Let’s kill economy class

One of the most troubling travel stories of 2014 was a report that airlines are considering a new class of service — and I use the term “class” loosely — called economy “minus.”

These seats would have even less legroom and fewer amenities than those found in a standard coach cabin. JetBlue gave everyone a little scare last month when it announced plans to move its seats closer together and start charging for the first checked bag, so we know it’s not an abstract idea.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Insured International -- Travel Insured International is a leading travel insurance provider. For over 25 years, their goal has been to help each individual travel confidently. Some of the major travel insurance benefits provided by in their plans include Trip Cancellation, Trip Interruption, Accident and Sickness Medical Expense, and Baggage and Personal Effects coverage. Plans also include other non-insurance assistance services. In 2015, Travel Insured was acquired by Crum & Forster, whose parent company is Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. The financial strength and core values of the companies give Travel Insured the best position in the market to continue its commitment of helping individuals protect their travel plans. Travel Relaxed…Travel Secure…When you have Travel Insured.

If “minus” isn’t already here, it’s coming.

But ask passengers what they want, and they’ll tell you that while they love cheap tickets, they have no desire to be wedged into a seat with 28 inches of “pitch” (that’s a rough measure of legroom) or to have to pay extra for everything. It’s dehumanizing.

“I don’t want to be tortured,” says Judy Greene, a musician who lives in New York.

Durnford King, a TV writer based in Santa Monica, Calif., wonders, “What’s next, rolling passengers up in bubble wrap and packing them in like sausages?”

Here’s a better idea: Instead of adding economy “minus,” why not expand economy “plus” — the so-called “premium” economy class section that’s almost identical to coach sections before airlines were carelessly deregulated by the federal government in the 1970s? Consumers support the idea, and airline experts say it just might work.

Passengers would welcome a more spacious cabin.

“I want it to go back to the way it was,” says Willa Mathison, who remembers flying before airline deregulation and is now retired in Renton, Wash. Flying in economy class, she says, is almost unbearable, and she can’t imagine it getting any worse.

“We have cut back on our travel just because it has become such a miserable experience to be crammed in an airplane,” she says.

Mathison, like a lot of regular air travelers, says she’d be willing to pay extra to be treated better, but airlines make it hard. Premium economy seats cost about 85% more than regular economy seats when booked in advance. Business class is even pricier, and way outside her budget.

It’s as if airlines are giving her two choices: Fly in “torture” class or drive.

Travelers would be grateful to have some of the room back, and not just for comfort reasons. When Jan Hoover sits in economy class, she watches the flight crew demonstrate the “brace” position — lean forward, head in your lap, arms covering your head — for an emergency landing. She tries it.

“There’s not enough room,” says Hoover, a college lecturer who lives in Amsterdam, who notes she is a “normal-size” person.

Like many passengers, she feels the tight quarters in coach class are unsafe and that the government should mandate a minimum amount of space between seats.

But wouldn’t that raise the price of tickets? Not as much as you think, say experts. In fact, some airlines might benefit from eliminating their economy class sections.

Yes, if they had to remove economy class, it would hurt a little at first. Frank Werner, an associate professor of finance at Fordham University’s business school, estimates airlines would lose about 7% in revenue if they decided to cut economy class and replace it with premium economy.

“It would depend on how the airlines would price the all-premium-economy seats and how that pricing would affect demand,” he says.

Counterintuitively, he and economist George Hoffer think airlines stand to make more money in the long term by eliminating the uncomfortable seats, since it would take only a modest increase in airfares to compensate for fewer seats on each plane. But in order to work, the new seat standards would have to be government-mandated. American Airlines tried to offer more legroom in economy class in 2000, but failed when none of its competitors followed.

Hoffer, a transportation economist at the University of Richmond, says it costs less to transport fewer passengers, so there’d be some savings. But he also predicts that seat standards in economy class would make it more difficult for discount carriers like Allegiant and Spirit to compete, and thus for a new airline to break into a market. That would put the larger, more established airlines at an advantage. Yet if fares rose by just 7%, even passengers like Mathison could still afford to fly.

“If you’re a big airline, you’re probably going to love this idea,” says Hoffer.

Airlines could stop the suffering in the back of the plane and continue making money. Plus, they could knock off a few little carriers everyone likes to complain about. Interesting idea.

Can we at least agree that economy “minus” should never happen? There are more civilized ways to turn a profit.

