Big Airlines Cramming Even More Seats Into Coach

If you’re looking for the most legroom, look to the low fare carriers because the big airlines are cramming more and more seats into coach, says the WSJ.

Apparently, American Airlines has just added (brace yourself) 12 additional seats to new 737-800 jets from Boeing. How are the airlines able to cram more seats into the same amount of space? They’re removing galleys, ordering slimmer seats, and yes… squeezing the rows closer together.

What’s interesting is that the seat squeeze means discount airlines now offer more generous seat-pitch then their competitors. You get at least 34 inches of space in each row of a JetBlue A320, including the seat (the seat pitch, in industry parlance). At Southwest, seat pitch is 32-33 inches in 737s. But at American, United, Delta, Continental and others, seat-pitch is standardizing down at 31 inches in domestic coach.

Something to think about when you’re booking travel.

Seat Squeeze: Low-Cost Carriers Now Offer The Most Legroom [WSJ]


Edit Your Comment

  1. mrsultana can't get a password to work says:

    What a great motivation in time for bathing suit weather! Yay AA!

  2. petermv says:

    The reasoning again why the big airlines are worth the money?

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @petermv: It’s not exactly about worth…sometimes you have to fly a big carrier. And JetBlue and AirTran are hardly tiny carriers.

      • Donathius says:

        @pecan 3.14159265: Kinda depends on the situation. My wife and I are flying from Salt Lake City to New York later this month on Delta. Southwest would’ve been my preference but it would’ve involved a lot more travel time due to plane changes. This way it’s a direct flight with only a few hours in the air – plus my mother-in-law bought the tickets with frequent flier miles, so I really can’t complain.

        I generally fly Southwest, but we also got an Amex gold card with Delta FF miles – partially because we like the extra benefits from the Amex and the fact that we get something out of spending money we were going to spend anyway. We’re the customers that they hate – we put everything on the Amex, but we treat it like our debit cards. Every time we put something on the Amex money gets transferred into an ING account that we use to pay our bills. Then we pay of the card in full every month, don’t pay any interest, and get airline miles for our trouble.

    • Scuba Steve says:

      @petermv: They’ve never been worth the money. They fill a niche in travel that will always be like this until the invention of 1. Safe Dependable VTOL flying cars, and 2. Automated piloting.

      • David Brodbeck says:

        @Scuba Steve: I don’t think that niche will go away then. Flying cars, if ever invented, will be strictly a rich man’s game. Have you seen what avgas costs, and how much fuel a small airplane burns? It makes a Hummer H1 look like a Prius.

        • GearheadGeek says:

          @David Brodbeck: They’ll be a rich man’s game because of the cost of entry (so the manufacturers can afford their liability insurance to protect them from the sue-happy family of the guy who didn’t see that mountain coming…)

          100LL is WAY overpriced, that much is true, but comparing light planes to an H2 (much less the H1 YOU mentioned) is a bit ridiculous. A Mooney Ovation, for example (high-performance single-engine retractable gear) burns around 12.5 gallons an hour cruising just over 200 mph around 15,000 feet. While it’s certainly no Prius, I doubt you’d see 18 mpg in an H2 ever, and if you put enough horsepower in it to shove it down the road at 200 mph you’d be measuring in gallons per mile.

    • ARP says:

      @petermv: They’re like Starbucks or Comcast. Their primary draw isn’t the quality or price, its the fact that they’re so convenient. They’ve got the major airports and the most direct flights.

      So, like many companies, its their market size/power (especially on certain routes), not their actual quality of services that keeps them where they are.

    • theblackdog says:

      @petermv: Southwest doesn’t fly to Europe, so it’s either a big carrier, or don’t leave the continent.

  3. I Love New Jersey says:

    Ah yes, another step toward going the way of the dodo for these legacy carriers.

    • Megladon says:

      @I Love New Jersey:

      They’d just get a bailout, and then you would own upto 60% of some worthless airline.

    • youbastid says:

      @I Love New Jersey: Will never happen. You think the auto bailout is bad? United, American, Delta, et al have been getting continuously bailed out for YEARS.

      • Trai_Dep says:

        @youbastid: Yup. Lackadaisical weapon screening policies by the carriers pre-9/11 allowing box-cutters in, then enjoy the (guess which party controlled Congress and the Executive branch, g’head, I dare you) immunity from lawsuits from the victims’ survivors and phat billion-dollar giveaways to the airlines.
        Yup. Coddling for poorly-run mega-corps, “Free Market” for everyone else. The Conservative way!

        • ARP says:

          @Trai_Dep: So why isn’t everyone screaming about how Bush is a commie? He bailed out the airlines.

          Part of the problem is that there are few carriers to fill the regional routes. The government pays carriers big bucks to serve underserved markets (e.g. LaCrosse, WI) because there is no other realistic transporation options for them. Now, if they put in regional high speed rail, they could help solve a lot of problems: environment, take off delays, security, etc. But it’s communist to do that. However, it’s not communist to just give airlines lots of money to keep serving those markets.

          • Trai_Dep says:

            @ARP: Why solve problems when you can instead use calamities as an excuse to throw money at political fundraisers like a drunken sailor?

          • NeverLetMeDown says:


            While I’d just scrap the airline subsidies (unitl I start to see rural taxpayers subsidizing my choice to live in NYC, I don’t see why I should subsidize theirs to live in rural areas), they could very well be the most cost-efficient solution, since the passenger volumes likely wouldn’t be high enough to justify expensive high speed rail service. Think about Europe – want to go Paris-Marsailles? High speed rail. For trips to/from small towns? Local trains, or buses.

            • ARP says:

              @NeverLetMeDown: True, but I don’t think rail regional rail would serve truly small towns. They would serve mid-sized to larger cities and areas where there’s enough people in an area, but not necessarily in a single place. For example, the Quad cities in Iowa/Illinois have enough people to economically justify putting a stop at one of those towns to serve that area.

        • NeverLetMeDown says:


          1. Carriers weren’t in charge of security, it was an airport function.
          2. It’s not at all clear that the box cutters were even prohibited at the time.
          3. Immunity makes sense, so long as they were following FAA guidelines. Anyway, the suits wouldn’t have garnered much. AA and United would have filed for bankruptcy, and the victims’ families would have been junior creditors, so there wouldn’t have been much to claim.
          4. I agree with you on the post-9/11 funding.

