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2-5-2 Seating: Why? When? Who?

Thu Oct 03, 2002 4:50 am

Does anyone know why airlines ever went with 2-5-2 seating as opposed to 3-3-3? I've read through the boards here that this primarily evolved out of 2-4-2, but never any explanation as to why, if an airline was going to reconfigure an entire cabin anyway, it would go that route.
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RE: 2-5-2 Seating: Why? When? Who?

Thu Oct 03, 2002 5:01 am

United's explanation for equipping its 777 fleet in the 2-5-2 configuration was that the most frequent request by frequent fliers was for an empty seat next to them. United felt 2-5-2 gave the greatest chance for this to happen. I personally like the 3-3-3 much better, but not as much as the 2-3-2 in a 767.
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RE: 2-5-2 Seating: Why? When? Who?

Thu Oct 03, 2002 5:21 am

With 3-3-3 two people have to climb over two people to get to the aisle.

With 2-5-2, only one person (the one in the AWFUL seat) does.

3-4-2 is an ideal configuration for passenger comfort, but airlines dislike the symmetry.

Personally, I would rather have 3-3-3. Who cares if the window seats have to climb over two others? They have to do that on a Boeing narrowbody and on a 747 anyway. Besides, I think a section of 5 makes the airplane look and feel like a cattle car.

What the row of 5 is nice for, though, is stretching out during an empty load.
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RE: 2-5-2 Seating: Why? When? Who?

Thu Oct 03, 2002 5:25 am

It makes sense that it evolved from the 2-4-2 seating on L-1011s and DC-10s, as it was likely the most expedient way to add a new seat - you only have to add it to one bank of seats instead of reorganizing the outside seats.

I know that during the mid and late 70s when this occurred, airlines argued that only one seat per row required a climb over two seats in order to get to the aisle. Whereas in a 3-3-3 seating arrangement, you have two seats per aisle that require such a hike.

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RE: 2-5-2 Seating: Why? When? Who?

Thu Oct 03, 2002 6:13 am

Most people who sit at windows want to be there, and having to climb over two people usually isn't an issue for these folks. So, in a 3-3-3 config, no person who is sandwiched in by two seats really minds being sandwiched in.... but in a 2-5-2 the person who is sandwiched in by two seats usually isn't happy about it.

With 3-3-3, unhappy people per row = 0
With 2-5-2, unhappy people per row = 1

Go 3-3-3!!!  Smile/happy/getting dizzy
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RE: 2-5-2 Seating: Why? When? Who?

Thu Oct 03, 2002 8:44 am


As I see it, the prime seats are window, aisle, or seated next to an empty (seated next to a supermodel is also good, but hard to predict). IMHO, with normal loads (about 75%), the 2-5-2 configuration is superior.

Example configuration: 30 rows of coach, 270 seats at 2-5-2 or 3-3-3

2-5-2 -- It takes an 89% load factor to require anyone to sit in the middle of five. Up 'til that point, the seating is essentially 2-2-2-2, which sounds pretty darn good. At higher load factors, the dreaded center seats could be occupied mainly by families wishing to be seated abreast or space available passengers (if the airline manages properly). At worst, 11% of passengers are more than 1 seat from the aisle (a consideration for boarding, service and physiological breaks).

3-3-3 -- To reach an equivalent level of comfort (all passengers either at window, aisle or next to unoccupied seat) on 3-3-3 configured aircraft would require a load factor of less than 67%. 22% of passengers are more than 1 seat from an aisle.

IMO, at load factors up to 89%, 2-5-2 offers superior comfort. At greater load factors the comfort is equivalent and more subjective.

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RE: 2-5-2 Seating: Why? When? Who?

Thu Oct 03, 2002 10:27 am

Let's not forget that 2-5-2 allows for seating arrangements that take into account the three main traveling public groupings: Family, pair, and solo.

Two people flying together is a major chunk of the traveling public. A 2-5-2 plane allows them to sit together in private. I would much rather fly a 2-X-2 plane, than a 3-X-3 plane, if I was traveling with a companion, for obvious reasons.

Another major chunk of the load is families. And families usually wish to sit together so the 4 or 5 seats in the middle is ideal. Rarely do you have 3 people traveling together. If it's not a couple, it's a family. And most families are comprised of four or more people.

And for those traveling alone, the 2-5-2 setup is also best. Why? Because it's no fun being the third wheel. It's awkward for three people to have a conversation. Especially for 8 hours. When a solo traveler is seated on a 2-5-2 plane, the ticket agent will usually put them into one of the outboard pairs of seats. Then the empty seat next to him/her is filled with another solo traveler. And a happy couple is formed. If not, they can choose not to talk but both will be happy, as one has a window seat, and the other an aisle and nobody gets stuck in the middle.

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RE: 2-5-2 Seating: Why? When? Who?

