Airline seat

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Passenger seats aboard a Sukhoi Superjet 100 SSJ100 for Interjet - Interiors (9016257074).jpg
Passenger seats aboard a Sukhoi Superjet 100
Business class seat in a Lufthansa Boeing 747-400 Lufthansa Business.jpg
Business class seat in a Lufthansa Boeing 747-400
Control screen fixed to an economy class airline seat (Thai Airways International Airbus A340); the tray is stowed. Airbus onboard entertainment.JPG
Control screen fixed to an economy class airline seat (Thai Airways International Airbus A340); the tray is stowed.

An airline seat is a seat on an airliner in which passengers are accommodated for the duration of the journey. Such seats are usually arranged in rows running across the airplane's fuselage. A diagram of such seats in an aircraft is called an aircraft seat map.


Features and amenities

Seats are attached to rails underneath the floor which run along the aircraft fuselage. If the airline wants to reconfigure the seating, this is a minor operation. For passenger safety, all airline seats are equipped with seatbelts.

Basic amenities

A seat pocket on an Airbus A319 plane containing a safety card, magazines, and an airsickness bag EasyJet A319 seat pocket.jpg
A seat pocket on an Airbus A319 plane containing a safety card, magazines, and an airsickness bag

Seats are frequently equipped with further amenities. Airline seats may be equipped with a reclining mechanism for increased passenger comfort, either reclining mechanically (usually in economy class and short-haul first and business class) or electrically (usually in long-haul first class and business class). Most aircraft also feature trays for eating and reading, either in the seatback which folds down to form a small table in most economy class seats, or inside the armrest which folds out in most first class, business class, bulkhead, and exit row seats. Most airline seats also feature a pocket which may contain an in-flight magazine and safety instructions.

On small and short-haul aircraft, or on low-cost carriers, some of these amenities may not be installed. For instance, on several aircraft, Ryanair has installed non-reclining seats without seat pockets with the safety manuals stitched to the seat back instead. [1] Even on airliners with reclining seats, some seats may have a restricted recline or no recline. Typically this will be the rear row of the cabin where a rear bulkhead blocks the recline, or seats immediately in front of the emergency exit where a reclined seat might restrict access to the emergency exit, creating a potential safety hazard. Independent seat review sites such as SeatGuru often warn passengers against these seats. During take-off and landing the crew ask passengers to put their seats in an "upright" (unreclined) position [2] and to lift and stow their tray tables.

Advanced amenities

The personal entertainment system (ICE) on an Emirates Airbus A380 showing the view of Dubai International Airport from the tail-mounted camera Emirates A380 seat-back screen with tail camera.jpg
The personal entertainment system (ICE) on an Emirates Airbus A380 showing the view of Dubai International Airport from the tail-mounted camera


Seats may be equipped with power ports (either EmPower, AC, DC, or USB power-only sockets) for small electrical appliances and ports for headphones for the audio entertainment. Most full service airlines also include personal video screens as part of the in-flight entertainment system on long-haul aircraft - but some aircraft use a bring-your-own-device system where passengers use their own devices. The screens are often touchscreens or can be controlled by remote handsets. In economy and premium economy the screen is normally in a seatback, but in a front row seat or premium cabin they may need to be pulled out from a special compartment after takeoff, and then returned there for landing.

Adjustable headrests

Most long-haul aircraft (and short-haul aircraft on some airlines) feature seats with adjustable headrests in all classes, allowing the passenger to adjust the headrest for comfort.

Adjustable lumbar support

Electrically adjustable lumbar support is found on most long-haul first class and business class seats. Rarely, economy class may also include a mechanically adjustable lumbar support on some long-haul aircraft. However, with the trend towards slimline seats in economy class, this amenity has mostly vanished from most new economy class seat installations.


Some business class seats, such as the Recaro CL 4420, have a built-in massaging feature.

Lie flat/flat bed seating

Some business class cabins feature seats that recline to a sloped flat position. These "lie flat at an angle" seats allow for greater comfort than traditional recliner seats, but are less comfortable than fully horizontal flat bed seating.

Most international first-class and a growing number of international business-class cabins feature seats which recline to a full-horizontal flat position, forming a bed.

