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Any relief from miserable airline seating?

We love to travel and do so every chance we get, but the ever-increasing crowding on planes is becoming so annoying that we are at the point of just staying in the US. Does anyone know of any movement, pressure, anything, being directed at the airlines to give us a break? My wife and I are tall but not obese and it is becoming a claustrophobic nightmare to fly anywhere for longer than 2-3 hours. Please don't tell me to upgrade to 1st Class or Business...we simply do not have that kind of money and those rates to, say, Paris, are exorbitant. I just don't understand how the airlines are able to get away with this blatant abuse of passengers. No restaurant, for example, would be allowed to jam its customers in for dinner the way the airlines do and the public would not put up with it! Unfortunately (for me) I remember what a pleasant experience flying was before deregulation and it disturbs me to see air travel decline to below the comfort level of a Greyhound Bus!
Sorry to rant, but going to Paris and NOT looking forward to the flight!

Posted by
10344 posts

Any relief from miserable airline seating?
Probably not.
Restaurants were given as an example, but the difference between restaurants and airlines (among others) is that a restaurant jamming seats together knows customers who don't like that can go to lots of other restaurants that don't do that; whereas the airlines are pretty sure we "pax" aren't going to avail ourselves of any alternative choices e (in economy, which is the context of your question).

And so we just keep flying to Europe, don't we? No other way to get there.
It's particularly unfortunate that the flights to Europe are so long, especially if you're coming from western North America.
3 hours domestic is bad enough, but 10 to 15 hours, and maybe an overnight, can get to be not only a physical challenge, but even a medical issue for some.
I guess one can move to the East coast and cut the travel time in half? I don't know.

Posted by
5663 posts

I just don't understand how the airlines are able to get away with this blatant abuse of passengers.

We take the abuse because we the flying public want cheap air travel. It's called the "free market" because the airlines aren't forcing us into the cheap seats. You noted that you aren't willing to pay for the up priced seats. A number of airlines offer a "comfort class" where seats are closer to what "coach" class use to be in the 70s/80s.

In the "old days" the working class folks took the Dog (Greyhound) and air was pretty much for folks with the financial means to travel.

Airlines are now offering the less prosperous tourist air travel steerage class at working class fares.

The steerage area of the ship was once used to accommodate passengers travelling on the cheapest class of ticket, and offered only the most basic amenities, typically with limited toilet use, no privacy, and poor food. Many immigrants to the United States in the late 18th and early 19th century travelled in this area of the ships.
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steerage_(deck)

Posted by
1807 posts

Flying ain't what it used to be that's for sure. My wife won't go to Europe until we have enough miles for business class so we use our AMEX for everything. We'll have enough to go next spring and business class on Air France is a pleasure.

For a little entertainment and perspective which may or may not make you feel better...go to Youtube and look up "Louis CK- Flying".

Posted by
10344 posts

And the problem is: air travel isn't cheap anymore (if it ever was).
So you get to pony up for an expensive seat AND extreme discomfort. What a deal!?

Posted by
5663 posts

I remember what a pleasant experience flying was before deregulation...

I also remember that a transcontinental flight coach fares without a weekend stay were running about $800 or $900 return. First class only ran about 50% more if I recall correctly. Those were the days.

Posted by
10344 posts

It would be interesting if someone knows:
1) whether there is an FAA regulation that defines a minimum distance between seats?
2) and if there is, have the airlines reached that limit?

Or, is it just a question of how much the "pax" can endure, before they start reducing the number of longer flights they make.

Posted by
389 posts

Well, there are two non-profit membership organizations that - with strength in numbers and the influence those voices can bring to the fore - advocate on behalf of all travelers (TU) and, specifically, airline passengers (FR). Their links are.

Travelers United at: travelersunited.org

Flyers Rights at: flyersrights.org

I don't know how successful they've been, since I just joined, but I believe they're both worth a look and perhaps supporting.

Posted by
5663 posts

It would be interesting if someone knows:
1) whether there is an FAA regulation that defines a minimum distance between seats?

FAA rules and regulations are concerned with safety. Seat density and configuration would be limited to evacuation time. The airlines need to demonstrate that the aircraft can be evacuated in an FAA specified amount of time. If the density is too tight they will not be able to safely evacuate the aircraft.
http://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/14/part-25/appendix-J

Posted by
3645 posts

If you have flexibility in your schedule and plenty of time, consider taking a cruise ship on a repositioning cruise instead of flying over the Atlantic for one direction of your trip. I don't quite have the flexible schedule for this yet, but I am keeping it in mind for when I do.

I just checked and there are repositioning cruises from Europe to the US this fall that are 14-15 days in length and are 699 or 749 per person. It works the reverse direction on the spring.

It may be easier to take more time and schedule around one of these times than to change the way airlines operate.......

