For most travelers, flying coach doesn't only pinch the pocket book, it also pinches the pants, hips and knees.
The fact is, Americans are getting larger and airline seats are getting smaller, shrinking from 18.5 to 16.5 inches, and it's not just the narrow width that has our tushies in a twist. The distance between seats, or the pitch (measured seat back to seat back), has also decreased from 35 to 31 inches...with some only allowing for 28!
In my humble opinion, it's no wonder tempers are short and chaos often erupts during flights. When people are crammed together like sardines and personal space is traded for corporate profit, it's enough to send some people over the edge.
This case isn't about comfort though, it's about safety! The FAA contends that seat size has no bearing on safety or the time it would take a passenger to get off the plane in an emergency (FAA mandated at 90 seconds), but the Federal Court of Appeals isn't buying it...yet. They are requesting proof, not just their say so, that size doesn't matter.
Although this review is mandated, change is not. The FAA isn't required to create new rules, consider the comfort of passengers or do anything other than justify their safety findings...yet. But it does give this frequent flier, and the advocacy group spear-heading this suit, hope that change with with best interest of the customer will be put in front of the profits of the airlines.
Click here to watch The Today Show's coverage of this breaking news
A TRU BREAKDOWN
Now we'll put me in the passenger seat! I'm 5'6" and the distance from my hips to the end of knees is 23". If the average seat pitch is 31" , the math suggests I'd have 8" of legroom, but remember pitch is measured from seat back to seat back and doesn't take into consideration the thickness of the back seat cushion or the 1 to 3 inches that is lost once the person reclines in front of you! Now do the math. My actual legroom is closer to 5" before takeoff and 2" once seats are reclined and I'm ONLY 5'6"! It's baffling that the FAA contends that passenger safety isn't affected by such narrow margins. It seems to me they haven't flown economy and tried to exit from a window seat lately, or if they have, they really enjoy a good game of Twister!
Bottom line: Airlines will continue to decrease seat sizes, pitches, armrest widths, and whatever else is trim-able, to increase their bottom line, unless some rules and regulations are mandated by the courts. As consumers, we need be prepared and stay informed. Next time you get ready to book an airline ticket, compare the seat width and pitch, not just the flights price and schedule, if comfort is important and worth the cost.
When upgrades aren't possible, due to boss or budget, follow these tips to lessen your discomfort and keep your mind and body in a happier state!