Spirit Airlines Installs Stationary Seats

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New "pre-reclined" seats on Spirit Airlines

Low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines has installed "pre-reclined" seats on two Airbus A320 jets, with plans to outfit two more by the end of the year. The seatbacks cannot move backward or forward, and are fixed at a lean of three inches.

Spirit spokeswoman Misty Pinson told USA Today the new seats are also lightweight, meaning the airline will be able to keep costs low by using less fuel. "And we, in turn, pass that along to our customers by way of even lower fares," Pinson said.

Pinson argued that the stationary seats are actually less intrusive to passengers in the next row back. "If you're eating or have a cup on your tray table, that is constantly moving if the person continues to adjust their seat," she said. "With these new seats, since they're stationary and already in a reclined position ... you don't have that constant movement throughout the flight."

Matt Daimler, founder of airline seat monitoring website SeatGuru, said the seats are "a new low" for a domestic carrier. The pitch, or distance from the back of a seat to the front of another, on most of Spirit's Airbus A320's is already a mere 28 inches. The aircraft also crams in 178 seats, just one fewer than the maximum number of seats Airbus says the plane can possibly hold.

"The extra space is really not quite extra in my opinion," said Daimler to USA Today. Passengers ultimately can "vote with (their) pocketbook so Spirit gets the message that you'd rather have 5 more inches than save five more dollars."

Spirit is not the first airline to make the move to standstill seats. Allegiant first installed pre-reclined seats in 2006, and has outfitted 37 of its 47 jets, said spokeswoman Sabrina LoPiccolo to USA Today.

Some industry observers are doubtful more airlines will follow in Spirit's footsteps, but the airline has made bold moves that pay off before. Case in point: Spirit was the first airline to begin charging for checked baggage, a policy that has now become common practice throughout the industry. Next, the airline will begin charging passengers to stow carry-on bags in overhead bins.
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