Posted by
5663 posts

If you have long legs, Malaysia Airlines (MH) A330-300V1 economy seats reportedly have a 34 inch pitch. Unfortunately Malaysia's seats are for Asian butts (The V1 seat width is 17 inches). Interesting some JAL Boeing's have 18.5 inch wide seats.

http://www.seatguru.com/charts/longhaul_economy.php

PS. You are in trouble if your seat mate lifts the seat arm to sit then requests a seat belt extender.

Posted by
908 posts

It doesn't address overseas travel but for short-haul east coast work trips I take Amtrak in lieu of flying when possible. In other words, I've taken my business elsewhere when I can. I'm tall as well, and I'd much rather have a little more legroom, the ability to walk around, and a shorter taxi ride to center city at my destination. Besides, the whole airport experience seems demeaning after a while. (Besides the security experience, do I really need some CNN news cast blaring at me in the gate seating area?! And I'm starting to think airlines should have a sleeved-shirt requirement. Some people dress like they just rolled out of bed.) In short, I only fly when I have no other option! Only good thing I've seen recently are airports that've installed water spouts for folks who bring their own refillable water bottles. Kudos to the person who implemented that idea!

Posted by
864 posts

I take my business elsewhere when possible. We cruise to Europe on a repositioning cruise and fly back in stages (usually via Iceland). Great 2 week vacation on the relative cheap. This clearly is NOT an option for most people with limited time. Used to go to Europe twice a year. Now, well, we're doing a tour the the Western U.S. National parks this Fall vs Europe. Ditto last year when we drove around the East Coast. You really have to get into your head that you are CARGO to the bottom line for an Airline and they have their Masters called share holders (retirement funds, pension funds etc. included). Those same share holders may rant about horrible cabin seating when they book a flight but they (well, even me) want a profit on their investment. So, we're dammed if we do and dammed if we don't. Sigh.... I pity the poor flight crew, especially on long-hauls. It's not their fault you have to bring on our own food and soon diapers (as there will be a charge for using the potty - Ryan Air actually floated this idea).

Posted by
1217 posts

Economy Comfort and related from the US airlines (not the separate premium economy cabin Air France has) give you helpful extra legroom, a slightly better fighting chance for overhead bin space, and a chance to get ahead of a bunch of people in the immigration line. With Delta it added about $140/ticket round trip to a discount coach fare, so real money but IMO not awful in terms of total cost of trip, especially if you're leggy.

Posted by
715 posts

There are ways around the discomfort, not perfect, but it helps me a lot. I finally gave up on the wonderful view from a window seat, unless of course i have an exit seat, and I always get an aisle seat now, but only after trying for a bulkhead seat or exit seat. recently flew Emirates and I thought i had a bit extra room, also, the Lufthansa Airbus A380's, even in economy cattle car, seem to have more room. Economy plus is definitely worth it.

Posted by
11450 posts

We save up and take premium economy seats now for long flights. Within the reach of most folks( who can afford vacations in Europe) not stupidly expensive like business or 1 st class.

Posted by
9110 posts

'Dang it, Wilbur, you should have put a better seat in this sucker!' -- O. Wright, 1903.

And, if you didn't ride around in DC-3s and 4s at a couple hundred miles per -- and were whowed by your first ride in a 707.........you have nothing to bitch about.

Posted by
162 posts

Try Lufthansa. I find their economy class roomy enough and I'm a big guy. Try booking early enough to request the exit row, maybe? Good luck.

Posted by
11275 posts

Many airlines offer Economy Plus (which is usually a regular economy seat, but with a greater seat pitch, meaning more space between rows) or Premium Economy (which can be a wider seat as well as more room between rows). These are often only $100-$300 more each way than regular economy.

Posted by
13 posts

It's not just the seat spacing, it's the seats. I'm a small person so legroom and seat width are not big problems. My discomfort - and I assume it's a bother to others - is the design of the seats: the back curves away from my spine, the headrest pushes my head forward, the seat cushion is way too thin. By the time I get where I'm going I need a chiropractor to unpinch my back and relive the sciatica pain running down my legs. I could deal with the tight spacing, if the airlines would just redesign their seats.

Posted by
6369 posts

@ Susan - airline seats seem to be designed for the average to tall body. I'm short and have the same problem you do - I especially hate the headrest pushing my head forward. I bring along an inflatable pillow to use as a lumbar pillow, that helps my back and also tends to push my lower body slightly out which makes the headrest not so uncomfortable.

Posted by
77 posts

According to a recent article I saw domestic airfares (inflation adjusted) have dropped almost 40% since 1980. There aren't many other products that can make that claim. So we are more than likely getting what we pay for.

Posted by
41 posts

Thanks for listening. Nice to know that I'm not alone in my discomfort and disgust with the airlines.