An economy class seat can be a chair of torture as carriers look for new ways to pump up profits, either by adding to or reducing the number of seats, increasing legroom or cutting the distance between rows.
Which airlines are making changes that are not-so-friendly to your knees?
In March, Southwest began retrofitting its fleet with a new “Evolve” interior. Each seat is 6 pounds lighter than previous models with thinner cushions. In a blog post on Southwest’s website
, the airline admits this allows them to increase the number of seats on board from 137 to 143 on some aircraft.
It claims that seat comfort and space isn’t sacrificed, but we’ve heard reports to the contrary.
CEO Gary Kelly gave a talk in Vegas
where he said that about as many people like Evolve as don’t, so it’s a wash, and the extra seats will bring more revenue.
In April, JetBlue added enhanced legroom seats, dubbed “Even More Space”, to its fleet of Embraer 190 aircraft. Conde Nast Traveler reports this has come at the expense of a tighter seat pitch for those seated further back in the coach cabin.
When selecting new seats for the cabin overhaul of its Airbus fleet, United went with popular European manufacuter Recaro. Slated to begin next year, United’s 152 narrow-body Airbus aircraft will be fitted with slimmer seats
. The airline also claims seat comfort won’t be sacrificed, but the refit will enable an extra row of seats to be added to each aircraft. We’re not convinced.
American’s new Boeing 737-800 aircraft has two additional rows of seats more than its other 737-800 configuration.
Seat pitch has been reduced by one inch. To mitigate this, the seats do not recline. Instead, the seat bottom slides forward while the back slouches within a shell.
In sum, what does this all mean? That having a top-tier elite status is a saving grace, with its complimentary access to the airline’s best seats when flying in coach.
You wanted the benefits of a fully deregulated industry?
Following our ‘Outrage of the Week’ story last week, about a FlyersRights member who paid $1,200 for Delta Economy-Comfort, then was squashed by the large passenger next to him, we heard from irate airline customers:
Mainly that airline seats are already too small and personal space is already too cramped.
Some blamed corporate greed, reminiscing about the days of regulation, when airline tickets were more expensive, but at least there was a bit of fun and dignity when flying.
Really? Let’s examine this. In 2011 Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer (who worked with Senator Kennedy on airline deregulation in the 1970s) wrote:
“What does the industry’s history tell us? Was this effort worthwhile? Certainly it shows that every major reform brings about new, sometimes unforeseen, problems.”
No one foresaw the industry’s enormous growth, with the number of air passengers increasing from 207.5 million in 1974 to 721.1 million last year.
As a result, no one foresaw the extent to which new bottlenecks would develop: a flight-choked Northeast corridor, overcrowded airports, delays, and terrorist risks consequently making air travel increasingly difficult. Nor did anyone foresee the extent to which change might unfairly harm workers in the industry.
Still, fares have come down. Airline revenue per passenger mile has declined from an inflation-adjusted 33.3 cents in 1974, to 13 cents in the first half of 2010.
In 1974 the cheapest round-trip New York-Los Angeles flight (in inflation-adjusted dollars) that regulators would allow: $1,442.
Today one can fly that same route for $268. That is why the number of travelers has gone way up.
But how many now will vote to go back to the “good old days” of paying high, regulated prices for better service?
Even among business travelers, who wants to pay full fare?