Should we eliminate "economy" class?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

How to avoid economy “minus” in 2015

Find airlines with more legroom, for now. Some airlines still offer a civil amount of space, even in economy class. One of your best bets is to find planes configured for international travel flying domestic flights. Depending on the aircraft type, your seat may have as much as 33 inches of pitch.

Book for comfort. Expedia.com just added a service called RouteHappy, which displays flights based on comfort. Hipmunk.com also lets you sort fares by “agony.”

Lobby for legroom. Tell your elected representative it’s time to draw the line and to set minimum seat standards on planes. Getting rid of what passes for economy class today would be a good start.

151 thoughts on “Let’s kill economy class

  1. 5th freedom flights are the way to go. Too bad the US has pretty much banned filth freedom routes domestically. So you gotta go to Vancouver. Cathay takes a big dump on any US carrier frankly. Qantas business class is better then AA first class (unbookable solo).

  2. Revenue management people at the airline know way more than “experts” quoted here. This is perhaps the stupidest post Boarding Area has ever had grace its front page. If people want more legroom, pay for it, simple as that.

      1. Wow a few of these people on boarding area are real trolls… Let’s be honest Chris, you put a different spin on travel and consumer issues and aren’t afraid to tell the big companies they suck. Where most of the boarding area articles I have read rehash the same stories others have told and are more “polite” in stories about traveler/consumer issues.

        Keep up the good work and putting out the great stories, no matter what the new trolls say.

    1. I’ll say this.

      First, not all flight have more legroom seats. Flying from my airport to a hub, I get those small planes with the “one size fits all” seats. Couldn’t buy more room if I tried, unless they stuck me on the wing.

      Second, even if the flight has an “econony plus” section, you can’t always get one of those seats. There are limited numbers, sucks to me us if we’re too late in line. Can’t “pay for it” if it isn’t available.

      Third, I suppose there’s first class (if available) but truly don’t think we should pay the cost multiplier just to get a few inches. Don’t need all the extra’s just some breathing room.

      And if the estimated decrease in revenue is 7% (oh no!) I would gladly pay a little extra if I knew I could sit in a small amount of comfort. On a $400 ticket, that would cost $28 more.

      So, its not a question of having us “pay for it”. It’s more like a question of breaking the bank for one level of service, or being sent to the poor side ‘o the dividing curtain for the rest of us.

    2. I don’t know why he joined or why boarding area asked him to join. Complete polar opposite view compared to the other blogs.

          1. So they needed a designated whipping target, and you either stepped forward or everyone else stepped back? It kind of sounds like a bunch of hunters (lets call them predators) abduct someone (call them tributes) and say were going to hunt you down for sport, and if you live until morning we’re going to kill you anyway, we could call it battle games or hunger royal or something.

          2. I’m not sure that’s an appropriate analogy. BoardingArea is full of people who have an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the airline, hotel and loyalty industries. Politically, they are right-leaning (sometimes painfully so). It is what it is.

            I have the same deep knowledge of consumer advocacy, and I admit, I lean to the left. Yes, sometimes painfully so. I’m proud of my progressive agenda.

            But it’s possible to have all the right answers — to know everything there is about, say, airlines — and still be wrong about an issue. Today’s reaction is a great example. Where do these free-marketers who dropped in from BoardingArea think this will all lead? When does the government need to start saving people from “just wanting a deal”? (If you said “now” you’re correct.)

            I think the powers that be at BoardingArea were tired of the orthodoxy and needed diversity. I’m happy they asked me to do this.

            I don’t feel hunted. I can deal with the trolls that leave comments here. But if you insist on the predator analogy, let me say this: I’m not at all convinced I’m the one who is going to end up dead at the end of this exercise …

  3. I find it quite hilarious how those ivory-tower types casually mention a 7% revenue decline like it’s no big deal. That’s a huge drop. And, doing the math, there would be an even more than 7% drop in the number of passengers. (As in, even WITH price increases, revenue STILL drops 7%… that means passenger loads dropped even MORE.)

    That means that some (undisclosed) number of passengers (greater than 7%) have now been priced out of the air travel market. I don’t see how anybody could consider that a positive development. “Just” a 7% increase in fare pricing is not insubstantial.

    And the anti-competitive effects are also not just some trivial thing to mention and not worry about… as hard as it may be to believe, there are plenty of people that appreciate the “Sardine Can” cabins of the mega-discount airlines because of the fares they make possible, just like there are people that don’t mind shopping at Dollar Tree and Wal-Mart.

