Are Airline Seat Sizes Shrinking?

SAA row 15
Image by mralan via Flickr

Like most travelers, whenever I plan a trip, the first thing I think about is the cost of the ticket. Depending on how long my flight will be, I also think about snacks I’ll take.

The size of the airline seat never crosses my mind.

I consider myself average in weight and size – 5’6″ and approximately 165 pounds. Yet, lately, I’ve noticed that even on international flights, I just fit the size of the seat.

Now, I might have gained a few pounds in the last year but not enough so I just barely fit.

So if it’s not my size, I can only conclude it’s the seat. And I have to wonder: Are airline seat sizes shrinking?

On my last flight, on Virgin Atlantic, I had to get out of my seat in order to reach the remote control that was housed in the armrest.

And once I pulled out my tray, it was practically in my stomach. When the person in the seat in front of me decided to recline his seat, I had to do the same as there was hardly room left for me to manoeuver.

Needless to say, it was one of my most uncomfortable flights in recent memory. I felt better standing or walking the aisle. But even that’s problematic – the aisles seem to be getting narrower and narrower and except for space near the washrooms, there’s no place to stand. I was stuck in my uncomfortable seat.

If I have a problem, what about someone larger? Or taller?

According to what I’ve read on Wikipedia, economy class airline seats are about 17″-18″ (43-46 cm) armrest to armrest. That’s just enough room for a small person or a child.

As for legroom or seat pitch, in most economy class seats it’s between 30″-32″ (76-81 cm). I’m not a very tall person but my knees were pretty close to the seat in front of me. (Of course, I could have upgraded to an aisle seat. For an additional fee, of course.)

I think the airlines have deliberately made seats smaller so they can carry more passengers and make more money.

Unfortunately, for the moment, there little we can do that won’t cost extra. Before you fly next time, think about your seat and check your airline’s seat plan on Seat Guru‘s list of more than 700 airlines.

Happy travels!

6 comments on “Are Airline Seat Sizes Shrinking?

  1. I’m not sure about the seats shrinking or not but I am sure that most everything else is. The last time I purchased yogurt, the amount in the container had shrunk but the price was the same. You’ll see this in peanut butter, crackers, cereal and most everything else. Give the consumer less and charge the same… they’ll never notice. Or will we?

  2. I think we do notice but unfortunately, we don’t seem to know how to handle it, what to do. We need to buy these items and fly. So we’re caught over a barrel.
    Thanks, Marge.

  3. It’s not your imagination… They have added more seats to pack those flights and then canceled the old several flights to the same destination routine. So with fewer flights, they maximize the space and numbers. Some airlines offer a bit more in business and definitely more in first class but, yep, those seats have gotten smaller and it is not us getting bigger. 🙁

  4. I was very perplexed. I didn’t think I’d put on that much weight!
    I’m convinced they have done it deliberately so if you want to get a comfortable seat, you have to pay more.
    It’s a racket, I tell you!
    Thanks Elizabeth,

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  6. They haven’t kept up with our changing bodies, that’s for sure!
    Thanks for the visit, Kathy!

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