"Slimline" economy seating

Some airlines are introducing new "slimline" seats in economy class. While "slimline" is not a defined term, slimline seats have less padding in the back. Seat pitch and width in economy class have also been decreasing, In 1985 none of the main four US carriers offered a seat less than 19 inches wide. Since the beginning of the 21st Century until 2018 average seat width decreased from 18.5 to 17 inches, and sometimes as low as 16.1 inches. [3]

Slimline seats weigh less than full-size seats, and are claimed to allow airlines to increase capacity without significantly affecting passenger comfort. Many passengers however, have expressed displeasure with these seats. Moreover, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) has begun to explore the safety issues associated with increased aircraft capacity and reduced seat pitch that results from the installation of "slimline" seats. In an 14 April 2015 hearing of the DOT's Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protection, Cynthia Corbett, an investigator for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Civil Aerospace Medical Institute, discussed concerns regarding the emergency evacuation of higher capacity aircraft. [4] The citizens' group "Flyers Rights" brought a case against the FAA in 2017, arguing that the agency had a responsibility to prevent seats from becoming so cramped as to become a safety issue in an emergency. [3]

This type of seat was pioneered by Recaro, but several other manufacturers (such as Weber Aircraft LLC and B/E Aerospace) have introduced their own slimline seats as well. These seats may or may not feature moveable headrests, and generally do not feature adjustable lumbar support.

A newer innovation by Zodiac Seats U.S. (formerly Weber Aircraft LLC) is an articulating seat bottom, where the seat bottom moves forward in addition to the seat back tilting backwards. [5] Such seats have been installed in some of the aircraft of Aer Lingus, Delta Air Lines, Emirates [ citation needed ], American Airlines, and Avianca, amongst others. This seating was eventually adopted by competitors such as B/E Aerospace and Recaro.

Seating layout

2+4+2 seating layout on an Aerolineas Argentinas wide body jet (Airbus A340-200) ARTurista.JPG
2+4+2 seating layout on an Aerolíneas Argentinas wide body jet (Airbus A340-200)
3+3 seating layout on a Delta Air Lines narrow body jet (Boeing 737-800) with Zodiac Seats U.S. 5751 slimline seats N3744F cabin1.jpg
3+3 seating layout on a Delta Air Lines narrow body jet (Boeing 737-800) with Zodiac Seats U.S. 5751 slimline seats

Airline cabins are frequently classified as narrow-body if there is a single aisle with seats on either side, or wide-body if there are two aisles with a block of seats between them in addition to the seats on the side.

The number of seats abreast is affected by the aircraft width. On very small aircraft such as the Beechcraft 1900 there are only individual seats on each side of the aisle (1+1 seating). The widest narrow body aircraft such as the Airbus A320 family and Boeing 737 aircraft have six abreast seating in a 3+3 layout. Asymmetrical layouts also exist, examples including the Embraer Regional Jet which has 1+2 seating while the Douglas DC-9 and Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft typically feature 2+3 seating.

On wide body-aircraft the center block of seats between the aisles can have as many as 5 seats on planes like the layout on most McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and some Boeing 777 aircraft, although Boeing recommends the 3+3+3 over the 2+5+2 layout. [6] Very wide planes such as the Boeing 747 or the Airbus A380 have ten seats abreast, typically in a 3+4+3 layout, although this layout is also sometimes used as a high density layout on aircraft normally seating nine abreast, such as the 777 or DC-10. Recently, airlines have been adopting ten abreast seating on the Boeing 777-300 aircraft. [7]

While there are some exceptions, most commercial aircraft seats are forward-facing and on military aircraft seats are frequently rearward-facing. Southwest Airlines previously offered a few rearward-facings seats on some aircraft but that scheme has now ended. Rearward-facing seats are also common on business jets, to provide a conference-type layout. British Airways, United Airlines and American Airlines also have rearward-facing seats in their Club World, (select) United BusinessFirst (Intercontinental Business Class) and (select) Business Class Cabins, respectively. It has been argued that rearward-facing seats are safer because in the event of a crash, the sudden deceleration will propel the passenger into a rearward-facing seat instead of out of it, meaning the force is distributed over the entire seat back, instead of the straps of the seat belt. The argument against such seats has been based on passenger comfort, safety and cost. It could be argued that passengers who desire the natural layout of forward-facing seats may be uncomfortable with a rearward layout. On the safety aspect, the argument has been that during a plane crash, debris, such as luggage, will fly forward in the cabin, quite possibly into the passengers in rearward-facing seats. On the cost aspect, rearward-facing seats need additional strengthening which adds extra weight and therefore higher fuel costs. [8]

Many airlines provide maps of their seating configurations on the various aircraft they fly. For airlines who don't have seat maps, websites like SeatGuru show seat maps for the aforementioned airlines.