    1. 7% less revenue isn’t 7% less profit. The expenses (fuel, crew, oxygen masks, etc.) are lower too. Per George Hoffer, the lower expenses might even offset the lower revenue.

      It would be one thing if passengers can easily select how much legroom they want up front when they search to purchase a ticket. But if history is any guide, the “economy minus” fares will be what gets advertised, and what shows up at the top of the search results. And the “economy minus” designation will be in 6 point font that most customers won’t notice or read.

      1. Yeah and 7% less revenue is actually a LOT more when considering profit. An airline sets the operational yield at about 80% near the bottom, meaning the remaining 20% of max passenger capacity is profit, so cutting 7% of revenue is cutting 40% of your profit. Thats HUGE, people lose their jobs over that kind of business.

        1. You can’t determine the impact on profits without understanding the impacts on both the expense side AND on the revenue side (including the shape of the demand curve as price and legroom increases).

          And, of course, disclosure standards and consumer protection standards [or lack thereof] — e.g. for passengers involuntarily downgraded to an Economy Minus seat — have an impact on those tradeoffs.

          1. I suspect the assumption is that the change in both price and legroom is near instantaneous. If so then yes, you can make that determination as the curve is square

          2. The impact to the expense side is non-zero (mostly because of fuel), but very nearly a rounding error compared to a 7% revenue drop. It just doesn’t cost that much to add a row of seats to a plane (vs. the total cost of operating the flight), as long as you don’t go over the threshold requiring an additional member of the cabin crew.

          3. as long as you don’t go over the threshold requiring an additional member of the cabin crew.

            Of course, we would expect the carriers to gerrymander their configurations to try to maximize the passenger to crew member ratio.

            Also, it takes about an extra gallon of jet fuel to carry an extra 100 lbs. on an average domestic trip. Factoring in the weight of an average passenger plus their carry-on belongings, that’s easily $5 or more on an average ticket right there.

          4. The weight of the passengers and luggage is quite small compared with the weight of the aircraft itself. As the number of passengers drops, the per-passenger share of that fuel that must be paid by the remaining passengers (not to mention the cost of the aircraft itself) goes up.

            That means that while the total cost to operate the flight overall might drop by some small amount, the cost per passenger would rise quite dramatically. (Removing, say, two rows from an aircraft is considered a really big deal in the airline world, making entire routes viable that could not be profitable otherwise.)

          5. Except we’re talking about a very small drop in the number of seats per plane, which means we’re talking about a very small increase in those per-passenger fixed costs….

            Also, the tradeoffs are more complicated than you present. For example, according to seatGuru, easyJet offers 1″ more pitch and .25″ more width per seat on their A320’s than Spirit. And yet they also have more seats per plane(!) That’s because of Spirit’s “Big Front” seats…

      2. Who said anything about 7% less profit? I’m channeling my Inner Chris Elliott here and not showing any concern whatsoever for airline profits.

        I merely said that basic math tells us that there would be more than 7% fewer passengers flying because they have decided that flying now is not affordable. (As in, even though the “value per ticket” has gone up, because of the increased legroom, there’s some amount of passengers over 7% that have made the decision that the price increase means the cost of the ticket is too high, and stop flying.)

        From a “consumer-advocate” perspective, the fact that >7% of the flying public has been priced out of the market should be of far more than trivial concern.

        1. math tells us that there would be more than 7% fewer passengers flying because they have decided that flying now is not affordable.

          Math doesn’t tell us that at all. You’re making all sorts of unwarranted assumptions. Among them that there are no cost savings, that passengers understand what they are purchasing today, and that there are no passengers who have reduced their flying *because* of the recent trends that have made flying more unpleasant.

          Did you know that Ryanair has more seat pitch than Spirit? That’s because the UK has established minimum safety standards for seat pitch. And UK customers even have a Right to Care during a delay under EC 261. Are you contending that this has made flying unaffordable for the British public?

          1. If pitch increases (making flying more pleasant) cause a fare increase and revenue decrease, what would be the cause of that predicted revenue decrease (and over 7% passenger decrease) OTHER than passengers no longer choosing to fly due to the price? Are you saying that some passengers would stop flying because they have too much legroom?

