Knees under your chin? Ready for takeoff!


Are you close to the people you fly with? It turns out you are getting closer every year.

They say that in this season of improving economic conditions, huge numbers of people plan to fly during Thanksgiving week.

If you are one of them, prepare for the cattle-car experience that flying in this country has become.

As reported in The New York Times on Nov. 6, just in time for holiday travel, passengers are getting fed up with "the incredible shrinking airline seats."

In recent years, the space between the front of your seat and the back of the seat of the person in front of you has shrunk from 31 to, in some cases, 28 inches.

The purpose is to enable the airlines to add more rows, so they can carry more people (and thus make more money).

This is a far cry from the smiling, happy, comfortable, well-dressed passengers we see portrayed in the old stock color footage of air flight in the 1960s.

Americans have gotten taller and heavier since the 1960s, but the seats have gotten smaller.

An advocacy group called Flyers Rights is petitioning the Federal Aviation Administration to set minimum dimensions for airline seat width and pitch (the space provided for knee room).

As the Times reported: "The group won a round in its court battle with the FAA in July, when a Federal District Court told the agency to address what it referred to as 'the incredible shrinking airline seat.'"

The group argues that the issue goes beyond mere comfort. People who are packed in so close might have difficulty evacuating in the event of an emergency.

Passengers' complaints can make a difference. As the Times reported: "This year, the news leaked that American Airlines was considering a cabin redesign that would leave a few rows in its new Boeing 737 Max fleet with just 29 inches of pitch, plans the carrier quickly dropped after a rash of complaints.

"'We got a lot of pushback from our customers and, most notably, from our team members,' the airline's chief executive, Doug Parker, told investors on a conference call in July. 'While we could convince ourselves that that might be able to produce somewhat higher revenues on the aircraft, what it was doing to our perception with our team wasn't worth it.'"

Of course, consumers are not without blame in the shrinking seat fiasco, either.

People want an inexpensive ticket, but they complain about the airlines' efforts to keep the costs down.

Still, there must be plenty of passengers out there willing to pay a little extra for a nice, comfortable flight without feeling like they are in a cattle car.

Perhaps the airlines should make roomy seats and use them as a marketing tool.

Someone better do it before we are sitting with our knees under our chins.


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