their passengers more legroom. However, the seats are usually the standard 17 or 18 inches (43 or 46 centimeters) you’d find in most commercial aircraft.
Some international flights also modify their cabins to have two aisles, and these planes are usually roomier. Their two-aisle configuration offers increased headroom and two extra aisle seats per row.
On the same note, other airlines prioritize the comfort of their passengers by cutting down on the number of seats in their airplanes. This helps create more space. However, they usually do this for higher cabin classes.
Still, it’s possible to fly with airlines that offer more considerable legroom — or seat pitch in the aviation business — while flying economy. For example, Air France and Thai Airways’ Boeing 777s provide economy seats that offer passengers up to 87 inches (221 centimeters) of seat pitch.
And considering that the average seat pitch is 31 to 35 inches (79 to 89 centimeters), the extra legroom will help passengers on international flights enjoy their flights better.
However, 87 inches (221 cm) is pretty uncommon, but they’re usually the most comfortable seats. If you’d like the legroom, I recommend checking with whatever airline you’re flying with to get those seats.
Of course, there’s more to comfort than leg room — and the best seats on international flights are usually the same as you’d find on domestic flights. As such, you can go for window and aisle seats, exit rows, and seats close to the plane’s front if you’re interested in having an enjoyable trip. Front cabin seats are especially perfect for shorter trips and connecting passengers since they allow you to deplane quicker.
What Kind of Seats Are on International Flights?
Seating on international flights is pretty much similar to what you’d find on domestic flights. That said, every airline has unique offerings for all passenger classes. Airlines design their cabins for comfort, but knowing the differences between each type of seat will help you select the optimal seat class for your needs.
Fortunately, airlines split their seatings into four categories — and you’ll get more comfort based on how much you pay.
Here are the types of airplane seats you’ll find on international flights:
- Economy Class seats
- Premium Economy Class seats
- Business Class seats
- First-Class seats
Airline cabin classes exist to serve different kinds of passengers — from those requiring more room to passengers who would like to get to their destination by paying less. These classes offer different types of amenities to their passengers, and you’ll get the most comfort and extra perks by paying for the priciest cabin class — read first class.
Each class has slightly different seats, but higher classes on international flights typically offer more perks to passengers when compared to domestic flights. So you can expect to have bigger and better seats if you’re paying for a more expensive class on an international flight.
Let’s go over what each cabin class seat looks like on international flights.
Economy Class Seats
Economy class seats — sometimes called Travel or Coach class seats — are the cheapest seats available on airplanes, and they’re so-called since they’re popular among leisure passengers. Airlines typically use three-seat arrangements in Economy class seats to accommodate more passengers. However, some airlines use 3-4-3 seat configurations if their airplanes are big enough for the two-aisle system.
Economy seats typically have seat pitches of 31 to 35 inches (79 to 89 centimeters), but some airlines offer up to 87 inches (221 centimeters). I recommend you research what kind of economy seats are available on the airline you’re flying with to prepare yourself ahead of time.
Stuck with a middle seat on your trip? Here’s how to sleep comfortably in a plane’s middle seat.
Premium Economy Class Seats
Premium Economy class seats are pretty similar to Economy class seats, but they offer more legroom for their passengers. However, you’ll usually find the same type of seats in both cabin classes. Premium Economy seats are more expensive than Economy seats, but the perks make them worth it.
Different airlines refer to Premium Economy class seats by many names, so confirm with your travel agent to ensure you’re getting the right seats.
Business Class Seats
Business Class (Executive Class) seats have bigger and better seats than Premium Economy and Economy classes and are typically used by business travelers. They offer seats that can be up to 21 inches (53 centimeters) wide with 57 inches (145 centimeters) of pitch — thus offering double the legroom of lower-class seats.
However, many airlines provide significantly larger seats.
First-class cabin seats are the most expensive and luxurious way to travel on an airplane. The seats are generally located at the plane’s front, and they provide passengers with the best experience on any airline.
It’s common to see First class seats two inches wider than Business class seats. While some First class cabins provide passengers with up to 30 inches (76 centimeters) of seat pitch, others provide seats that resemble suites — allowing first-class passengers to enjoy an optimal travel experience.
International flights are similar to domestic flights, but they don’t typically have bigger and better seats. However, some airlines use bigger planes that may provide more legroom for passengers, allowing them slightly greater comfort.
Airlines offer different experiences to different customers, so I recommend you talk to a travel agent to get a feel of what you’re getting before booking an international flight.
- Federal Aviation Ministry: International Travel
- Quora: Do international flights have bigger seats?
- Quora: Why are there different classes on airplanes?
- AZ Central: Are International Seats Roomier Than Domestic?
- Aero Corner: The Different Types of Airplane Seats On International Flights
- Frommers: Getting the Biggest Seats in the Air
- Cheap Air: What are the different classes of service on a plane?
- Nerd Wallet: What to Look for in Airline Seat Reviews
- Forbes: Airlines’ Seat Pitch Gets Shorter And Passengers Reach Their Limits
- CNN Travel: How to find the world’s roomiest airplane seats
- Los Angeles Times: The Straight and Narrow of International Airline Seats
- U.S. Department Of State — Bureau Of Consular Affairs: International Travel
- Boeing: Boeing 777