            And yes, I AM saying that costs introduced by minimum seat pitch and EU 261 raise costs, and that this DOES increase airfares, making reducing total amount of air traffic. Leisure travel is a good whose demand is very tightly coupled to price. Price increases DO result in a decrease in tickets sold (and vice-versa.)

          2. If ALL the airlines simultaneously increased pitch by a modest amount, I don’t necessarily assume that revenue would decrease.

            Which customers are priced out of the British airline market (but not the US market)? Looks to me that Ryanair makes substantially less revenue per available seat mile than Spirit, yet they are nonetheless wildly profitable. And British customers shopping just on price can still buy their $50 (base-fare) round trips between, say, London and Basel (comparable distance to NYCCLE).

          3. I’m just treating the original statements in the article (revenue down, fares up) as true. I’m not an economist and cannot evaluate their veracity.

            However, without quite a fare increase, I don’t see how revenue could avoid decreasing. Let’s say we want the Bone-Crushing Champion, Spirit (28 inches) to increase their seat pitch to match that of, say, a Delta 717. (31 inches) Delta 717’s aren’t the lap of luxury… it’s actually at the low end for “mainstream” us airlines, so I’m going to use that as the low end of what we can guess Chris thinks it should be since he complains about seat pitch on just about every US airline. To match the pitch in coach, Spirit would have to remove FOUR ROWS. That’s about a 10% capacity hit. You remove 10% of the capacity from an airline fleet, there’s going to be either a significant fare increase or a significant revenue decrease (or both). I could totally see a 7% revenue drop from a 10% capacity drop. Revenue would eventually recover as larger/more aircraft were used, but the fare increase from the larger legroom would stay.

            To be honest, I don’t think either of us can read airline accounting statements properly. If you just look at CASM vs RASM on RyanAir’s accounting statements, RyanAir loses 0.6 Eurocents per ASM, which makes no sense at all, since they claim to have an operating margin of 13%. (I will note that RyanAir does, as you might expect, have higher cost (7 vs 6 cents) and runs at an operating margin about half of Spirit’s. They have about the same net margin.

          4. The UK/European market serves as anecdotal evidence that minimum standards can be raised to make travel more humane without any obvious increase in budget fares.

            How is that possible? If you assume there are no offsetting variables, then true, higher standards either raise average fares or narrow profits (or both).

            But if your concern is for the budget traveler who can afford only the very lowest fares, those travelers have never been buying AVERAGE fares. Those travelers are already traveling in off-peak periods on discount fares. And those discount fares are overwhelmingly driven by variable costs. Fixed costs are sunk costs. The carrier is better off recouping any amount over the variable cost than letting a seat fly empty.

            And the variable costs are basically the same, regardless of whether the seat pitch is 31″ or 28″.

    2. “Doing the math” how? On what basis is there an assumption that there’s more than a 7% drop? I suspect a lot of people – like myself, who have stopped flying unless it’s absolutely unavoidable because the experience is so miserable – would consider more flights.

      1. Maybe instead of raising the question that I’m making assumptions instead of doing math, you could do some math yourself and show at least one case in which I’m wrong, instead of just “suspecting” I’m wrong.

        Myself, I don’t have to “assume” anything, other than agree with some basic premises of the article and complete some basic arithmetic. (We aren’t talking anything more exotic than multiplication and division here, not even any algebra.)

        We have two statements (by the same team in the same paper, so we can guess that THEY believe them to both be correct): one predicting a 7% revenue drop, the other predicting some non-zero amount of fare increase. (I’m guessing they make this statement to counter objections about significant reductions in airline profits, which would make any legroom law unlikely, at best. It would certainly take legislation to push through… the airlines would tear the FAA apart during rulemaking if they tried to do it on their own.)

        We’ll start with an initial average fare of $100 and a plane with 100 passengers, for $10,000 revenue/flight. With a 7% revenue drop, we now have $9,300 revenue/flight.

        Let’s start with no fare increase:
        $9,300 / ($100 <– stable airfare) = 93 passengers = 7% capacity drop.

        Okay, now we'll look at the second statement, with a prediction of a fare increase. We'll start with a $1% increase.
        $9,300 / ($101 7%.

        There. done. If we hold revenue at a steady drop of 7%, any increase in airfares results in a capacity drop greater than the amount of the revenue drop.

  4. Way to use unsubstianted assertions to make your case.
    Please give a citation to Hoffer’s claim that “it costs less to transport fewer passengers”. This absolutely makes no sense from an engineering perspective.