Window seats are located at the sides of the aircraft, and usually next to a window, although some aircraft have seat rows where there is a window missing. Window seats are preferred by passengers who want to have a view, or a wall which they can lean against. Passengers in seats adjacent to the aisle have the advantage of being able to leave the seat without having to clamber over the other passengers, and having an aisle they can stretch their legs into. If a seat block has three or more seats, there will also be middle seats which are unpopular because the passenger is sandwiched between two other passengers without advantages of either window or aisle seats. [9] Middle seats are typically booked last. [10]

Seat size

When evaluating the size (and comfort) of a seat, the main terms used are pitch and width.

It was reported in 2016 that the average distance between seat rows had declined to 79 centimetres, from over 89 centimetres, while the average seat width had shrunk to 43 centimetres from 46 centimetres in the previous two decades. [11]

Seat pitch

Seat pitch is defined as the space between a point on one seat and the same point on the seat in front of it. In almost all cases, seat pitch increases with class of travel (economy, business, first, etc.) For many carriers, the pitch in economy class is 29 to 32 inches (74 to 81 cm). Legroom depends upon seat pitch and the thickness of the seat back. Airlines have claimed that a reduction of seat pitch can be compensated for by a thinner seat-back design. [6]

American Airlines' business class seat pitches in their former Boeing 767-200s were 62 inches (160 cm), the largest in any short-haul business class. [12] US Airways, now merged with American Airlines, have first-class flatbed seats in their Airbus A330-300s with a seat pitch of 94 inches (2 inches short of 8 feet) or 240 cm (2.4 meters) [13]

In 2010 the seat pitch on low-cost carriers could be as low as 28 inches (71 cm) in the case of Spirit Airlines but was typically 29 inches (74 cm) or 30 inches (76 cm). [14]

Seat width

Economy class seats with varying seat width (more width for the middle seat, less width for the window seat) Passenger Experience Week 2018, Hamburg (1X7A3600).jpg
Economy class seats with varying seat width (more width for the middle seat, less width for the window seat)

There is some ambiguity about the meaning of "seat width". It can be taken as the width enclosed by the armrests on each side, i.e., the width available to sit in, or as the distance from the midpoint of one armrest to the midpoint of the next, a larger figure by the width of an armrest, and the width available for the shoulders (it is also one-third of the width of a block of three identical seats). It is thought that most airlines use the first of these figures. [15] In Economy class this width was typically 43 to 46 centimeters (17 to 18 in) in 2003. [16]

In 2013, Airbus said, for long haul flights, there should be an industry standard for a minimum seat width of 18 inches in economy cabins, but its rival Boeing argued it was up for airlines to decide. [17] People have been getting wider; the weight of the average American male in his 40s had increased by 10 percent in the 30 years from the 1970 introduction of the Boeing 747. [17] The narrower 17-inch-wide seat favoured by Boeing is a legacy from the 1950s when passenger jets were first introduced. [17] In the 1970s and 1980s with the introduction of the Boeing 747 and the first Airbus jets, 18 inches become standard for long-haul flights. [18] Seats were widened to 18.5 inches with the Boeing 777 in the 1990s and A380 superjumbo in the 2000s. [18] Many airlines are adopting lighter 17-inch-wide seats on their Boeing 777 and 787 and 18-inch seats for A350s. [18] Although for almost 20 years, the standard setup in the back of a Boeing 777 was nine seats per row, in 2012 nearly 70% of the biggest version of that plane were delivered with 10-abreast seating. [18] When Airbus introduced its A380, it offered 10-abreast seating, giving each passenger up to 19 inches of hip space. [18] In 2013, ten airlines fly Airbus A330 with nine 16.7-inch seats in each row, rather than the eight it was designed for. [18] A research report commissioned by Airbus concluded that an extra inch in seat width improves sleep quality by 53 percent. [17]

