Spirit Airlines unveils new seats that it says will make for happier passengers
Spirit Airlines, once a laggard on almost all customer satisfaction measures, is taking yet another step to improve the passenger experience: its seats.
The Florida-based ultra-low-cost carrier will debut the new seats in November and showed them off for the first time today at the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) expo in Los Angeles.
Spirit claims that the new product will offer passengers two additional inches of “usable legroom” — the distance from the center of the seatback to the furthest point on the back of the seat in front — as compared to the slimline seats on its aircraft today.
The new seats will also feature thicker padding, lumbar support, and bigger tray tables — a feature any road warrior familiar with the art of trying to balancing a laptop and a drink on a minuscule table will instantly appreciate. The seats will be black, keeping with Spirit's black-and-yellow color palette.
The seats are just the latest in a multi-year transformation for Spirit. Once at the bottom of the U.S. Department of Transportation's on-time performance and customer-satisfaction rankings, the airline has made a dramatic climb and was the fourth-most punctual, with 81% of flights arriving on time, in 2018.
"New seat technology produces the ability to increase usable space at legroom, and that's what's most from a comfort perspective for people," Spirit CEO Ted Christie told TPG at APEX. "When you improve seat technology with contoured seatbacks and a gentle pre-recline for our seat, you actually improve the legroom space."
Other improvements include a performance promise, onboard Wi-Fi expected by year-end, and a new in-development frequent flier program. Passengers can learn more about Spirit's transformation by visiting its dedicated website Invest in the Guest.
Spirit’s new cabin configuration will also feature a wider middle seat — 18 inches compared to 17 inches for the window and aisle. The configuration was developed by Acro Aircraft Seating.
In addition, the airline will be able to keep its existing density — 145 seats on its Airbus A319s, 182 on its Airbus A320s, and 228 on its Airbus A321s — without adding weight, which increases operating expenses.
Installation of the new seats, as well as a cabin refresh that incorporates more of Spirit's black and yellow colors, will begin with new deliveries in November, said Christie. The airline is still evaluating whether to retrofit existing aircraft.
Spirit’s Big Front Seat — the discounter's version of a premium product — also will get an update as part of the cabin refresh. New seats with an improved headrest and more padding will be installed in the same 2-by-2 configuration as on its fleet today.
The new Big Front Seats are designed by HAECO Cabin Solutions.
Here's a look at the seatbacks Spirit plans to install on its new planes.