          • cromartie says:

            @NeverLetMeDown: You’re wrong on point number 1. The Nixon Administration ended federal funding for Airport Security, turning the responsibility to the airports who, in turn, turned the responsibility over to the airlines in hub cities. Airlines made the decisions upon whom to subcontract security to, at least in the hub cities I’ve worked in.

            • NeverLetMeDown says:

              I like the toys on Virgin, but the seats are incredibly uncomfortable, I find. Agreed on Alaska. Hear you on assigned seating, but usually when I’m flying last minute it’s full fare, so I can get one of the priority seats.

        • HiPwr says:

          @Trai_Dep: You finally got something right. One of George Bush’s first executive orders after he took over from Clinton was to relax airport security and allow (even encourage) passengers to take box cutters onto airplanes.

  4. Berz says:

    Yet another reason why Southwest is my airline of choice.

    • edwardso says:

      @Berz: maybe it’s just the dates or places I travel but I have never found a deal on southwest that frontier couldn’t beat, and thats a layover flight vs. non-stop

    • NeverLetMeDown says:


      I just can’t get past the lack of assigned seating and all the stops.

      • Batmanuel says:


        The major carriers have added so many fees and cut so many amenities that flying on Southwest seem like a luxury now. I do everything in my power to make sure that I take Southwest, Virgin, or Alaska when I travel on business. Flying the bigger carriers is has just turned into an unpleasant experience anymore.

        The lack of assigned seating is actually really nice for me on Southwest, because it lets me book a flight at the last minute and I’ll still get a good seat if I set a reminder on my phone to check in online as soon as the 24 hour window opens. With assigned seating I usually get stuck with a crappy seat if I book when I’ll get the best prices.

  5. balthisar says:

    It won’t be so bad if you have a knee defender. I’m tall, it sucks, but it’s tolerable. The “discount” carriers don’t fly to my destinations, unfortunately.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:


      If you don’t want the person in front of you reclining their seat, then buy the seat in front of you too. The seat is built to recline, it’s their right to recline. Or would it be OK if a very fat person next to you decided that he “needed” half of your seat as well?

      • TheSpatulaOfLove says:


        Go ahead and tilt your seat you insensitive clod. I’ll make your entire flight just as miserable as it is for me. And no, I’m NOT going to buy another seat because the greedy airline chose to set their seats to the ‘average’ height of people in 1901.

        • NeverLetMeDown says:


          Insensitive clod? For using the space I paid for? Wow, you’re arrogant. Would I be an insensitive clod because I refused to squeeze myself into 2/3 of my seat because the very fat person next to me would be more comfortable with the armrest up?

          Basically, you’re saying that your comfort is more important than mine, and that I should make myself uncomfortable for your convenience. No thanks. If you’re in front of me, recline away. If you’re behind me, deal with it.

          • Jaynor says:


            I do – I call it the “Golden Monkey Fist”… also the “whoops I sneezed all over your face a few times”.

          • Framling says:

            @NeverLetMeDown: I didn’t pay for the space my knees are occupying? You know, the same space that you’re for some reason trying to force your seat back into to gain a paltry 3 degrees recline?

            Just because the seats can recline doesn’t mean you’re not a jerk for crushing my kneecaps. The seats also have the capacity to be repeatedly shoved by my recently crushed knees for the entire duration of the flight.

            What we’re saying is that your comfort isn’t important enough to warrant causing us pain.

            • Mina_da_mad_child says:

              @Framling: Then you have the capacity to get royally cursed out for the entire flight, unless a flight attendent decides to move one of us.

              I purchased the right to recline my seat, sorry that makes your flight uncomfortable. Next time, pay extra for the legroom, cheapskate

          • trujunglist says:


            As long as you don’t mind my knees in your back, because I have no other place to put them.

      • Jeff-er-ee says:

        @NeverLetMeDown: It’s their right? Really? Wow, short-person complex?

        Fat is a decision (no disrespect intended to rotund individuals, but it IS a choice). Height is not, unless you, NeverLetMeThink, have developed a safe, functional shrink ray.

        I hope you’re in front of me on my next flight. My discomfort will be worth it if I can make your flight miserable.

      • balthisar says:

        @NeverLetMeDown: Because the seat reclines into *my* space. Cars are built to go 120 miles per hour. Is that justification to go 120 miles per hour?

        I had a cunt on flight try to play that game with me before I bought my Knee Defender, back when I used to explain the situation and ask politely. The crew took my side: told her she had to move, or just not be able to recline. I don’t *need* the Knee Defender to stop an inconsiderate person whom I’ve asked nicely not to recline.

        By the way… the Knee Defender comes with a nice little card politely explaining the situation. Since purchasing it and using the card, I’ve never actually had a problem, and people aren’t insensitive, self-righteous jerks.

        Fatties are different. That’s *my* space.

        • NeverLetMeDown says:


          Nope, the seat recline is _my_ space.

          As for the Knee Defender, you may have gotten lucky, but the airlines all prohibit their use, and you can bet I would have raised holy hell with the airline if their staff failed to enforce policy.

          Basically, you’re just a self-righteous jerk who believes that everyone else should sacrifice for your convenience. Nice try, though.

          • trujunglist says:


            May the deity of your choice reincarnate you as a 6’7″ obese man.

          • Framling says:

            @NeverLetMeDown, Mina_da_mad_child: Look, it is simple.

            A) You don’t recline. You are uncomfortable. I am more uncomfortable (because I’m a tall fella crammed into a tiny seat).

            B) You do recline. You are slightly less uncomfortable. I am in INTENSE PAIN.

            I feel comfortable saying that if you willingly and knowingly choose option B, you are a sociopath.

  6. WarOtter - I went to Japan and all I got was this tumor. says:

    I’m just waiting for them to ditch seats in favor of benches, or even better, standing room only. Ooooh maybe they’ll just start placing us in bags and piling us on the floor, or maybe they can just start cramming us into train cars, then after we all suffocate and/or die of exhaustion they can strip down our bodies and take our valuables (since they already seem adept at rummaging through our luggage).

