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Fri, Dec 15, 2006

JetBlue: Answer To Airline Seat Recline Question Is Elementary

Fewer Seats = More Room For Everyone

Just last month ANN reported on a very contentious issue: To recline or not to recline -- that is the question when flying commercial. Based on the number of comments we received, the issue seems to be near the top of concerns for today's air traveler.

JetBlue has apparently been reading ANN (grin) because it announced plans on Wednesday to remove one row of seats from all its Airbus A320 aircraft increasing legroom in the front eleven rows.

At the heart of the should-I-recline-or-not debate is the amount of room between rows. The coach section in most airliners allow 31 or 32 inches from seatback to seatback -- that doesn't leave much room, if any, for taller travelers even before the person in front decides to take a nap. As for working on your laptop -- fuggeddaboudit!

JetBlue’s CEO David Neeleman told the New York Times, "If you’re in the 320 and the middle seat’s full, you’re hating life a little bit."

JetBlue's A320s provide a little more room than most in the last 14 rows -- 34 inches -- but it's still cramped if you're trying to work.

The airline has other motives besides its customers' comfort, though. Neeleman says reducing seating from 156 to 150 allows his airliners to fly with one fewer flight attendant. Between that and the fuel savings from reduced weight, JetBlue says it stands to save some $6 million annually.

A website popular with frequent fliers lists legroom in each of the different aircraft flown by the nation's carriers. JetBlue hopes Wednesday's move will give it an edge over its rivals.

Neeleman says JetBlue's competitors are going to have a hard time matching a four inch increase in legroom.

He adds the company has no plans for flight attendant layoffs because the company's growth will make up the difference by the end of next year. He did say, however, that some FA's will be offered leave, but will be able to hold onto their benefits.

The company hopes all to convert all its A320s by March.

FMI: www.jetblue.com, www.seatguru.com

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