    1. I think it’s a reference to the marginal costs of each additional row of occupied seats. (Fuel for the weight of the passenger and their baggage, ticketing costs, customer service, etc.)

      Shaving a row of seats off the plane would probably trim 1500 lb or so from the weight of the aircraft. (Which could then go to cargo, less fuel, whatever.) Given that airlines make a big deal about things like gutting a couple hundred pounds of unsued equipment from the galleys, that’s not a rounding error.

      That said, compared to that 7% revenue drop, cost reductions aren’t going to be anywhere near that much.

          1. That’s absolutely BRILLIANT! I LOVE it!

            That’s like if you want to be safe at night, expose 10% of your skin to reflect headlights, and you reduce your chances of being hit by 10%. 20% more skin = 20% lower probability of hit. So, go completely naked and reduce your chances of being runt over by 100%!

    2. It makes perfect sense from an engineering perspective. Less passengers = less passenger weight + less baggage weight + less seat weight. Less weight = less fuel needed. Fuel is a major cost of flying.
      Another solution is less passengers= less passenger cargo + increased commercial cargo = increased profits.
      Most engineers know that there are lots of solutions to a “problem”. Those solutions are usually optimized to what the customer desires.

      1. Except the incremental cost per passenger once meeting the operational cost of the flight is reached is all profit. Your shaving of seats and passenger isn’t reducing operating costs very much since the bulk of the expense is moving the airframe, engines and its own fuel. That first passenger is a very expensive passenger. An airline distributes its operational cost over an occupancy load of around 80%, so when you cut into seats your telling the airline to either make less money or raise fares, and travelers buy on price.

      2. The economists here apparently did not call any engineers to ask about the actual amount of cost reductions.

        Fuel IS a major cost of flying, and it’s significant enough that airlines do things like replace the foodservice carts throughout the entire fleet to shave a couple hundred pounds from the weight of their aircraft.

        But compared to a 7% revenue drop? The fuel reduction from removing a row of seats/passengers becomes a *bleeping* rounding error.

        And commercial cargo on domestic flights (where legroom is tightest and any laws would be targeted to) is certainly a source of profit, but pulling passengers from the plane would only increase cargo carried if the plane were already at max takeoff weight. Except for the rare flight flying from a VERY high-altitude airport, this simply isn’t the case.

        Domestic air cargo (excepting Alaska and Hawaii flights) is limited by demand, not supply. Dedicated outfits like UPS and FedEx are far more efficient at it so if overnight flights are okay, their lower costs make much more sense. Domestic air cargo on passenger planes is only used when “next flight out” service is needed and for 1st-class mail going to destinations not well-served by FedEx.

  5. Horrible news. The customer simply couldn’t matter any less these days. Even in aircraft design. I just took an SFO-Frankfurt flight on a new 380 in Biz Class and despite ear plugs was up all night listening to the high-pitched whirr as passengers adjusted their seats all night. And the clank of the galley. Love the lie flat bed but … whirrr…whiiine..whirr.

    1. That would be an excellent addition to this book.

      White Whine – A Collection of First-World Problems
      whitewhine. com/submit

  6. I think we can all agree that “Economy Minus” is a horrible idea. And there should be some federally mandated minimum pitch for the seats on a aircraft.

    Chris, when an airline decides that it’s going to decrease the seat pitch, does the airline have to re-certify that the plane can be evacuated in 90 seconds? Seems reasonable. More seats, more people. Less room between seats makes exiting the row of seats just a little more difficult. I would also mandate that the airline should be barred from using any of it’s own employees in the certification run. Why? Because an airline’s own employees will probably rehearse the evacuation many times before the official test. In an actual evacuation, the passengers will not have that luxury. As any engineer will tell you, the test must be as close to real life conditions as possible.

    1. I don’t agree I’d love economy minus class, if it saved me a couple bucks I’d sit on the floor with a bucket and curtain in the corner of the cabin. We could drop the term “class” from the name all together and just call it “cabin seating”.

    2. No, we can’t as long as the pitch allows passengers to evacuate in the government mandated time, there shouldn’t be any regulations. If people want more space, they can choose an airline that offers it.

  7. I personally like the addition of a “plus” cabin, but think it should be in-addition-to and not a instead-of scenario.

    For me, at the end of the day, it offers the consumer a choice, or more choices about what they want in travel, and the cost that it incurs..

