People complain quite a lot about the lack of space in an economy class cabin. Squashed together in six across seating on board an Airbus A320 or Boeing 737 is the travel standard for most of us. Did you know one airline actually tried seven seats across? Yes, really!

The British built Hawker Siddeley Trident is an aircraft that resembles the Boeing 727 in many ways. Long out of service, one must wonder why anyone thought putting seven seats across was a good idea.

About Internal Cabin Widths

When Boeing introduced the Boeing 707 into airline service in 1958, it featured an internal cabin width of 3.54 metres. This same cross section carried over to the next product on offer, the Boeing 727. Clearly onto a good thing, both the Boeing 737 and 757 inherited it too.


Airbus designed their A320 later on and chose to go for 3.70 metres. Those extra 16 centimetres (just over six inches, boys!) add to passenger comfort. The Trident, on the other hand, has an internal cabin width of 3.56 metres, just 2cm more than a 737 or about three quarters of an inch. You can see where this is going, can’t you?

Seven Seats Across A Trident

Channel Airways in the UK ordered the Trident 1E-140 and decided to pack in 139 passengers. This is an aircraft that typically seated 96 to 103 passengers, so to say the configuration was dense is an understatement.


The airline ordered five Tridents on 5 October 1967 but ended up taking delivery of just two. The first, G-AVYB, arrived on 31 May 1968 and the second G-AVYE followed.


Seven seats across only featured in the forward cabin on the left hand side, due to exit limitations. Apparently the theory was to allocate these to families with small children on the charter flights that Channel Airways conducted. You would hope the adults were small too!


As you can imagine, passenger feedback was not great and eventually the airline itself folded. With it went the big experiment on the seating and thankfully it has never happened since.

Overall Thoughts

Let’s hope the airlines of today (Ryanair!) don’t get any ideas, as seven seats across looks truly hideous. Imagine being squashed into those seats for an hour, let alone two or three. To add insult to injury, seat pitch was apparently extremely tight too. Sardine class did actually exist!

For those that think the golden age of aviation has passed, think again. It really does look like the 21st century is fitting that bill, what with lie-flat seats in business class, premium economy and the rest.

Did you ever experience seven seats across on the Channel Airways Trident? What was it like? Those seeing it for the first time, what are your thoughts? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Ralf Manteufel on Airliners.net via Wikimedia Commons.
Seat map and seven across interior via this Trident web page. Interior photo from Neil Lomax Collection.
Air Ceylon Trident 1E cabin via Pinterest.
Thanks to WHBM.