There has been a decided trend to increase economy seating density in the twenty-first century. In 1985 none of the main four US carriers offered a seat less than 19 inches wide. Since the beginning of the twenty-first century until 2018 average seat width decreased from 18.5 to 17 inches, and sometimes as low as 16.1 inches. [3]

Aisle chair

Flight boarding for a passenger in a wheelchair
A wheelchair bound customer on an aisle-chair, tied with three straps, to be carried into an airplane seat.jpg
A passenger triple-strapped into an "aisle chair" for assisted boarding
Aisle-chair for handling wheelchair-bound people in airplanes.jpg
An aisle chair

An airplane "aisle chair" is a mobile seat provided by airlines for passengers who require the use of a wheelchair. While most trains, buses and other forms of public transportation have space for a passenger's own wheelchair for seating and a ramp or lift assist for boarding, airplane aisles are too narrow for conventional wheelchairs. The aisle chair affords the wheelchair passenger assisted mobility in boarding and disembarking, and in-flight moving within the cabin such as to the lavatory. [19]


Costlier leather seats are used in Biman Bangladesh Airlines' Boeing 737-800 (S2-AFL tail). Besides adding luxury, two main reasons for using leather seats are that the material is easy to clean and that it prevents soaking of spilt liquid into padding. Leather Seats in Boeing 737-800, Biman Flight BG-089 (S2-AFL).JPG
Costlier leather seats are used in Biman Bangladesh Airlines' Boeing 737-800 (S2-AFL tail). Besides adding luxury, two main reasons for using leather seats are that the material is easy to clean and that it prevents soaking of spilt liquid into padding.

Airline seats are designed to be lightweight, but at the same time strong and fire resistant, while also taking into account passenger comfort. A typical design is an aluminium frame with blocks of polyurethane foam attached to it. In some cases a layer of fire-resistant fabric, for instance Kevlar or Nomex goes over this, and at the top is a layer of cloth or leather.[ citation needed ]

Leather seats are more costly than traditional cloth seats. Even so, several airlines, including low-cost carriers, choose leather not only to present a more "luxurious" product, but also because such seats are easier to clean and prevent spilt liquids from soaking through to the padding for reduced turnaround issues. [20]


In the fairly early days of aviation, airline seats were typically of earthy and soft colors such as light browns and gray, which were intended to calm the passengers. During the 1970s, brighter colors such as red and orange became more commonplace. After this, shades of blue and gray, with a more business-like tone, became the most common choice. [21] However, certain airlines such as Austrian Airlines, Emirates and Singapore Airlines still use soft colours on seats.


Passenger signs, lights, and vent nozzles on a Bombardier CRJ200. The speakers are ahead of the seat belt lights in this perspective, and the attendant call button is the oval button ahead of the reading lights. CRJ200 Passenger signs.jpg
Passenger signs, lights, and vent nozzles on a Bombardier CRJ200. The speakers are ahead of the seat belt lights in this perspective, and the attendant call button is the oval button ahead of the reading lights.
The arrangement of controls, lights and nozzles on a Boeing 737. The "fasten seat belt" sign is immediately in front of the nozzles. B737-Beluftung und Schalter.jpg
The arrangement of controls, lights and nozzles on a Boeing 737. The "fasten seat belt" sign is immediately in front of the nozzles.

Generally, every individual seat position (except for the last ones at the rear of the cabin) has a small set of auxiliary controls built into the seat back for the passenger directly behind the seat. The seat itself normally contains a small flip-out, extendable tray table (which must be folded away during takeoff and landing), and, on most wide-body international aircraft, an LCD video screen directly above the tray table (earlier aircraft had a single large projection screen at the front of each cabin). Directly above the seat (on the cabin ceiling) is a console for the passenger service unit. The controls on the PSU console may include:

At window seats there are window shades for protection from sunlight. Regulations require them to be open during landings and takeoffs, to provide visibility into and out of the aircraft in emergencies. Some airlines request passengers to keep the window shades down, in addition to muting cabin lighting, during times when most passengers will want to sleep. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner uses electrochromic windows instead of window covers. Many armrests provide devices for reclining the chair, control handsets for in-flight entertainment systems. Ashtrays, universally provided when smoking was permitted, are still sometimes provided for small detritus.

