Spirit says it’s time to ‘ditch the pitch’ as it prepares to debut new seating concept that includes an extra inch of comfort to passengers in the unfavourable middle seat

US budget carrier Spirit Airlines is advancing on its promise to invest in the guest experience by unveiling new, more comfortable seats that provide additional usable legroom. “We have listened to our guests, and we are responding with these new, more comfortable seats,” says Ted Christie, president and chief executive officer of the airline.

Last year, he signed a pledge to look at every facet of the airline’s passenger experience and determine where it could improve. “This investment in our seats and onboard experience is a direct result of that commitment, and it also allows us to enhance our product value while maintaining our industry-leading cost structure,” he explains.

Spirit’s new seats, created by UK-based Acro Aircraft Seating, integrate design features, including thicker padding, ergonomically-designed lumbar support, and additional pre-recline. Middle seats will also gain another inch of width, and every seat will gain nearly an inch of pre-recline compared to Spirit’s current seating configuration, with exit rows adding even more.

The new seats are padded with ultra-light weight foam and are made of a composite skeleton. The airline says this “will add comfort without increasing weight.” According to ergonomics experts, these enhancements allow for a wider range of healthy postures and movements, offering an additional two inches of usable legroom compared to industry-standard flatback seats with the same pitch. They also include a full-size tray table and an elevated literature pocket and are designed in a matte-black colour with border stitching in Spirit’s signature yellow.

Spirit is also adding more comfort to its Big Front Seats, which will feature a new ergonomically-improved headrest with plush memory foam, additional memory foam in the seat cushion for comfort and thigh support, and sleek Spirit-branded aesthetic with yellow and black stitching.

The airline says passenger feedback and survey results have helped guide these design enhancements with manufacturer HAECO Cabin Solutions. Installation of the new seats will begin in Nov-2019 and continue through 2020 on all new Spirit deliveries. At the same time, the airline plans to share plans for a new cabin redesign, complete with updated branding and a more modern look and feel, it confirms.

Alongside the new seating Spirit is calling for the industry to ‘Ditch the Pitch’, a traditional measurement of aircraft comfort. It describes this now as an “inadequate measurement of guest comfort and an outdated reference as seat innovation becomes more advanced”.

Partnering with the Charted Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors (CIHEF), Spirit has conducted in-depth analysis on the ergonomics and comfort of the new seats to create a comfortable posture and make available more usable legroom.

Spirit also conducted a research study to understand perceptions around seat pitch and seat comfort. The brand-agnostic study showed that most people, from a sampling of more than 1,000 air travellers, did not know the true definition of “seat pitch”, the space between a point on one seat and the same point on the seat in front of it. In fact, only about 5% of respondents were able to accurately describe seat pitch.

“Pitch is an outdated industry term for measuring seat comfort, as it does not consider a range of important key factors like seatback curvature, seat width, cushion thickness, and usable space,” explains Steve Barraclough, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics & Human Factors.

“The ‘usable legroom’ metric is the distance from the centre of the back of the seat cushion to the outer edges of the seat in front. We believe this metric provides a potential basis that all airlines could calculate and could offer the passenger new, evidence-based information about the potential comfort of the seat,” he adds.