Aircraft Seating Maps

Though we have started to add typical seating charts to the image galleries for commercial airliners in The Aircraft Museum, these are not necessarily the same seating arrangements you will find on the aircraft you fly. The reason is that airlines are free to adopt different seating configurations for their planes to suit their individual needs. For example, some airlines may remove rows of seats to give passengers additional legroom while other airlines operating the same aircraft model may squeeze in extra rows to maximize seats and lower ticket prices. It is also not unusual for the same airline to operate the same model of plane with different seating configurations in its fleet.

Because there can be so much variability in aircraft seating, your best bet to find out the exact configuration of the aircraft you will fly is to visit the airline's website. Many airlines, though not all, often provide diagrams of the seating configurations used on their different aircraft. United Airlines, for example, provides these diagrams under a section called Airplane Maps. Examples of the seating charts provided for the Boeing 757-200 are shown below.

Seating configurations on United Airlines 757-200 airliners
Seating configurations on United Airlines 757-200 airliners

Note that the United fleet currently contains 757 airliners with two different seating configurations. The three-class model includes a first class section with three rows of four seats each. The first class seats are the most comfortable with the largest pitch and width. Pitch defines the distance from the back of each seat to the back of the seat behind it, so it is primarily a measurement of legroom. Following first class comes seven rows of four seats each called business class. Business class seats are not quite as comfortable as first class but still provide ample legroom and wide seats. The final section is economy class with twelve rows of six seats each. This section contains standard airliner seats that are the least comfortable. However, this particular seating configuration includes United's "economy plus" seating with slightly more legroom than a typical economy class seat. Economy Plus style seating is common on many airlines though it may go by different names like "Premium Economy."

In comparison, the two-class 757 model has six rows of first class seating followed by 27 rows of economy class. As is typical on many airlines, the economy section is subdivided in two since the first nine rows are provided with roomier economy plus seats and the remainder are standard economy seats.

Definition of seat pitch in airliner seating
Definition of seat pitch in airliner seating

If you do not have the time to visit the site of each individual airline you may have to choose from in making your travel plans, another excellent site to try is SeatGuru. SeatGuru provides seating charts for the various aircraft models used by over 30 major airlines around the world. The site also makes recommendations on the best and worst seats with explanations as to why. Furthermore, SeatGuru contains sortable tables of the seating types available on each of the airlines listed on the site allowing visitors to quickly compare different airlines and planes. Other useful sites providing less detailed information but covering additional airlines are listed below.

Making a wise decision in selecting a seat can be a difficult task given the large number of aircraft and seating configurations available. It is also not unusual for the aircraft type used on a given flight to be changed after the reservation is made, so all your research may go to waste! In general, seats near exit doors and bulkheads tend to provide the most room, but the tradeoff is often greater distractions since these tend to be areas with more passenger traffic as well.
- answer by Molly Swanson, 4 June 2006

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