Monday marked Festivus, a mythical holiday that includes the annual airing of grievances. Well, airline passengers, here’s one for your list of grievances: airplane seat room is getting slimmer.
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According to the New York Times, an increasing number of airlines are installing a new concept called “slim-line” seats, which are made with lighter weight materials, and include less cushioning. The slim-line seats also reduce the amount a seat can recline from three inches to two inches.
On Southwest Airlines, the use of slim-line seats is allowing the airline to add another row of six seats across on every flight, providing it with another $200 million a year in revenue.
That’s the point, according to a seat expert interviewed by the Times. “In today’s environment, the goal is to fit as many seats in the cabin as possible,” said Tom Plant, the general manager for seating products at B/E Aerospace, one of the top airplane seat makers. “We would all like more space on an aircraft, but we all like a competitive ticket price.”
Some airlines are going an additional route by using seats that don’t recline at all. The Times notes that these “stiff seats” are popping up on European airlines such as low-cost carriers Easy Jet and Ryanair. They’re a feature on Air France’s domestic flights, which rarely last more than an hour.
On these flights, the magazine pocket has been installed above the tray travel, allowing for a tiny bit more leg room. Airlines insist that such measures are necessary, since passengers have resisted fare increases and are constantly looking for ways to save money on plane tickets.
Of course, the complete opposite of shrinking seats is true in business and first class, where airlines compete with each other by offering lie-flat seats and even private compartments on overseas flights, pajamas included. There’s also been an effort for airlines to offer premium economy sections, where a little bit more legroom can be had by paying a fee.
So, if you notice that you have less leg room on your next coach flight, you can either point a finger at too many Christmas cookies, or the airline itself. It’s pretty clear who most passengers are going to blame.
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