One of the airline trends we're watching in 2016 was started by Airbus last
summer-- packing in 11 seats per row on its A380 superjumbo jets.
It's become a knee-crushing arms race. Or as the airlines like to call it 'cost savings.' But who really wins?
It's hard to argue that in economy class today, the majority of the seats aren't too small.
Given the lack of competition, the mergers that have shaped the U.S. airline marketplace and the health risks of sardine-esque legroom, there needs to be a simple minimum standard - of at least 34 inches of seat pitch and 18 inches of width.
Last summer, Airbus floated this trial balloon -- an 11 seats per row aircraft, where 10 abreast is considered high-density. The news went over like a lead balloon. Public reaction was almost universally negative.
But incredibly, Airbus said they were "very satisfied" with their 3-5-3 economy class cabin design, which will "meet the needs of a new breed of customer".
Airbus achieved this unprecedented sardining by cutting seat width by an inch, slashing armrest widths by just over one inch, slanting window armrests outwards, shrinking the aisles.
At some point, safety trumps capitalism, and that's where government steps in
In August, FlyersRights.org filed a formal Petition for Rulemaking with the FAA to set minimum standards guaranteeing each passenger adequate leg, hip, and shoulder room.
Of course, the airlines hate this and contend that minimum seat standards will lead to higher prices and fewer choices. But the reality is quite the opposite, such standards will level the playing field between airlines and ensure that the price of an economy class airline seat on one airline is truly comparable to that of another airline.
It should also be remembered that there is no magic in the supposedly lower fares (and higher fees) charged by airlines that have cut back on legroom and seat sizes. Passengers still pay the price for smaller seats one way or the other -- if not in cash, then in bruised knees, broken laptops, increased respiratory illness, increased risk of DVT, air rage leading to diverted flights.
No middle ground
This is clearly a situation where the market has failed. Consumers desperately want a choice between crammed economy class and super-expensive first class. There is little middle ground for seat width, and people keep getting bigger. It's not like most consumer products, where you get a range of options to suit your budget.
The airline industry's argument that consumers already have a choice is laughable.
Business and First Class are almost completely cost-prohibitive for the average leisure traveler, so regulation is needed to ensure minimum comfort.
This reduction of passenger space in the quest for higher profits has created a critical situation -- by pushing the limits, not only of safety and comfort but of health as well. Being confined in a small seat for several hours can be
We urge readers to insist the FAA act now to stop the trend to smaller seats and jam-packed planes. You can have a say in what those standards will be.
"Tombstone mentality" is a mindset of ignoring design defects until people have died.
Looking at how passengers struggle now getting into and out of seats makes one wonder how they will escape in an emergency. One day, we will find that they cannot. Then, after hundreds of people have died, there might be a change.
No, we're not advocating a nanny state. We're simply saying that government must insist airlines offer reasonable seating and traveling conditions.
It's time for governments to stand up to the airlines in the name of their people. This year more than 3.6 billion passengers will fly in 2016. That's almost half the world.