Analyzing Accommodation of Airplane Seats for US Flying Population

Open Access
Miller, Elizabeth Leigh
Area of Honors:
Mechanical Engineering
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Matthew Parkinson, Thesis Supervisor
  • Jacqueline O'Connor, Honors Advisor
  • accommodation
  • passengers
  • airplane seat
  • anthropometry
The objective of this work is to develop a method for predicting passenger accommodation in airplane seats on US flights. Accommodation measures the degree to which a design satisfies the needs of a target user population. For airplane passengers, accommodation in airplane seats has been affected over the years as US body size has increased and flights have become fuller with smaller seat dimensions. While many studies have identified problems with passenger experience qualitatively, quantitative studies are limited. This work uses a simulation to conduct virtual fit tests on a plane full of passengers and predict accommodation for bideltoid breadth, hip breadth, and buttock-to-knee length under different conditions. Flight variables like seat dimensions, load factor, gender ratio, and passenger allocation are varied through a parametric study to understand the effect of each factor on accommodation. Results demonstrate that passenger accommodation decreases as an airplane becomes fuller and that men are disproportionately disaccommodated by bideltoid breadth while women are disproportionately disaccommodated by hip breadth. Aside from increasing seat dimensions, the method of seat assignment demonstrates potential for optimizing passenger distribution throughout an airplane in order to maximize accommodation.