    • Mondoz says:

      @WarOtter: It’s just a matter of time before we’re all tossed into little cubicles like the ones in Fifth Element. They’ll turn on the gas before takeoff and we’ll all sleep through the flight.
      If everyone is asleep, there’s no potential threats, no one to serve meals or drinks to…

      We’re all just cattle to them anyway.

      • MaelstromRider says:

        @Mondoz: You know, I’d actually prefer that, especially for longer flights.

        The last long flight I took (15 hours) was completely and utterly miserable. The seats were cramped, I was freezing, people smelled bad, and the movie was Solaris. Oh, and because we couldn’t all get seats close together, I wasn’t really able to get help keeping my son, who was not at all tired, entertained. Now, he didn’t bother anyone, but damn I was exhausted making sure that didn’t happen.

        Sleeping the whole way in a little tube? Niiiiiice…

    • U-235 says:

      @WarOtter: That train of thought got very disturbing very quickly. I approve.

    • Kogenta says:

      @WarOtter: They’ve actually developed “seats” where you’re litterally standing up almost with a form shaped backboard. They determined that if they used those types of “seat” on that new super-trans-continental plane, they would actually be able to cram on the maximum rated “capacity” for passangers.

      It’s just that unless the flight is real short (ie, Japan was considering it on their shorter domestic flights) it’s not practicle (read, no one in their right mind would fly that way) to have “standing seats”.

      • floraposte says:

        @Kogenta: Maybe you’re thinking of the New York Times article that essentially had to run a retraction for this? See the end of the article at []
        In other words, it’s not actually true.

        In any case, it’s ultimately up to the airline ordering the aircraft what configuration the seats are in. That’s why the same aircraft can be nice and roomy on one airline and a cattle car on another.

        • Kogenta says:

          @floraposte: Didn’t know they issued that, certainly my newspaper didn’t issue any retraction that I remember seeing when they published that story.

          Still, even if Airbus abandoned the idea themselves, that’s not to say that an airline hasn’t picked up where they left off and is developing the same tech to use of their short haul flights.

          I mean, sure there may be resistance to the idea, but they’ve already proved people are willing to eat just about anything that the airlines do, so I don’t see it as outside the realm of possibility.

  7. ironchef says:

    I bet the airlines would sacrifice the lavatory for new seats if they could.

  8. johnva says:

    The reclining in front of you is the worst if you’re tall.

    I hate how if someone does the full recline in front of me I am basically forced to recline myself in order to have any space at all (my knees being uncomfortable is unavoidable). It makes me feel like an asshole, but there’s basically no choice when they cram the seats in so close. I’ll gladly pay for the upgrades like United Economy Plus to get some more room, but unfortunately that isn’t available on every aircraft and airline. First class is just too expensive to justify.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @johnva: This makes me wonder whether there is a way that carriers can modify how they seat people. I’m short, and I never recline my seat to the point where I might as well say hi to you. Wouldn’t it make things better and easier for me if the airline were to pair me with a row of similar people? Then the row behind me could be filled with tall people who dislike people who recline their seats too much.

      • edwardso says:

        @pecan 3.14159265:That’s not a bad idea. I’m a 5 footer and almost never recline

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          @edwardso: I guess the first problem you run into is when people want to sit together, and are different heights and body sizes.

          • edwardso says:

            @pecan 3.14159265: I must admit that I don’t find air travel to be all that uncomfortable

            • pecan 3.14159265 says:

              @edwardso: I don’t either, but I’m only 5’3. Mr. Pi is 6′ and while he doesn’t recline his seat much, would be aggravated if the person in front of him did. I would be too, if the person in front of me reclined their seat back. I was once stuck on a flight in which the person in front of me reclined before we even took off, and fell asleep, and I had to blindly dig through my bag to get out my magazines and books.

        • babyruthless says:

          @edwardso: I’m 5’4″, and hardly ever recline. But my husband is considerably taller, and I kinda like sitting next to him. I mean, he might be more comfortable leg-room wise if he sat in front of me (and reclined) or behind me (and I didn’t) but then we couldn’t share gummi bears and watch cheesy movies on the laptop together. And that would be a shame.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @johnva: I don’t know, though. I go crazy if I can’t recline the seat once the lights go off. Sitting at 90 degrees for four hours would drive me to madness, or drink.
      Well, like I need an excuse to drink…

    • ARP says:

      @johnva: Some airlines are toying with different seat designs.


      • johnva says:

        @ARP: Yeah, I saw that article when it came out. That might be an improvement, so I hope it catches on.

      • GearheadGeek says:

        @ARP: Looks interesting, but people who buy 2 adjacent seats because they are bigger than the space one seat offers would be out of luck in this arrangement.

      • H3ion says:

        @ARP: Yes, with holes in the middle to avoid having to use the pay toilets.

    • Jaynor says:

      @johnva: I’m 6’3″ and I forcefully stop people from reclining in coach. I jam my carry-on between my seat and the seatback in front of me (my legs hide it well) until the plane is in the air and if I ever hear the click of the recline button I produce a move I’d like to call the “golden monkey fist” into the chair back to push it back up before it locks.

      If the person in front of me gets annoyed I apologize and tell them there’s nothing I can do… I enjoy having patellas.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        @Jaynor: Um instead of ramming your fist into someone’s seat and forcing them to abide by your rules, how about you politely ask the person in front of you to please not recline because you’re tall and it would hurt your knees?

        • Jaynor says:

          @pecan 3.14159265:
          But then I’d miss out on the “Golden Monkey Fist.”

          I used to be much more polite about this but found that I’ve lost all faith in the kindness and decency of my fellow man (most people wouldn’t consider my request… one even called an attendant to complain about me asking).

          Maybe I had a bad run… but the Golden Monkey Fist method works like a charm virtually every time.

          • NeverLetMeDown says:


            That’ll work, until I call the flight attendant, and she tells you to stop messing with my seat (and yes, I’ve done it, and yes, they will). Don’t like me reclining? Buy my seat too, or sit in first.

            What you’re saying is that your comfort is more important than mine, so I should give up the comfort that I paid for just because you find it convenient. Nice try.

