EasyJet today became the latest carrier to say it will up the number of passengers it takes on each flight. The new Airbus A320 planes the budget airline is buying will have 186 seats, rather than 180, and old aircraft will be retrofitted to include the extra capacity.
Passengers folding themselves into ever-more-crowded cabins may complain, but according to Airbus, the upping of numbers will be achieved without making the seats narrower. In another addition to the new design, an onboard bathroom will be made more accessible to people with reduced mobility—though this will be achieved by knocking two existing bathrooms into one, reducing number of bathrooms overall.
On some of easyJet’s longer flights—Manchester to Sharm-el-Sheik, a six-hour trip, is the longest—the extra people and reduced bathroom capacity is likely to be onerous.
There’s one tiny upside. In a fuller plane, the individual carbon footprint of each passenger would fall. According to the International Civil Aviation Authority’s calculator, a round trip from London to Rome and back —roughly 4,000 kilometers—uses about 14,000 kilograms of fuel. That equates to an average carbon dioxide emission of 330 kilograms per person. In a full plane with 186 seats, that would fall to 312 kilograms each. (It’s worth noting that there are a lot of carbon emission calculators online, but few with any explanation of their methodology.)
Furthermore, the airline could in theory carry more people using fewer planes. After 31 full flights at the new, higher capacity, a whole planeload (186 journeys) could be “saved.”
But EasyJet has made no claims about helping the environment, and indeed, it is also planning to expand its fleet. In a statement released today, the company said that the more-packed planes were “expected to deliver a cost per seat saving of 2%” compared to their more spacious predecessor.
The company’s share price fell 8% today after the announcement, though that’s likely connected to longterm outlook, rather than because shareholders are worried about leg room—or the environment.