These Airlines Have the Most Legroom

When it comes to flying, personal space is a premium. So when searching for flights, most passengers prioritize airlines with the most legroom at each coach seat. Unfortunately, not all economy seats are created equal, with some low-cost carriers offering a tight 28 inches of "pitch"—the industry word for how much space you have between your seat and the one in front. This trend is unlikely to change soon: As travel returns to pre-pandemic levels, hard-hit airlines are prioritizing sold-out planes over investing in comfort and service. 

Still, we’ve found a few airlines with which travelers can score an extra bit of wiggle room. (Because airlines are constantly updating their cabins and fleets, the figures listed below are subject to change.) 

The airlines in the U.S. with the most legroom in economy are:

JetBlue Airways: 32-34 inches

Coming in hot with both the most legroom of domestic airlines and a win as our Readers’ Choice for best U.S. airline is JetBlue Airways. The “Core” experience, as JetBlue refers to its economy class, is cushy beyond generous legroom: The airline remains dedicated to offering free Wi-Fi as well as on-demand entertainment with TVs at every seat, on all its aircraft, from its brand-new Airbus A220s down to the smallest planes, 100-seat Embraer E190s. And, if we were also measuring legroom for domestic first-class seats, JetBlue would win there, too; the just-launched A321neo flying between New York and Los Angeles features two “Mint Studio” suites at the front of the premium cabin, each measuring 22.7 square feet and with a seat that transforms into a lie-flat bed which, at its widest point, will shock even restless side sleepers with 45 inches of space.

Southwest Airlines: 32 inches

Another carrier that prioritizes the comfort of budget fliers? Southwest Airlines, whose seats offer the second most room to stretch in the U.S. The all-economy carrier flies a fleet of only Boeing 737 planes, all which sport seating layouts with 32 inches of pitch. That even includes the more efficient Boeing 737 MAX—most airlines opted for denser cabins on these planes, (more on that below). The only U.S. operator of 737 MAXs to ignore this opportunity to shave off some leg space is Southwest.

Silver Airways: 31-33 inches

The underdog of the U.S. rankings is Silver Airways. This boutique airline flies planes of 70 passengers or fewer on short routes around the Southeast, Bahamas, and Caribbean. Its ATR aircraft may be small, but the legroom isn’t terrible, and those with long legs will appreciate the space on flights between the likes of Huntsville, Alabama, and Orlando.

Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Hawaiian Airlines: 31-32 inches

All three of these carriers offer a solid 31 to 32 inches of seat pitch in their economy cabins. What's more? Alaska Airlines offers an outlet and USB port at each seat. And if you're booked in international economy with Delta, you can expect extra perks like a welcome Bellini, more generous drinks service, and sweet treats after your in-flight meal and upon arrival. 

American Airlines and United Airlines: 31 inches

Shaving some inches off the overall average legroom for a few U.S. airlines is the aforementioned Boeing 737 MAX plane, which has returned to the skies following a 20-month grounding due to a major software flaw. Airlines flying 737 MAXs—both American and United in the U.S.—opted to put more seats in each cabin in these newer planes, giving economy spots only 30-31 inches of legroom. 

At the bottom, with seriously squashed legs and no hope of reclining, are passengers on low-cost carriers, including Allegiant (30 inches), Frontier (28 inches), and Spirit (28 inches).

Around the World

In the wider world of long-haul routes that typically require larger planes, the status of economy legroom is not much improved; 31 inches reigns as standard seat pitch. Nonetheless, we’re happy to report that some international airlines do go above and beyond to give you more room below. 

These carriers have the most legroom for long-haul flights:

Japan Airlines: 33-34 inches

For many years, Mexico City-based Interjet held the top spot for best economy legroom, at 34 inches. The COVID-19 pandemic changed that, however; Interjet ceased operations in December 2020 and its aircraft were parked.

Rising to the top is Japan Airlines, who holds number one on a slight technicality. While much of their fleet continues to offer the generous “Sky Wider” economy of 33-34 inches, the airline just added Airbus A350s with 31 inches in economy. These newer, tighter aircraft don’t bring down the average, however; they are reserved for short, domestic Japan routes only and so do not figure into a ranking of long-haul legroom.

ANA, Emirates, EVA Airways, and Singapore Airlines: 32-34 inches

All four of these carriers consistently rank among Traveler readers' favorite airlines year after year, in large part for the way the prioritize passenger comfort, even at the back of the plane. While all three have comparatively spacious coach seats, we recommend trying their premium economy product if you get the chance, as they offer some of the best, roomiest seats in that cabin as well. 

Worthy of a mention are the Middle East’s Big Three of Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Airways, whose tooth-and-nail competition with each other (and against other major international airlines) means relatively generous 32-inch legroom prevails. Emirates inches ahead in this ranking for their summer 2021 post-pandemic return of the increasingly rare Airbus A380 to three U.S. routes (New York-JFK in June, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles in July), bringing the superjumbo aircraft’s 32-34 inch legroom economy class back as an option. 

Air China, Air France, Ethiopian Airlines, and Korean Air: 32-33 inches

With a notable legroom range or 32 to 33 inches, you won't feel too hemmed in on any of these four carriers' economy cabins. Their coach seats can come with extra perks, too: Korean Air's economy class, for example offers in-seat power outlets, mood lighting, and even a timed wake-up service from cabin crew.

Cathay Pacific, SWISS, and Vietnam Airlines: 32 inches

Flying with any of these three comfortable airlines in coach will guarantee you a respectable 32 inches of seat pitch. One tip? If you're flying on an especially long flight with Cathay Pacific and can afford a splurge, we recommend upgrading to premium economy. The cabin class offers a much roomier 40 inches of pitch for each seat.

Other international airlines to note

Ranking in our honorable mention category for offering 31 to 32 inches in international economy are Aer Lingus, Turkish Airlines, Virgin Australia, and many others. Icelandair’s Boeing 757s and 737 MAXs also ply their North Atlantic routes with 32-inch legroom in economy.

As for the least legroom, several airlines stand out for squeezing passengers in space that's below the 31-to-32-inch standard: Aeroflot, Aegean Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Cebu Pacific, EasyJet, Ryanair, and Royal Air Maroc, all clock in at a measly 30 inches.

While airfare deals in the wake of COVID-19 may have you reaching for your credit card, consider the experience you’re buying into...and if you’re indeed ready to squish into seat 27B to save a few dollars.

This article has been updated with new information since its original publish date.

Originally Appeared on Condé Nast Traveler