Related Research Articles

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, legally Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij N.V., is the flag carrier airline of the Netherlands. KLM is headquartered in Amstelveen, with its hub at nearby Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. It is part of the Air France–KLM group and a member of the SkyTeam airline alliance. Founded in 1919, KLM is the oldest airline in the world still operating under its original name and had 35,488 employees and a fleet of 119 as of 2015. KLM operates scheduled passenger and cargo services to 145 destinations.

Air Canada is the flag carrier and the largest airline of Canada by fleet size and passengers carried. It is headquartered in the borough of Saint-Laurent in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The airline, founded in 1937, provides scheduled and charter air transport for passengers and cargo to 207 destinations worldwide. It is a founding member of the Star Alliance. Air Canada's largest hubs are at Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ), Montréal–Trudeau International Airport (YUL) and Vancouver International Airport (YVR). The airline's regional service is Air Canada Express.

Singapore Airlines Flag-carrier airline of Singapore

Singapore Airlines (SIA) is the flag carrier airline of Singapore with its hub at Singapore Changi Airport. The airline is notable for using the Singapore Girl as its central figure in corporate branding. It has been ranked as the world's best airline by Skytrax four times and topped Travel & Leisure's best airline rankings for more than 20 years.

Wide-body aircraft Aircraft with two aisles

A wide-body aircraft, also known as a twin-aisle aircraft, is an airliner with a fuselage wide enough to accommodate two passenger aisles with seven or more seats abreast. The typical fuselage diameter is 5 to 6 m. In the typical wide-body economy cabin, passengers are seated seven to ten abreast, allowing a total capacity of 200 to 850 passengers. The largest wide-body aircraft are over 6 m (20 ft) wide, and can accommodate up to eleven passengers abreast in high-density configurations.

Philippine Airlines (PAL), a trade name of PAL Holdings, Inc., also known historically as Philippine Air Lines, is the flag carrier of the Philippines. Headquartered at the PNB Financial Center in Pasay, the airline was founded in 1941 and is the first and oldest commercial airline in Asia operating under its original name.

Air China Flag carrier of the Peoples Republic of China

Air China Limited is the flag carrier of the People's Republic of China and one of the "Big Three" mainland Chinese airlines. Air China's headquarters are in Shunyi District, Beijing. Air China's flight operations are based primarily at Beijing Capital International Airport. In 2017, the airline carried 102 million domestic and international passengers with an average load factor of 81%. The airline joined Star Alliance in 2007, alongside Shanghai Airlines.

Thomas Cook Airlines British charter airline

Thomas Cook Airlines Limited was a British charter and scheduled airline headquartered in Manchester, England. It was founded in 2007 from the merger of Thomas Cook Group and MyTravel Group, and was part of the Thomas Cook Group Airlines. It served leisure destinations worldwide from its main bases at Manchester Airport and Gatwick Airport on a scheduled and charter basis. It also operated services from eight other bases around the United Kingdom. Thomas Cook Group plc and all UK entities including Thomas Cook Airlines entered compulsory liquidation on 23 September 2019.

Transaero, officially OJSC Transaero Airlines was a Russian airline that operated scheduled and charter flights to over 150 domestic and international destinations. Transaero's main hubs were Moscow Vnukovo Airport and Saint Petersburg Airport with further bases throughout Russia. For much of its history the head office was at Domodedovo International Airport, and towards the end its head office was in Saint Petersburg.

Business class

Business class is a travel class available on many commercial airlines and rail lines, known by brand names which vary, by airline or rail company. In the airline industry, it was originally intended as an intermediate level of service between economy class and first class, but many airlines now offer business class as the highest level of service, having eliminated first-class seating. Business class is distinguished from other travel classes by the quality of seating, food, drinks, ground service and other amenities. In commercial aviation, full business class is usually denoted 'J' or 'C' with schedule flexibility, but can be many other letters depending on circumstances.

Economy class, also called third class, coach class, steerage, or to distinguish it from the slightly more expensive premium economy class, standard economy class or budget economy class, is the lowest travel class of seating in air travel, rail travel, and sometimes ferry or maritime travel. Historically, this travel class has been called tourist class or third class on ocean liners.