    Sure, what *was* “back then” was better.. more leg room.. free* meals, free* bags, etc, etc.. but that was then, this is now. As much as it might be cathartic, I don’t want re-regulation to force carriers to do this, or do that when it comes to services that are offered and price point for it.
    (note: free means at no additional cost, but does recognize that it was never outright free per se as it was a previously included in fares which did have a cost)

    I DO want regulation for matters like safety or security, but for services, I prefer a market to decide what it will offer, and at what price point.

    I’m not sure I understand or even agree with “civilized” as I think that too should be a matter for the market to regulate. Again, there are some parts of the overall industry that should be regulated– access for those with qualified disabilities, baggage loss/delay matters, etc..— but as a whole I am not a fan of regulators defining for consumers what is or is not civilized in what is a deregulated market.

    1. So now we have first class, business class, economy plus class, economy class and economy minus class. How many distinctions do we need over trivial differences?

      1. How many? As many as the market place will support. I personally think that for many carriers the better way would be to go with a combined F/CJ cabin and in the back run with a E+ and regular E cabin.. but again, I think the carriers passenger demographic and market demographics will be the real determining factor..
        I can see cases where a F/CJ, E and even E- cabin config would work better (thinking about more leisure markets) and cases where a F, C/J, E+ and E cabin might be a better seat mix for other markets (thinking about markets like HKG-LHR or NYC-TYO)
        Is it getting to be too many? Too many is of course subjective, but to me I say let the market dictate that.. If there’s enough people willing to pay for a specific type of cabin (be that true F or a combined F&CJ cabin, or even a bare-bone E- cabin) then I see merit in the carriers providing such.

  8. Consumers got us into this mess and only consumers can get us out of it. We all gave up the “free” stuff to save an extra $50. The airlines are catering to our real needs, because if it was that important to us, we would have paid the extra $50 for a meal and checked baggage back in 2003.

    1. I agree completely. The idea of paying for airline food distresses me, sure its “food” but technically so is the stuff our miniature Pomsky eats.

  9. First time reader to your site – I’ve heard people mention it but hadn’t ever looked it up. If this is the caliber of writing, though, I don’t know that I’ll be a repeat reader. I think using terms like “dehumanizing” and “tortured” is over the top. Dehumanizing transport would be slave ships and indentured servants of days past, and the deplorable conditions of human trafficking victims today. Torture is real and thousands are subjected to it for political and other reasons.

    After all, even with a tight seat pitch, we’re travelling through the air (!) – something that was nearly impossible 100 years ago – at relatively reasonable prices. Consider how much of the world has no access to clean water, adequate food, or electricity…and can barely leave their own village except on foot. Some humans in places like North Korea can’t even leave their own country if they wanted to, and are starving to death.

    Homeless people – including children – wander our streets right now here in the U.S. with maybe a blanket and concrete for a bed – and we claim we just can’t be made to sit in a slightly narrow coach seat?

    I’m not suggesting we have to solve world hunger before addressing other issues, far from it. But let’s keep some perspective, please. The concerns over seat size and pitch are legitimate, and to me it doesn’t bolster the argument one bit to be overly hyperbolic in describing them.

    There is a potential safety concern with too many seats, IMHO, and the current evacuation demonstration regulations may not be adequate for the ultra high capacities being used today. Also, despite the claims of some that “passengers chose with their wallets and wanted to trade space for cost”, there really hasn’t been a clear “choice” offered to customers. And aside from frequent fliers, most people have no idea what the seating is going to be like on a given aircraft when they buy the ticket. I’m not yet convinced that more regulation is necessarily the silver bullet, but it’s a point worth considering. Again, just make the argument on the facts, research and merit.

    1. I have been a reader of this blog for over ten years. I can tell you that there is a night and day difference with Chris’ writing depending upon where it is published. I have read articles written by Chris in other magazine, venues, etc. where the articles followed the good journalism practices, etc. On this
      blog, his articles are border-line yellow journalism.

      Look at the headline of the article from yesterday, “AirTran declined my credit card and now I have to buy a new ticket.”, this is totally inaccurate. AirTran is NOT a credit card issuer…it was the passenger’s credit card company that declined his credit card not AirTran. If you look at the titles of the articles of this blog over the past years, several of them are “inaccurate”, “misleading”, etc.

