London - British Airways is putting the squeeze on passengers by cramming an extra 52 seats on to its Boeing 777 holiday jets.
The scheme will involve adding an extra seat to each row, taking the total for the aircraft from 280 to 332.
Currently there are nine seats across each row in economy but in 2018 this will rise to ten on the aircraft, which operate out of Gatwick.
This will raise the economy cabin from 216 to 252 seats. The seats will not be any smaller, but the aisles will be narrower, making cabins more claustrophobic.
It will also trim the business-class cabin from 40 to 32 seats but double the premium-economy cabin to 48 seats.
The change comes as passengers are getting bigger, which means flying will inevitably be more uncomfortable.
It is also likely to lead to longer queues for the toilets as there will now be only one for every 30 passengers compared with the current one for 25.
BA faces increasing competition on routes to the US from the likes of budget operator, Norwegian. The airline is desperate to bring down fares in order to appear at the top of price comparison tables.
Willie Walsh, chief of BA’s parent company IAG, said: “We’re responding to a market opportunity.” He said the move would allow BA to “lower the average cost per seat, charge a lower price and stimulate demand”.
A spokesperson for BA said: “We are updating our 777 cabins to bring us into line with many of our competitors.”
Other airlines with ten seats per row include Air New Zealand and Emirates. Air France has a special fleet devoted to Caribbean and Indian Ocean services with ten seats in each row.
BA will also add 12 seats on its short-haul Airbus A320 fleet operating from Heathrow, giving the planes the same seating density as easyJet. BA said the new seats on ‘Triple Sevens’ would be fitted with bigger screens.
Airlines across the world are competing for passenger traffic on short and long-haul routes by trying to reduce costs.
Some carriers, such as Uzbekistan Airways, even considered weighing passengers before boarding, citing “in-flight safety requirements” introduced by the International Air Transport Association, but the organisation said it has no such rules.
BA recently announced it is dropping free meals and drinks in economy class on short-haul flights in a switch to sandwiches from Marks & Spencer.
It will be able to cash in from selling snacks, pastries, sandwiches and drinks, where there are big profit margins.
Free refreshments have been a feature of BA’s service since it was created in 1974 by the merger of several smaller carriers.