Narrow-body aircraft Aircraft with a single aisle

A narrow-body aircraft or single-aisle aircraft is an airliner arranged along a single aisle, permitting up to 6-abreast seating in a cabin below 4 metres (13 ft) of width. In contrast, a wide-body aircraft is a larger airliner usually configured with multiple aisles and a fuselage diameter of more than 5 metres (16 ft), allowing at least seven-abreast seating and often more travel classes.

An aircraft seat map or seating chart is a diagram of the seat layout inside a passenger airliner. They are often published by airlines for informational purposes and are of use to passengers for selection of their seat at booking or check-in.

Aircraft cabin aircrafts section in which passengers travel

An aircraft cabin is the section of an aircraft in which passengers travel. Most modern commercial aircraft are pressurized, as cruising altitudes are high enough such that the surrounding atmosphere is too thin for passengers and crew to breathe.

Premium economy class

Premium economy class, also known as elite economy class or economy plus class, is a travel class offered on some airlines. This travel class is positioned as a middleground between standard economy class and business class in terms of price, comfort, and amenities. In 1991, EVA Air was the first to introduce Evergreen Class and had since become the first airline to offer this class of service in the world. In some ways, Premium Economy class has become a standard reflecting what Economy class was like 40 years ago ; as an example the seat pitch of United Airlines' Economy Class was 36 inches back in the 1970s, the same seat pitch as most airlines' Premium Economy these days.

Air France, stylised as AIRFRANCE, is the flag carrier of France headquartered in Tremblay-en-France. It is a subsidiary of the Air France–KLM Group and a founding member of the SkyTeam global airline alliance. As of 2013 Air France serves 36 destinations in France and operates worldwide scheduled passenger and cargo services to 175 destinations in 78 countries and also carried 46,803,000 passengers in 2019. The airline's global hub is at Charles de Gaulle Airport with Orly Airport as the primary domestic hub. Air France's corporate headquarters, previously in Montparnasse, Paris, are located on the grounds of Charles de Gaulle Airport, north of Paris.

Seat configurations of Airbus A380

The Airbus A380 has two full-length decks of 49.9 metres (164 ft), though the upper deck has a slightly reduced usable length of 44.93 metres (147.4 ft) due to the curvature of the front fuselage and the front staircase. The width of the main deck and upper deck measures 6.50 metres (21.3 ft) and 5.80 metres (19.0 ft) respectively.

Regent Airways is a Bangladeshi airline owned by HG Aviation Ltd, a fully owned subsidiary of Habib Group. It is based at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.

Frigate Ecojet Russian wide-body airliner design

The Frigate Ecojet, is a program for the development of a new wide-body medium-haul civil aircraft using new aerodynamic, and design configurations. The project started in 1991 as the twinjet Tu-304 under the leadership of Valentin Klimov, being initially projected to carry up to 500 passengers. Since 2004 the project has been carried out by a new design bureau, led by Valentin Klimov and instituted as a daughter company of Tupolev, headed by Valentin Klimov's son, Alexandr Klimov. Since 2017, the quadjet aircraft design has been branded the Frigate Freejet.

Scoot Low-cost subsidiary of Singapore Airlines

Scoot Tigerair Pte Ltd, operating as Scoot, is a Singaporean low-cost airline which is a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines. It launched flights on 4 June 2012 on medium and long-haul routes from Singapore, predominantly to Australia, China, and India. Initially, Scoot's fleet consisted of Boeing 777 aircraft obtained from Singapore Airlines. The airline began to transition its fleet to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft from 2015. On 25 July 2017, Tigerair was officially merged into Scoot using Tigerair's air operator's certificate (AOC) but retaining the 'Scoot' brand. With the change of AOC, the airline's IATA code was changed from TZ to TR, and its ICAO code was changed from SCO to TGW, previously used by Tigerair. Its head office is at Singapore Changi Airport.

First class (aviation)

First class is a travel class on some passenger airliners intended to be more luxurious than business class, premium economy, and economy class. Originally all planes offered only one class of service, with a second class appearing first in 1955, when TWA introduced two different types of service on its Super Constellations.


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