These Airlines Rank The Absolute Worst For Legroom

It is a truth universally acknowledged that tall people doth hath zero legroom in economy seating. Alas! The tray table crushing your knees, the inability to stretch out, and the person seated in front of you *gasp* reclining right into your face ... is this an airplane or a sardine tin?! Tall people, take heart, because even short people are feeling the squeeze on flights these days. Unless you have the big bucks to fly business or first class, airline economy seating is uncomfortable and claustrophobic for the best of us. However, if you want to arm yourself with knowledge and avoid booking your flights with airlines that provide the least legroom, a new study has got you covered. 

Founder and CEO of Upgraded Points, Alex Miller, shared an analysis of different planes that measured the distance between two seats. With this data, he came up with a ranking of seven airlines, listed from most legroom to least legroom. The study found the airline with the most legroom had 32.3 inches between seats (JetBlue), while the airline with the least legroom had only 28 inches (Spirit and Frontier). They say size doesn't matter, but those 4.3 inches can make all the difference on your next economy flight. If you want more legroom, pay close attention to this list.

Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines are tied for dead last

Coming in dead-last on the list was actually two domestic carriers in a tie. With an average of 28 inches of legroom was Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines. Upgraded Points said the reason these two carriers ranked last is because they trade legroom for the low cost of their ticket prices. That makes it harder to complain about a flight you paid less than $100 for, even when your knees are squished. The outlet suggested that since the routes at these carriers are usually short haul, the discomfort won't last for long. 

However, there are legroom hacks you should know about. One TikToker @sterlingretzlaff4 gushed to his 30,000 followers that he had a ridiculous amount of legroom on his Spirit Airlines flight because he chose to sit in the exit row. His feet couldn't even reach the seat in front of him. New hack: unlocked! As for Frontier, when the Wall Street Journal ranked the Best and Worst airlines of 2023, Frontier was ranked way at the bottom at number eight (out of nine) for their abysmal scores on bumping, handling complaints, delays, and on-time arrivals. So it seems you get what you pay for.

Hawaiian Airlines offers only 29 inches of legroom

Second to last on the list was Hawaiian Airlines, with 29 inches of legroom. However, if you're jonesing for more legroom on this airline, they have received some positive feedback on their "extra comfort" economy class ticket, which offers an additional 5 inches of legroom, per Forbes in 2019. The outlet reports that you can often get these upgraded economy seats for under $100 extra on top of your ticket price, though when we tried upgrade a seat ourselves, the cost was a bit over $200. 

With just 1.1 inches of extra legroom compared to Hawaiian Airlines, United Airlines ranked fifth on the list with 30.1 inches of average legroom. And like Hawaiian, if you pony up for an Economy Plus ticket, you'll get a whopping 37 inches of legroom, per Business Insider in 2017. According to United's website, the extra legroom could cost you upwards of $299 or as low as $29 on top of the ticket price.

American, Alaska, and Delta airlines get average marks

This is a tight race because the respectable number four slot was awarded to American Airlines with just a 0.1 inch edge on United. American Airlines offers 30.2 inches of legroom, but the Wall Street Journal ranked it fifth (out of nine) in 2023 due to more issues than just how far passengers can stretch their legs. The airline has frequent issues with baggage handling, bumping passengers, tarmac delays, and flight cancellations, per the outlet.

Hitting the finish line with a respectable bronze medal is actually another tie. The third place for most legroom goes to both Alaska Airlines and Delta, with 31 inches of legroom for economy passengers. This shouldn't come as a big surprise, as the WSJ 2023 report has repeatedly crowned Delta as the best airline in the country, with Alaska a consistent second. Both airlines arrive on time around 80% of the time, per the outlet, so even if you do feel cramped in their seats, at least you know you won't be overly delayed or behind schedule with their reliable punctuality.

Southwest Airline gets a silver medal

Coming in at a close second was Southwest Airlines, with 31.8 inches of legroom. Again, you might be surprised to learn that Southwest is actually a real contender on this list because the airline canceled not hundreds but thousands of flights in 2022 during what Business Insider called a "travel meltdown," forcing the airline to pay a huge penalty of $140 million and compensate future passengers with travel vouchers. Nevertheless, it would seem that flyers and aircraft reviewers agree that the legroom is impressive. TikToker @jolly_jihane shared to her over 65,000 followers that she was seriously impressed with the legroom in economy. "I'm 5'7" and I had a very comfortable flight," she states in her video that has been liked more than 13,000 times. CN Traveler reports that Southwest could have trimmed their seats when they included the Boeing 737 Max into the fleet, but they kept the legroom. As @Jolly_Jihane says, "props to them on that!"

Surprise! JetBlue has the most legroom!

Coming in with the most legroom for a U.S. domestic flight is *drum roll please* JetBlue. That may surprise you, considering that the airline ranked dead last in Wall Street Journal's list of airlines in 2023 in the categories of on-time arrivals, canceled flights, delays longer than 45 minutes, and tarmac delays. There is even an entire tag on TikTok called #JetBlueSucks, and it has a whopping 8.6 million views with new videos posted to the tag all the time! Be that as it may, JetBlue has enough legroom of 32.3 inches for you to stretch out and stay comfy during those long delays. CN Traveler reports that in the past, JetBlue actually offered on average a greater legroom of 34 inches, but new additions to their fleet of planes that were smaller brought the average room down to 32.3. So there you have it, tall folks: Would you rather have more legroom or an on-time flight?