Great story in the NYT by Hugo Martin about how airlines are charging flyers extra to sit in a “new category” (uhh.. new category?) of roomier economy seats. For example, United calls it Economy Plus. Essentially, airlines are finding new ways to pack regular coach passengers closer together. Today, 10% to 30% of the seats on a major airline are these “extra room” economy seats the story states.
But, where is this newly available leg room coming from? “To make room for the new seats, airlines have eliminated 10 to 40 standard economy seats per plane. On some airlines, many of the remaining economy seats got pushed closer together.” Another example of just how, “American plans to squeeze an extra seat into each row, for a total of 10 seats. To make them fit, American is installing seats with a width of 17 inches; first class seats, by comparison, are 36 inches wide.” It has also been reported that some airlines are redesigning seats to use less frame material and advanced designs that need less padding so that they can fit more seats in a similar amount of space. Or how about this, “A few months later, JetBlue Airways announced plans to reconfigure seating on about 50 of its jets so it can add several rows of seats with 38 inches of legroom, available for an extra fee. But to fit the roomier seats, JetBlue reduced the legroom on 11 rows of economy seats to 32 inches from 33.” But this really puts it in perspective, Spirit Airlines, ugh, packs 178 seats on an Airbus 320; United, meanwhile, puts 138 seats on the same aircraft model!
So, it’s bad enough that Airlines are stealing your leg room without telling you, but more and more they are charging you for just that little bit more space. It begs the question as to how far airlines will push it in terms of how small they will make seats or how many they will try to squeeze in before people cry foul or the government gets involved.
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