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On US mainland flights, most planes are single aisle. Having taken plenty of these flights, I’m confused by the very limited width of the plane aisle. During boarding, if anyone stops (to stow their luggage, for instance), no one can get past. Worse, during the food and beverage services, it’s impossible to get past the carts.

Is there an intentional reason airplane designers have not addressed this design flaw?

  • 3
    "Why is there such a thing as a cramped car?" ..... Because people like cost efficiency. – insidesin Dec 13 '18 at 2:36
  • Would be helpful if downvoters explained their votes. – Craig Dec 13 '18 at 17:02
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It's money. The more chairs you can stuff on a plane, the more people you can get to pay for them. If the aisle were to be wider, you might lose one or more seats and that means you have less possible passengers.

This has probably been calculated over and over by airline people to get the maximum yield. Rules and regulations had to be established by governments to prevent airlines from making ridiculous seating arrangements (i.e. add more rows by reducing leg room).

It's not a flaw, but a feature.

  • As a followup, couldn’t the plane itself be a bit wider, even just a few inches? – Craig Dec 13 '18 at 17:03
  • @Craig, sure, but a wider plane means a heavier plane. Which means it needs to take more fuel. And hence, a greater operational cost, and a reduced range. No airline company would buy such a plane. Besides, if planes were wider, would you prefer wider isles, or wider seats? I'd pick the latter. – Abigail Dec 13 '18 at 22:55
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People use the aisle for maybe 5 minutes per flight, but they sit in their seat for 3 hours. Would you rather the width be used in the seat or the aisle?

This is illustrated by the fact that the first class cabin typically has essentially the same aisle width. The extra space gained from two fewer passengers goes into the seats.

AA 737-800 interior Photo Credit: Cory W. Watts.

You can also see this in the case of the A320 which is 7 inches wider internally than the 737. Some airlines have used that for an extra inch per seat, and some have a 7 inch wider aisle. (One consideration is so they can use similar seats on both types.)

  • @HankyPanky, it might have a few crucial centimetres more leg room. – o.m. Dec 13 '18 at 5:29

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