Thu Oct 03, 2002 11:38 am

I have to disagree Ex_SQer:

3-3-3 three unhappy people
2-5-2 one unhappy person

thats why airlines choose to stay w/ it.
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RE: 2-5-2 Seating: Why? When? Who?

Thu Oct 03, 2002 2:06 pm


I would ammend your statement: 2-5-2 = two unhappy people and one REALLY unhappy person. (There are still three middle seats)
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RE: 2-5-2 Seating: Why? When? Who?

Thu Oct 03, 2002 3:36 pm

Well, if I'm traveling alone or with companion I prefer 2-5-2 as Malaysia Airlines has on board their 772.

The best thing I have ever seen is the seating config. of Swiss (and earlier Swissair)'s MD11 with 3/4/2! That's optimal and I once have been told that due to load config. this wouldn't be possible on a 772. I doubt if that's true as long as it works on a MD11 it shouldn't be a problem on the 772. Does anyone know more about that?
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RE: 2-5-2 Seating: Why? When? Who?

Thu Oct 03, 2002 3:47 pm

3-3-3 in any case. SIA gave us a special arrangement once, they blocked off the middle seat for my mom and grandma, giving 2 people 3 seats, extra space!

You won't ever get this on a 2-5-2 configured aircraft. 3-3-3 also means the person seated directly in the center of the plane, as in,

x - seat
| - aisle

xxx | xXx | xxx

the capital X, will only have to climb over one person to go to the lav while in the 2-5-2 configured one,

x - seat
| - aisle

xx | xxXxx | xx

the passenger in the seat labelled X has to climb over two passengers, making him VERY unhappy. Also, the window seat passengers in the 3-3-3 configurations do not mind having to jump over two people, as they have specifically requested the seat!

My 2-5-2 opinions are at full load, BTW.

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RE: 2-5-2 Seating: Why? When? Who?

Fri Oct 04, 2002 1:35 am

I also think 3-4-2 is the most sensible solution.
If there are very few passengers, then the 5 in 2-5-2
is ideal for stretching out.  Smile

Emirates manages to squeeze 3-4-3 into a 777...  Sad
Delta is converting its 777s from 2-5-2 to 3-3-3.  Smile

However, 2-4-2 is best seating configuration for economy.
(as in the Airbus A330/A340 family)  Big grin Just out of
curiosity, are there any airlines that manage to squeeze
2-5-2 into the A330 or A340?

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RE: 2-5-2 Seating: Why? When? Who?

Fri Oct 04, 2002 2:03 am

I think THAI manages 3-4-3 on some of their 777's.
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RE: 2-5-2 Seating: Why? When? Who?

Fri Oct 04, 2002 2:10 am


Not sure about 330's/340's, but HapagLloyd (German holiday airline) have a 3-3-3 configuration on their A310's  Sad

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RE: 2-5-2 Seating: Why? When? Who?

Fri Oct 04, 2002 2:16 am

I understand arguments in favor 3-3-3 and 2-5-2 seatings.

But would any of you who consider the 3-4-2 the ideal configuration please explain to me why it is the best. I can't figure it out.

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RE: 2-5-2 Seating: Why? When? Who?

Fri Oct 04, 2002 3:16 am

As for the 777 I really prefer the 2-5-2. I always prefer an aisle seat. And even when travelling alone it's more comfortable to have just one person sitting next to me than being squezed in a row a the third person.
Generally a always chose my flights by the type of plane an seat configuration if possible. I.e. I'd rather fly on a 767 or Airbus than on a 747 as those have only 2 seats next to the window.
It's the same for the Hapag-Lloyd A310. If there is a flight on any other type on the same day I try to get a seat on that one. The 3-3-3 arrangement on the Airbus is awfull, as is the 3-3 seating on BAe146s and Avros.
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RE: 2-5-2 Seating: Why? When? Who?

Fri Oct 04, 2002 8:20 am


Xxx | xxx | xxX

Pax in seat A or J have to climb over 2 people as well. 2-3-2 is the best, 2-4-2 sure would beat the heck out of 3-4-3 on long haul (as long as it's not one of those charter airlines with 2-4-2 in 767s, ouch) IMO.

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RE: 2-5-2 Seating: Why? When? Who?

Fri Oct 04, 2002 8:40 am

There is actually one single advantage of having the centermost seat in 2-5-2 IF you had no choice but a middle seat. You will never have to get up for anyone. I actually think that these seats are the worst of the middle seats:

xx [x,XxXx] xx

You suffer the worst of everything in those seats:

(1) you have no view
(2) you cannot get up without waking someone up to climb out over them
(3) you still might have to get up to let the centermost person out as well as relay the news to the aisle seat person so that they can get up too. after that is done, dont bother going back to sleep until they are ready to get back in their seat.

Any of the other seats in this configuration will gain you at least one advantage.