jump to navigation

The Skinny on Airplane Seats : Sites to compare seat sizes 21 January 13

Posted by Jonathan V. Phillips in traveler advise.

As anyone who travels can tell you, not all airlines are the same. From in flight amenities to quality of crew service, the overall quality of a flight varies even between different flights from the same airline. One of the most basic qualities of any flight is the seat which you are assigned. It’s where you will spend your time journeying and in many cases will set the tone for how you arrive at your destination.

The quality of experience offered by commercial airline seats has been declining over the past 50 years. With airlines narrowing the width of the seats to fit in extra passengers in each row, passengers are being squeezed in to accommodate more people. The airline’s justification for the squeeze is cost, demanding that they maximize the amount of sell able space on the plane. The systematic reduction of seat size has some seats as narrow as 17” wide. When put up against the average seat in a movie theater, which is 23”, the narrowness of these skinny seats is apparent. But the width of the seat cushion is just one part of the overall seat width experience. The arm rest, which the proverbial front line between adjacent passengers has been reduced as well. The over all effect has been a loss of space and a tighter ride for passengers, riding elbow to elbow.

The US Center for Disease Control indicates that 30% of US adults are categorically obese. So while the seats on the plane the plane are getting narrower, the people in those seats are now wider on the average. The reduction of the seat and traveler’s assigned space has been a source of conflict for many years. With no FAA mandate to the airlines on this issue of travelers to large for their shrinking seats, the individuate carriers are responsible for formulating and executing policy in these matters. Most airlines now have rules that require a “traveler of size” to purchase a second seat to accommodate their size. A traveler of size is usually defined as a passenger who will not fit in the 17” seat with the arm rests down. These rules are usually on a case by case basis, not clearly published and ultimately are not enforced equally.

Both sides of the obese traveler issue raise valid arguments. On one hand, ostracizing a passenger because of their weight can be traumatic, humiliating experience and ultimately creates a public conflict. The other side of the coin has passengers, who are already feeling the squeeze of their narrow seat, infringed upon by someone who is spilling over the boundaries of the arm rest. I’ve been on flights and seated next to people who couldn’t put the arm rest down because of their size. Should I be entitled to a discount for the inconvenience of having to pay for someone else’s body mass to ride in my seat? And why should I have to be the one who confronts the large passenger on this issue? Clearly there is a better solution here than having everyone being an uncomfortable situation for hours.

There is another fact besides the seat cushion size and armrest width that contribute to the general quality of a flight, and that is the seat pitch. Seat pitch is basically how close you are to the seat in front and behind you. It is the proverbial measure of leg room. The amount of pitch given to the seat rows varies between the airlines. It also varies between individual flights on the same airline. The numbers usually run from 28” at the tight end to the luxurious 38”. Being over 6 foot tall, a seat with good leg room is the difference between a cramped up knee and a good flight. On flights where the pitch is simply to tight, don’t expect to recline if you are seated in front of me. My legs simply won’t allow it and I extend the same courtesy to person behind me by not reclining further into their limited space.

I propose a solution for the sake of argument It addresses the issue and takes into account the arguments of the airlines and the passengers squeezed into spaces that don’t fit them. Airlines should provide seats that are wider to accommodate the reality of body shapes. Regardless of whose responsibility obesity is, the fact is Americans and many others are wider than they were on the average. Using the narrowest seat possible is simply not an option for a large number of air travelers. The second part is to create fares based on how much mass and volume is required to transport an individual and their luggage. The space agencies run calculations based on total tonnage for figuring the amount of fuel required for a mission, the airlines could take a lesson from this mentality. I propose fares based on a calculation of the traveler’s total mass ( body weight and luggage) plus the total amount of square volume of the body and bags .

The airline seat issue is a hot topic. With little leadership from the FAA on the issue, passengers are left with few tools to ensure they have adequate space for their body on an airplane. The good news is that there are ways to verify what you are getting into before you purchase a ticket or board the plane. There are websites that allow the flying public to check the size and pitch of their seat. They are searchable by flight and airline and give the dimensions of the seats aboard the plane.  These sites also provide excellent reviews of other aspects of commercial air travel as well. If the air plane seat is an issue these website can help you make an educated decision on your next ticket purchase.






No comments yet — be the first.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: