The airline legroom league... and guess who isn't at the bottom!

The airline legroom league... and guess who isn't at the bottom!Getty

The most extensive survey ever into seat size and legroom on flights has revealed the best and worst airlines in economy.

Budget carrier Ryanair was bottom in the study of 32 leading airlines for seat width, with just 16 inches but for legroom the no-frills airline came 24th with 30 inches, while rival easyJet came 31st with 29 inches.

According to the Daily Mail, easyJet fared much better in the seat width league with 17.5 inches, giving it sixth spot.

This means you might be more comfortable with easyJet if you're a shorter, plumper passenger, but more likely to enjoy a Ryanair flight if you're slimmer and taller.

Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines were rated joint top for legroom, with 32 inches, while Emirates offered the best seat width, with a minimum of 18 inches and a maximum of 20.5 inches.

For seat width, British Airways came eighth with a minimum of 17.3 inches, but only 21st for legroom (30 to 31 inches).

Virgin Atlantic did better on both counts, with seats at 17.5 inches and 31 to 31 inches of legroom.

Business Traveller magazine and its sister website carried out the survey.

Bottom of the table for legroom was BA's sister airline Iberia with a minimum of 28 inches of legroom.

However, the survey noted that over half of Iberia's planes have a larger legroom than this, with 30 or 32 inches.

Passengers can upgrade to 'premium economy' to get extra space without paying business or first-class fares.

Turkish Airlines offers the most premium economy legroom with 46 inches, while Virgin Atlantic came top for seat width in premium economy with 21 inches.

Editor of the Business Traveller Airline Survey supplement, as part of the magazine's November issue, Jenny Southan said: 'If you're flying economy, an inch or two can make a lot of difference after a few hours, so it is worth knowing that while you might get a little bit more legroom on Ryanair than on easyJet, your seat won't recline on Ryanair.

'The airlines are fitting more seats on to the aircraft, although they say that this isn't affecting our legroom because the new type of economy seat cushion is thinner, increasing the amount of legroom by a small margin.

'Airlines are also charging for seats in exit rows or by bulkheads which can provide passengers with up to two extra feet of space.'

More than 8,000 individual items of data from 32 airlines were checked for the survey and the carriers were given the chance to double-check, update and verify figures before they were published.

Revealed! The worst airlines in the world
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The airline legroom league... and guess who isn't at the bottom!

Reviews on included this scathing comment: ‘Incredibly uncomfortable seats, poor food, rude staff who just wanted to get the meal service out of the way so they could stand at the rear of the plane and chat amongst themselves.’ Hopefully, the merger with British Airways will mean there's a hope for a rise in standards.

These less-than-glowing reviews on say it all: ‘…nothing could be as bad as EgyptAir. Dirty aircraft with disinterested crew. The toilets were filthy, food looked like leftovers from other airlines. The seating is exceptionally cramped and uncomfortable’ and ‘I find the staff on EgyptAir lazy and unprofessional.’ And apparently the seats aren’t cheap either!

Old planes and unexplained flight delays were among the common complaints about this Chinese airline. Customers alternately complained that flight attendants don’t speak English (although some praising the communication skills). Other comments included criticism of the poor quality of the food and service.

Oh dear, customers are not happy with their experience of this airline or its website. Shabby planes, flights being delayed, rescheduled or rerouted without notice or explanation. And the airline got the lowest score for its food. Altogether a big thumbs down from reviewers.

Chinese air travel isn’t coming off well according to Zagat findings. Customer comments on on this airline’s service included: ‘…poor food, warm drinks, inadequate English language skills of crew (including nonsensical inflight announcements), non-reclining seats… All in all, quite an unpleasant series of flights’ and ‘Be careful to check and re-check your booking, as flight times can (and did) change without notice. You can miss your flight very easily.’

Described by one reviewer as ‘the airline from hell’, you’d be forgiven for giving it a wide berth unless it ups its game considerably! Reviews included: ‘First, the airline could not fine my reservation… then they determined that "someone" had canceled it in spite of my confirming it on their website’; ‘The worst thing was the attitude of US airways staff and the lies they told us. I wouldn't touch them again with a barge pole’ and ‘Most of the staff are rude and unfriendly… All in all a terrible experience. Never again.’

It was the terminal at the airport that came in for most criticism here. Customers commented on the poor bus transfer to the gate and unfriendly staff. Another criticism was that the elderly and passengers with children weren’t properly catered for. And one reviewer said the pilot announced: 'Sorry, we do not fly today. The plane is broken'.

The general stampede for unallocated seats was a common criticism for easyJet. One customer complained: ‘It would cost the easyJet computer nothing to allocate seats and alleviate the impression one is fighting for a place on a bus that may be overfull’; another said: ‘My biggest concern was the feeling of chaos inboard. The safety demo audio was played at a very low volume, and people were speaking on their mobile phones during the safety demonstration, cabin crew seemingly not giving a damn.’ Other complaints include overbooked flights and disorganised service...

Lack of food on international flights, a poorly kept plane and bad service generally were all at the heart of the complaints by travellers. TOne passenger pulled no punches with the comment: ‘My trip from Lima, Peru to Boston was the biggest nightmare of my life next to getting all four of my wisdom teeth pulled while conscious’; another, commenting on the policy of charging for hand luggage, said: ‘Robbing people as they board your airplane should really help your already abysmal tardy departure record…’ and a third summed up with: ‘They charge for everything, their agents are rude, and the flights are overbooked, late, not that clean, and just an awful experience.’  Biggest gripe of all was the charges the airline makes for hand luggage.

It was not hard to find reviewers with a poor opinion of the budget airline. An overriding impression was one of being ripped off.  As one customer commented: ‘I've concluded that Ryanair is nothing but a great big social experiment to see how arrogant an airline can get and how low customer service can be pushed before the said airline starts to lose money….We keep coming back to this horrid airline with its miserable service in hope that we'll save a Euro or two. Reality is that we probably end up spending more money than we would have if we opted for a better airline’, while delivered a damning verdict: ‘They have to be the most customer unfriendly company I have come across. Dirty plane when we eventually got on, tired looking and dishevelled cabin crew. What more can I say - a shocking experience that I never wish to repeat.’


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