            If you’re in front of me recline away (I’m 6’2″ – do I like it? No, of course not, but it’s your right). If you’re behind me, deal.

            • veronykah says:

              @NeverLetMeDown: I agree with you, I’m 5’11” with very long legs.
              I could care less if the person in front of me reclines, I’d go nuts if I couldn’t recline my seat for an entire flight.
              All of you tall people do realize you can stretch your legs out in front of you under the seat right?
              I move my carryon and stretch my legs.
              It would be cool if the person in front of me chose not to recline their seat but really, they PAID for it.
              Sounds like a real dick move to not allow someone to recline their seat because it bothers YOU.
              If its that uncomfortable to you, ask for an exit row or pay the extra money and sit in first.

              • pecan 3.14159265 says:

                @veronykah: The best tactic for me is to put my bag under my legs so I can stretch out my legs under the seat in front of me. I always have a big purse or a backpack so I can stash some books and magazines in there along with necessities. I never stow it away, so I just stretch out my legs under the seat and put the bag under them.

            • Jaynor says:


              To each their own. My apologies in advance for accidentally sneezing all over your face ;)

            • BadHairLife says:

              @NeverLetMeDown: While I’m very sorry for your inability to sit upright in a plane like everyone else, this is not a case where you have a right to impinge on my personal space (and my kneecaps) to satisfy your whims.

              And, there isn’t a flight attendant I’ve ever encountered who has suggested that I have to saw off my legs or dislocate my hips in order to accommodate someone who is afflicted with this horrible inability to sit in a chair. However, they have asked people to stop bouncing on my goddamn knees like idiots when their seat hits them and doesn’t recline anymore.

              • Trai_Dep says:

                @BadHairLife: I honestly don’t get this, except for the very rare case that someone actually is too tall instead of overly-entitled. Shockingly the world is not about just you.
                If the person ahead of you leans back, you can either suffer the unimaginable discomfort of 3″ less air space in front of your face or, y’know, recline yourself.
                If a tall person isn’t sitting in an aisle seat, and can’t swap to one, and is behind me and asks, I won’t recline.

                Believe it or not, people once risked life and limb for months at a time, braving hunger, scalping, cannibalism and really perky girls in Gingham dresses to cross the country. Please keep this in mind for the four hour flight when someone avails themselves of a feature available to them.

                • BadHairLife says:

                  @Trai_Dep: Guess what, Trai-Dep – there were no reclining seats on the wagon train. Oh god, what would you have done.

                  Furthermore, this has nothing to do with your goddam scalp being two inches from my nose, it has to do with your entire body weight pushing my upper legs into my hips using that metal bar on the seat pocket to leave bruises and to knock my old basketball injury back to life.

                  Yeah, I guess it IS my fault for being “too tall” and feeling “overly-entitled” to be able to walk without limping after a four hour flight. My bad. Perhaps I should have surgery to take four or five inches out so that my too long legs don’t impinge on your freedom to lie in comfort in my lap any more.

                  But yeah, until I have that surgery, I will continue to leave my legs where they are and to complain when short jerks like you bounce on my knee caps when your seat hits them and won’t go back any further.

              • NeverLetMeDown says:


                Your personal space does not include the space my seat takes up when it’s any designed-for position, which includes reclined.

                If you don’t want me to recline, make it worth my while. I’m happy to entertain offers. About $20/hr makes it worthwhile. Otherwise, (a) shut up and stop whining, or (b) buy economy plus (when available) or first.

                • BadHairLife says:

                  @NeverLetMeDown: Guess what? I’m not talking about head space, I’m talking about you bouncing off my kneecaps when you recline into them, and then continuing to bounce on them as if doing so will somehow dislocate my hips or force my legs to be shorter (sadly, it does not)

                  As far as your choice to leave your scalp 1/2 inch from my nose, that’s your “right”, as it is my “right” to sneeze on it four four hours straight.

                  I love “rights” – don’t you?

        • floraposte says:

          @pecan 3.14159265: Took the words right out of my mouth. There’s just something about airplanes that make people so freaked about contact with each other that they won’t even discuss it. See also: silent armrest fights.

      • MrEvil says:

        @Jaynor: My personal tactic is to just scream in agony. Gets the flight attendants’ attention and generally they instruct the person in front of me to not recline.

        They even gave me a little bag of ice once.

        and I’m not going to lie to you. I have VERY little flesh on my knees and if they get bumped with a reasonable amount of force it is EXCRUCIATING. It hurts worse than when I broke my arm in the 3rd grade.

        However, I don’t have to resort to this tactic often since I always get Southwest business preferred tickets. Priority Boarding FTW!

    • HIV 2 Elway says:

      @johnva: Amen, brother. There are few things as inconsiderate as the reclined seat on a plane.

      • ClutchDude says:

        @HIV 2 Elway: Hear hear! I’m always having to shove my knees into the seat to keep them from going all the way down. It’s even worse when they won’t take the hint that they are crushing me.

    • asten77 says:

      @johnva: I love how on southwest I tend to be around the 20-40th person on. I’m 6’5″, and inevitably every single exit row and bulkhead seat is taken, and almost always by people who can’t be more than 5’6″.

      Seriously, people… have some frigging courtesy towards your fellow human beings and quit being so damned greedy and self-centered.

      As for reclining.. I don’t need the recline guard.. my knees are jammed up so hard against the seatback that they do the job for me. The good laugh I get when someone actually tries to recline and can’t almost offsets the pain.

      • kateblack says:

        @asten77: Why don’t you get there earlier? Or pay for priority boarding?

        When I had medical needs for particular seat space, I got there ass early and made sure I was first in line. (Or close to it.) If I suffered, it was my own fault for being a slowpoke.

  9. HiPwr says:

    If we can fly Predator drones in Afghanistan from control centers in Kansas, why can’t the airlines do this and expand the seating through the flight deck as well?

    I should patent this idea.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:


      Partially, because if you lose the satellite signal to a predator, you’ve lost several million $ of hardware. If you lose the satellite signal to a commercial aircraft, you’ve got 100 or more dead customers. Kind of a different equation.

