How Big are Your Hips? Airline Seat Controversy Update

Thanks to a new report from USA Today, airline passengers may feel a little better about how that diet is going because as it turns out, “It’s not you. It’s the seat.” The seat is smaller.

The Big Seat Squeeze

Yes, the seat pitch is smaller (that’s the distance between your seat back and the one in front of you) as FareCompare has reported over the years but interest revved up after a couple of passengers were thrown off a plane for fighting over reclining seats. Another squeeze, says USA Today is the width of seats.

Passenger Bottoms vs. Airline Bottom Lines

About 30 years ago, some airlines gave economy flyers seats as wide as 20 inches. Today’s seats can be as small as 17 inches. Is this because we’re all becoming thinner? Uh, no. It’s because the more seats that can be packed in a plane, the better – at least for an airline’s bottom line.

You can’t blame them. As Rick Seaney pointed out recently, it wasn’t so long ago that airlines were going under at an alarming rate – in one case, three carriers folded in a single week during April of 2008 – and an out-of-business airline can’t fly anyone anywhere.

Good News Amidst the Bad

Couple of things passengers can do:

  • Check with SeatGuru: This terrific resource gives you seat-size information (down to the inch) and you could consider choosing a flight based on width of seat and pitch.
  • Pay a little extra: Delta offers larger seats in Economy Comfort which cost an additional $99 on a fall flight between Los Angeles and New York. Check your airline’s website for similar options.
  • Dress slim: If you can avoid the bulky sweaters and remove your jacket or coat, it won’t feel quite so snug.

If one is looking for a silver lining, maybe it’s what the airlines haven’t tried – including the stool-like, saddle-type seat known as the SkyRider. Or even worse, the suggestion by Ryanair impresario Michael O’Leary that he may one day try selling ‘standing room only‘ seats.

Which Airline has the Best Seats?

Which brings us to our question of the day: Which airline has the best seats?


Published: September 25, 2014