Skip First-Class Seats on Regional Flights in Europe

Writer: Steve Dinnen

If you’re flying to Bordeaux this summer, you’ll enjoy the wine way more than the crummy first-class seats that European airlines have foisted off on travelers. For all the comfort and grace they offer on getting you across the Atlantic, they take it back once they tuck you into a regional jet that ferries you those last miles from the gateway cities of Paris, London and Frankfurt.

Seating arrangements that every European airline uses on regional or inter-European flights are at fault. Economy seats are a little less roomy than those offered by U.S. carriers, but business and first class are completely inferior. First class on a United flight on a plane to Chicago merits a seat that is 20 inches wide, with 37 inches of legroom (the overseas portion is 20.6 inches wide with 78 inches of leg-bedding room). Once in Europe, United’s partner Lufthansa will stuff you into a seat with 17.5 inches of width and 31 inches of legroom. That’s what you get in economy on U.S. carriers (and is no different from what economy passengers get on Lufthansa, either).

Lufthansa figures it’s giving you royal treatment because the seat next to a first-class passenger is left open. Big deal. You still have an economy seat, which you paid a premium price for. British, Air France, KLM, SAS – they all have these same substandard seats. There’s no avoiding them.

Your workaround on this is to just get off the plane at the gateway city when you first land in Europe and rent a car. Or maybe take a train. That is a better experience than Amtrak.

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