    • your new nemesis says:

      @HiPwr: Lag in a remote aircraft is too great to allow it to be done, especially when in more remote areas. Theoretically (sp?) it would be a good idea, but there are too many factors to give to a guy sitting hundreds of miles away totaly control of an aircraft with hundreds of passengers on it.

    • vladthepaler says:


      I don’t know if i’d be comfortable flying on a predator drone.

      • HiPwr says:

        @vladthepaler: Okay, how about a drone dragging a pilotless glider full of passengers behind it?

        That’s my next patent. This blog will be proof that I thought of it before any of you.

  10. LankanDude says:

    That’s why I always go for foreign airlines for my international flights (which are around 8-15 hrs)
    better seats, more leg room, better movies with personal DVRs, better food, free booze …

    • ARP says:

      @LankanDude: I try to do that as well. Did you know that most foreign airlines will feed you no matter how short the flight is. London to Glasgow, I got a sandwich and some crisps (p-chips).

    • Mikael Vejdemo Johansson says:

      @LankanDude: I wish!

      Since the Fly America Act applies to me (academic funded by grants that originate with the US Government), I’m actually not allowed to fly foreign carrier. I have to buy my tickets from US flag carriers.

      What I can do is to do my damnedest to get code share flights with someone else operating the flight. Air Canada on a United ticket, for instance, was quite pleasant.

    • veronykah says:

      @LankanDude: I don’t know about ALL foreign airlines having those qualities. I just flew from LAX to Bangkok and back on China Air…17 hours there, 14.5 back…
      There was zero leg room, in fact there was some kind of box under the seat in front of me so I wasn’t even able to put my legs out in front of me. Seats were the same crap as the US carriers. They did serve meals, new release movies on personal screens and offer free booze though…
      Overall still better than flying in the US, just get an exit row….

  11. MaelstromRider says:

    I’m wondering if tall people or those with disabilities that don’t allow them to squish like sardines (not obesity, but people with leg or knee problems) are going to sue the airlines for discrimination since they’ll be forced to buy higher priced seats if this trend continues.

    • johnva says:

      @MaelstromRider: Interesting, I had exactly this thought the last time I flew.

      I have a disability exactly like that, AND I’m tall. I wear ankle-foot-orthotics (carbon fiber lower leg braces) in order to be able to walk without falling because I have a neurological disease that causes progressive muscle wasting in the feet, ankles, legs, and knees. I also have a fair amount of chronic pain from this, and that is just worsened by not being able to move my legs and/or having people jam their seatbacks into my knees. Longer plane trips (over 3 hours) can be extremely excruciating for me (much worse than when I was younger and didn’t have the chronic pain yet). It helps if I can get up and walk around a little bit every now and then, but that can be very hard to do on an overnight flight where people are blocking you in and are asleep, etc.

      I wouldn’t sue myself over this, as it’s more of a temporary thing, but I could see signing onto a class-action lawsuit or something if some greedy lawyers wanted to file one. I also wonder about the possibility of lawsuits over things like increased risk of DVT from the cramped seating. If it could be shown that people have a higher risk of health problems because of the seating changes, you could probably sue.

  12. Etoiles says:

    I’m a pretty average height for the US population at 5’8″, but I’m disproportionately leggy (I have like the shortest waist of anyone ever, pants shopping is a nightmare) and have been really spoiled by four years of mostly flying only JetBlue. I had to get in a non-JetBlue plane last year for the first time since 2004, and still thank every deity that that flight was only two hours. By the time I got off, one of my knees was bruised up and my other leg had long since fallen asleep. (It doesn’t help that I was in a middle seat, and the two men on either side of me were both “lava balls” types who didn’t seem to understand that you don’t need five feet in-between your feet.)

    I’m just glad that most of my travel is in between metro DC and metro Boston, and I have my choice of JetBlue and Southwest whenever I want them.

    • johnva says:

      @Etoiles: I’m both disproportionately leggy AND 6’1″. Fun stuff!

      • Porcelina says:

        @johnva: My husband is 6’8″ and has neuropathy and chronic pain. We’ll never be able to fly at this rate!

        • johnva says:

          @Porcelina: See my post above. I also have a rather severe (genetic) neuropathy, chronic pain, etc. Ugh. My sympathies to your husband; at least I’m not 6’8″!!!

    • ARP says:

      @Etoiles: +1 for “lava balls.” That is absolutely going in my lexicon.

      • Etoiles says:

        @ARP: I know, someone on another site used it to complaing about stupid teenagers on mass transit (we were having a subway rant thread) and it’s been lodged firmly in my head as the perfect description ever since, hehe.

    • dangermike says:

      @Etoiles: +1 for JetBlue.

      I’m 6’5 and hate flying. Well, I love the idea of flying, and would do it all the time if not for the harsh reality of the suckitude of the crammed conditions in aircraft. Anyway, I flew JetBlue for the first time in my life last month, and also for the first time in my life, I came off the plane without a single bruise on my body. It wasn’t just the extra legroom (in fact, I don’t think their seat pitch was more than an inch longer than other carriers), but the seatbacks themselves seemed to be a little more intelligently designed, lacking several metal bars and braces that absolutely maul any unfortunate fool who has the audacity to grow past six feet tall.

      fwiw, the flight attendants also seemed to be missing that utter dismay for life that typifies the air travel experience AND the HVAC system worked, too. I was so impressed I’ll preferentially use them for the foreseeable future.

    • ninjatoddler says:

      @Etoiles: Just last week, I sat next to a dude with “lava balls” and a gas-giving mood. Just wanted to thank you for expanding my vocabulary. A little bit of humor will help future flights from here on.

    • lihtox says:

      @Etoiles: Note that men tend to sit with knees apart because of their pelvic structure, not because of their testicles. Although it’s not uncomfortable for me to sit with knees together, it does require muscular effort to keep them together, unless I can rest my legs on something else.

      • Etoiles says:

        @lihtox: There’s a difference between “knees slightly apart” (knees locked together is not natural for women, either) and “two yards of space between one’s feet.”

  13. Preyfar says:

    “…ordering slimmer seats…”

    Question is – slimmer thickness of the chairs/padding or actual seat space? If it’s slimmer seats themselves that’s fine, but if it’s slimmer seat space this is going to have a negative impact on the overweight population. I’m fat (hey, I admit it) but I can still fit into any airline seat there is. But if the actual seat spacing is notched down (width of the seat cushion) I’m !@#$’d.

    Granted, thanks to Consumerist’s recent posting of, that “overweight” problem has been going away slowly for me. :) It gave me the inspiration to get off my ass.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:


      They’re talking about seats that are less thick, not less wide, so there’s more space between the back of your seat and the front of mine.

    • HogwartsAlum says:


      If the seats get much slimmer widthwise, even “average” people won’t fit in them. We’ll all have to sit sideways with our faces in someone’s hair.

      BTW – good for you! Me too! :)

  14. Trai_Dep says:

    It’d make sense only if the legacy carriers also unveiled a new race of 3′ high humans that could fit into these seats.
    Or chainsaw-wielding gate agents offering to trim fliers of unnecessary leg length.

  15. David Thatcher says:

    …and the Greyhound-ization of the airlines continues… I and my family live in San Diego and my wife’s family is in St. Louis, AA is the only airline with non-stop flights between the two. But with bag fees and now this I think we will fly Southwest next time.
    When it’s all over it’ll be true cattle-class for everyone but the wealthy who pay for first-class. The middle-class has lost access to credit and jobs and will now lose access to services they have been used to as companies adjust to the fact that the American consumer is scared and broke without Daddy Visa and Uncle Equity Line. 3rd-world here we come…

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      @David Thatcher:

      Or we could just raise airfares, and the middle class couldn’t afford to fly. Deregulation has resulted in airfares that are about half what they were in the early 70s, in real terms.

    • cromartie says:

      @David Thatcher: Fly Kingfisher in India sometime and you’ll rethink that “3rd World Here We Come” thing….

  16. jennyplain says:

    Ugh, wonderful. My poor father is 6’8″ and my brother isn’t much better at 6’4″. Every time I’ve flown transatlantic with them it’s been a misery – they can barely move, and inevitably some asshole in front of them pushes back as hard as they can to try and…I don’t know, break their legs, maybe? Last time my dad even paid extra for a bulkhead seat, but – surprise! – when we got to the airport, it wasn’t available.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I’ve always thought that it would be an interesting idea to take an existing 737, raise the normal passenger seating area a bit, ditch the below-cargo hold, use this space to create a sub-coach level seating area, sort of like Steerage, and almost double the seating capacity of the plane. Of course, everyone would be required to carry-on all luggage, but for commuter segments of air travel, it could be feasible. Of course, you would have to have evacuation exits for the lower level, and get FAA approval, but imagine almost doubling a plane’s capacity with only a bit more fuel required for the added passenger weight.

    What am I not considering?

  18. robotrousers says:

    Can we go back to air travel being a luxury? Please? Seriously, I’m 6’1″. Maybe I should just suck it up and fly first class.

    • stevejust says:

      @robotrousers: I’m 6’1″ as well, and I can say first class is worth it. I don’t even consider myself to be particularly tall, but I can’t fit on Southwest flights now as it is… and those little ember air commuter jets… just forget about it. And when I shift around, I feel sorry for the person sitting in front of me, because I know they can feel my knees going into their seat backs– especially when they recline. With thinner seats this problem could be worse!

      I guess I’m going to need to take up yoga just to be able to fly, since I only fly first class for work or when I get the bump up upgrade (fortunately because I fly so often it routinely happens, but I’ve been flying much less this year and may lose my status. I’ve already been demoted from Executive Platinum to Platinum).

    • ARP says:

      @robotrousers: I remember when I was very young, I had to dress up to fly. My mom would make be put on a dress shirt and pants because…we were flying.

      Your comment is elitist, but I like it. I guess if we had regional high speed rail, it could become that again.

      • robotrousers says:

        @ARP: @ARP: @ARP: I don’t mean it to be elitist. I’m not a high-roller by any means. But air travel was a luxury in its early days. While it’s admirable that it’s affordable for most americans, it’s obviously at the expense of service and comfort.
        I took my first high-speed train in Europe last year. Comfortable, fast, and great scenery. Wish we had it here!

    • ludwigk says:

      @robotrousers: I got bumped to “Premium Economy” on Japan Airlines on my flight from Seoul to Narita. Those seats rocked. I’m not tall (5’8″), but I could extend my legs completely without touching anything, and the seats recline without leaning back, meaning the person in front of you doesn’t invade your space when they decide to nap. It was awesome, and made me want to check out how much more premium economy costs. Would have been really nice on the much longer Narita to San Fransisco flight right after.

  19. DoctorMD says:

    I need more SHOULDER room. If your knees do not hit the seat in front of you (ie you are not abnormally tall), one can still extend their legs to about 30 degrees from straight. Extra “legroom” does not change that.

    • johnva says:

      @DoctorMD: 6’1″ is “abnormally tall” now? My knees hit the seat in front of me.

      • Etoiles says:

        @DoctorMD, @johnva: So do mine, on Southwest. And 5’8″ is definitely not “abnormally tall.”

        But I agree about the shoulder room; I have broad shoulders and long arms for a woman and when sitting in a row with two average-height men who both clearly did some strength work on their upper bodies, we all kept bumping and jostling and being generally in each other’s way. That goes to the width of the seats.

  20. Rachacha says:

    I wonder when PETA will spin off and form PETP. Animals that PETA says are living in cramped conditions will soon have more room than people will have in airplanes. I am beginning to think that locking myself in a pet container and traveling in baggage would be more comfortable.

  21. weave says:

    I always look behind me before I recline and if it’s a large person, I don’t bother. If they appear short, I ask if they mind if I recline. After the brief shock, they almost always say yes and thank me profusely for asking.

    Common courtesy goes a long way people.

    • frodoUnderhill says:

      @weave: Sadly I have never sat behind you, but for all the people who have, THANK YOU. More people like you would making flying much more pleasant.

    • ARP says:

      @weave: That’s great that you do that. I just don’t how I’d react if someone small said no, just because they’re an a-hole.

    • your new nemesis says:

      @weave: I sat in front of person one time, and did the same thing by asking if i could laen back. They limited me on my range for a long flight, but still managed to lean all the way back themselves. And she wasn’t in need of the extra space, size wise. So, now, I just tell them I’m coming back to warn them if their legs are up or something. Unless they are big, then i still ask.

    • yevarechecha says:

      @weave: That’s a great idea; I may start doing this. I’m 5’4″ and skinny, so I’m less uncomfortable in airline seats than most and never really realized reclining was such a problem for some people. It never seems like the seat goes back that much. I also don’t really like sitting upright: I put my seats in the car back a fair amount and even now I’m typing lying down. But I don’t need 20 extra degrees of recline if it’s going to crunch someone else’s kneecaps. I’m very careful not to intrude on the space of the people next to me or bang on the seat in front of me, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I give the person behind me less consideration than I should.

  22. Mr. Kite says:

    I’m surprised that nobody has spoken up for the elite programs of the legacy carriers. I fly AA because I get upgraded, and when I don’t get an upgrade I almost always sit in the exit row where there’s almost 40″ of pitch. AA has more powerports throughout coach than any other airline except Virgin America. Southwest and Jet Blue don’t have power ports, and you can’t reserve a seat on SW or an exit row on Jet Blue without paying more, or any seat at all on SW. Plus with my miles I can fly on any international carrier in their alliance.

  23. SacraBos says:

    Wasn’t one of the advantages of AA being the seat pitch was wider than the other airlines?

    Last trip I took with the family, we just rented a Van and drove. It took 3-4 times longer. The upside was we would have to rent a vehicle anyway, we had much more room, and could stop at interesting places. We easily saved $2K by channeling our inner Clark Griswold.

    • Pibbs says:

      @SacraBos: Coming from New England, it seems as though many people have given up on the driving vacation. When I was a kid in the 80’s-90’s, I loved the driving vacations to Florida, it really is way more enjoyable. This summer I’m taking a trip to Ohio, too bad there isn’t a “West of the Border” with signs up to 100 miles away to keep me occupied during the never-ending state know as Pennsylvania.

      • edwardso says:

        @Pibbs: try Kansas, the flattest, most never endingest state in the US. it’s almost impossible to not fall asleep on that drive

      • babyruthless says:

        @Pibbs: “South of the Border” reference FTW. I always loved the ads for that place, but my parents never stopped, despite my desperate begging. Apparently it sucks and I am missing nothing, but if I ever find myself driving through the Carolinas, I’m stopping, and that’s that. Harumpf.

  24. xkevin says:

    JetBlue actually removed seats from their planes a few years ago and were able to save money by doing so. The reduced headcount allowed them to eliminate a flight attendant (salary), reduce weight (fuel) and increase leg room.

    • johnva says:

      @xkevin: Yeah, it depends on the business model whether that would work. Part of the business model of the “legacy” airlines is to purposefully make economy class as uncomfortable as possible so that business travelers and other people who can afford it will be much less tempted to downgrade from first class. They make a large portion of their profit on the 1st and Business seats, so they don’t want those people to feel like they aren’t getting a LOT nicer accomodation.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:


      It was all about staff costs. The fuel savings don’t really work, since they generate much more revenue from an occupied seat than the incremental fuel cost of hauling that seat and a passenger (if they didn’t, then they’d lose money on every flight, no matter how many seats).

      By dropping below 150 passengers, they could drop to 3 flight attendants, since you need 1 for every 50 passengers, or fraction thereof. Cut the FA costs by 25%.

  25. vastrightwing says:

    Remove the seats & put long padded rails the whole length of the plane (like on jump planes). Make everyone sit up against each other (like sardines). Replace the over head bins with paid lockers. Have only 1 head (toilet) available and make people bid to use it starting @ $2.00. Make sure there is an RIAA rep on board and have them sue all the passengers whenever music is playing on board. Announce that in order to save fuel, they are flying at the slowest possible speed, but if people are willing to pay more in order to make their next flight, they will send a collection agent around to scrape up more funds and then decide if it’s worth it for them to make their destination on time.

  26. Outtacontext says:

    Bleachers are next (and some may have you use oars while in flight).

  27. Chairman-Meow says:

    Once again, the dinosaurs are chewing thier grass while never noticing that odd dot of light in the sky that is growing larger by the minute.

    Little do they know or understand that every move they make like this draws them a step closer to extinction.

  28. johnva says:

    I also wonder about safety concerns from this trend. I would be willing to bet that it’s a lot harder to evacuate a plane quickly with more people on it. I’d be willing to bet that the increase in evacuation time would be more than just linear in the number of additional people on the plane but actually WORSE due to the increase crowding. FAA should look into this and maybe curb the practice if it’s contributing to decreased safety.

    • Etoiles says:

      @johnva: Good point. When it’s that crowded and tight, not only do you have more people to evacuate, but also it’s harder for them to get out of their seats and into an aisle (and then out of a door). And when the space under the seat in front of you doesn’t *quite* accommodate a normal backpack anymore, but you kick it under there anyway, and it’s mostly close enough until suddenly someone trips over it in the dark…

  29. rte148 says:

    To those haters out there who don’t want me to recline. I have to sacrifice MY comfort for yours? I hear the whaaambulance has great legroom.

    • wgrune says:


      I paid for my seat just like you so as far as I am concerned that entitles me to not have you crushing my knees because you want to lean back another 6 degrees.

      • NeverLetMeDown says:


        And I paid for a seat that reclines, so I can recline. Should I also be willing to squish into 1/2 of my seat because you want to put up the armrest and sprawl?

        “As far as [you’re] concerned” doesn’t really apply here. If I have to, I’ll call a flight attendant, and she’ll side with me, every time.

        • Anonymous says:

          @NeverLetMeDown: I’m 6’1″, not that tall really, but still uncomfortable on a flight. You aren’t being polite by not reclining, you’re just being stupid. Sitting upright for the entirety of a long flight is more uncomfortable than having less space for your knees. And when someone in front of you reclines, you can always recline your own seat. Then the person behind you can recline their seat…

  30. liz.lemonade says:

    Hey, I’d love to be able to take JetBlue or Southwest, but neither of them flies out of Atlanta. Why? Hartsfield is the world’s busiest airport. I’ve read some explanations in the past, but I can’t remember the reasoning behind them choosing not to enter this market.

  31. H3ion says:

    Adding twelve seats adds around 2400 pounds plus the weight of luggage and the number of exit doors hasn’t changed. When does this become a safety issue?

    • nycaviation says:

      @H3ion: The FAA mandates a specific number of exits based on how many seats are on an aircraft. Presumably AA is not exceeding those limits or else these planes wouldn’t be allowed to fly.

  32. moostrength says:

    Some of you people are the reason why so many foreigners think American’s are rude. I’m six foot three, and 275 pounds. I would never complain about someone in front of me reclining their chair anymore than I would expect someone to tell me I can’t either. Flying is a privilege, not a right. Like just about anything else in life, you get what you pay for. If you want to have leg room, fly in Business or First Class. If not, stop complaining about what you get for paying $200-$300 to fly across the US. Try driving across country for less than $500.

    I fly to Indonesia about once a year. After making that flight twice in Economy Deluxe, which would be an upgrade of Economy Plus for US flights, I fly in Business class. Yes I spent about twice as much to fly from Columbus to Jakarta for business class (US domestic flights are usually first class since there is no business class on smaller birds) but in my opinion it is well worth it. When I flew EE with Eva Air and Singapore Air, I was exhausted and cramped having endured 20 hours of flying. The last 3 years I’ve flown business class for at least the leg from LA to Taipei and back and I am so much better off for it.

    Although I am huge by most Asian standards, I understand that if I am too big for the seats that they have I may need to purchase a second seat or a bigger seat, I don’t think that’s unreasonable either. The airline industry loses money hand over foot all the time. It’s about $800 to fly from Columbus Ohio to LA in First Class. Considering driving would cost well over $1000 in fuel costs alone, and would take easily 2-3 days to do in a plane what takes 5 hours, I think for years airlines have been too cheap.

    That being said, if some jerk put his fist into my back when I try to recline my chair, I think I would be putting my fist in their face.

    • wgrune says:


      $1000 in gas to get from Columbus to LA? Thats around 2300 miles. Assuming gas around $2.50, $1000 would buy you 400 gallons of gas. 2300 miles using 400 gallons of gas gets you an MPG of less than 6. 20 is more realistic for average vehicles so it would cost less than $300 in gas. You could stay in a real nice hotel room halfway between the two and still be less than $800.

      Oh, and try punching someone on an airplane and let us know how that works out for you.

      • NeverLetMeDown says:


        No need to punch anyone – the flight attendant will pleasantly inform you that I have the right to recline my seat.

  33. zentex says:

    Soon everyone but Kate Moss will need to buy an extra seat

  34. nnj says:

    Seems exploitative but aviation is expensive. Just like any business, they will always look for ways to increase revenue. More passenger room is available in upper class but it costs more money. I guess it’s a fair proposition as long as this is advertised at the time of booking.

  35. Quake 'n' Shake says:

    I remember about 10 years ago when American actually expanded leg room in their coach seating. They had TV commericials bragging about it.

  36. knyghtryda says:

    Another reason to fly the smaller airlines. Ive had great service with both Virgin and Jetblue, and a $30 upgrade on jetblue nets you some serious legroom for cross country flights. Why anyone would willingly fly AA, Delta, or ::shudder:: US Airways is beyond me.

    • nycaviation says:

      @knyghtryda: I definitely prefer the product offered by Virgin and JetBlue, but there are still good reasons for people to fly the legacy carriers… For one thing, they are often cheaper. For another, if you travel a lot for work and want to earn miles for a vacation in Hawaii or Europe, you can’t do that on Virgin, JetBlue or Southwest.

  37. SpruceStreetPhil - in a new Pine flavor says:

    could someone explain seat pitch? I’m 6’5 and this is very important for me to know as I am awfully uncomfortable in even emergency exit rows. I would argue that in the case of an emergency, the space I occupy would not be safe at all. And heaven forbid someone tries to put their seat back, I refuse to let them.

  38. Yamunation says:

    Does anyone sit in these seats before deciding that’s is the right size for the average-height person? Because at 5′ 5″, the seats are too close for me.

    Fly JetBlue whenever possible. Their regular coach seats are like the “Extra leg room” seats on another airline, so roomy. And their exit-row seats are made for 7-foot tall people, it’s so roomy!

  39. KhaiJB says:

    ok next flight I’m booking an overhead bin…I’ll have more leg room than you suckers in the seats! oh yeah!

  40. Gizmosmonster says:

    Reclining seats- Why?
    Seriously- nothing else airlines do lately seems aimed at passenger comfort.

    Not condoning this- but it was funny.

    Couple flights back a guy across the aisle from me on a packed flight was in misery. He was at least 6-3. At the first lean back, he asked politely if the woman in the exit row in front of him would refrain from reclining, explaining how painful it was at his height. Her answer was to go back the rest of the way and put on earphones.

    I am sure it was an accident that several cubes from his cup of ice ended up sliding down the back of the now sleeping woman’s seat. A few minutes later, when the ice melted enough to reach her skin, she jumped up. He firmly shoved the seat back up and held it there till she got the message.

  41. seamer says:

    Airlines only do stuff like this because we let them.

    Oh sure, we bitch and moan about the latest rort, but tomorrow the lines at checkin will still be full, the food will suck, and the service will be sub-par.

    We’ll still go back even after that.

  42. crazyasianman says:

    that the seats are getting smaller as americans grow ever larger… how inappropriate

    • seamer says:

      @crazyasianman: It could be legitimately argued that the overweight thing is not a good thing to be, so accomodating that extra weight everywhere would be a justification for getting even heavier.

      But the airlines are not being altruistically health-conscience here, they’re just being greedy. So screw them :)

      • johnva says:

        @seamer: Plus, this isn’t so much a bad thing for the overweight so much as it’s bad for the tall. They’re making the seats closer together, not narrower side-to-side.

        Although there might be some people so morbidly obese that that is a problem :)

  43. LostTurntable says:

    And they make it so if you’re too big to fit in a seat you have to buy two tickets? They can go fuck themselves.