      If you read the articles, many of them are missing important research aspect. You can read comments from the readers that brings this up the missing “research”, “facts” or etc. every week. For example, he wrote comments stating that the Costco Travel website doesn’t disclose the location of a car rental location well enough, etc. If someone just spent two minutes at the Costco Travel website, someone can see that the comments that Chris wrote were totally inaccurate.

      There is a double standard when it comes to different opinions. It is totally okay for Chris to call names of people that disagree with his opinions but it is totally wrong for people who disagree with Chris to use the same type of names.

      Yellow journalism, or the yellow press, is a type of journalism that presents
      little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers, magazines, drive traffic to websites, etc.. Techniques may include exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering,
      or sensationalism.

      1. @ArizonaRoadWarrior:disqus, love ya, but your comment is not fact-based.

        I decided not to change the AirTran headline because it was a summary of the LW’s assertion. Also, could Costco have done a better job of notifying the reader in this story? Yes, exactly my point.

        Often, the details brought to light by the Google-fu masters in the comments — while welcome — do not change the essential facts of the story. That’s certainly true for both of the cases you cited.

        I try to apply the rules of conduct to everyone in an evenhanded way, including myself. When I go off the rails, I have apologized.

        I’m comfortable with my kind of journalism. If you prefer more of an “amen” chorus, there are plenty of great blogs on BoardingArea where the sanctity of frequent flier miles won’t be questioned.

        Your comments are always welcome here, as are @Lemongrab’s. Your distortions of the truth are not.

        1. How would Costco have done a “better” job of notifying the reader in the story you posted? I posted a copy of the notification I received at reservation and again one week before my trip. I thought the notification I received was pretty darn clear. What exactly should be changed, in your view?

          That story was really about a husband and wife not communicating with each other, not about Costco or Avis.

          1. I agree…first, the Costco Travel website is ‘idiot proof’ (sorry to use that word but that is a common phraseterm used by software development companies that develop software programs such as POS, ecommerce, etc. to insure that the most technical challenged individuals whether a client’s end user or a client’s customer can do a transaction) for the location of the rental…airport or city. Second, you provided documentation showing the notification process of Costco which was pretty darn clear as you stated.

            Like the Costco Travel, did Chris provided specifics on what Costco was hiding from the OP? or what should Costco should have done (should incorporate) about notifying the OP? No…he just made his typical ‘evil travel provider’ rhetoric.

            The realities are: 1) the OP didn’t communicate with his wife; 2) didn’t read the Costco Travel confirmation; 3) didn’t question the rental agent about his reservation; 4) didn’t review the rates with his wife; etc.

          2. You can always do a better job. I don’t know what the OP saw. Did he book from a tablet computer? If so, how did the location render? Did he see a printout? Did the location get cut off or did the printer run out of ink. Point is, he says he wasn’t aware, and that tells me Costo might have done better. I believe the customer.

          3. Exactly HOW? Load up the OP’s printer with ink? Ring his doorbell and tell him what his *wife* had reserved?

            The OP wasn’t aware because he and his wife didn’t communicate. Costco is not responsible for that failure.

          4. Jeanne, look at Chris response…believe the customer as the gospel without going to website or looking at the evidence. If he was a lawyer, his clients will lose because the other lawyer if competent will destroy him over the evidence.

            I went to the website on my PC, iPad and iPhone…the same interface…works the same. The fact is that Chris or no one from his volunteer staff did the research.

            Of course, the LW wasn’t aware because his wife made the reservation without his involvement and he didn’t talked to his wife.

          5. As I said in my original post on this thread, is that there is a lot going on here that CE cannot fix.

            My husband’s take on this is that the OP didn’t like what his wife had reserved and demanded a car at the airport rather than take transportation to the rental site, thinking somehow that the reservation would transfer and at the original price. A cynical person would say that the OP is trying to scam Avis by shaming them publicly, under the scenario my husband posits.

            CE’s response is just . . . hopelessly wrong and is very much at variance with the consumer education aspect he promotes in his books and his blog. Personal responsibility be damned if it creates site traffic.

          6. Yeah, that’s exactly what I was thinking when I got this case. How can I shame Avis into doing my bidding? Worked real well, too.

            Oh no, wait … I was just thinking of my traffic numbers. Didn’t get too many visits on this posts either, so double fail.

            I’m ordering you an espresso. Two shots. Actually, I’m getting one for myself, too. I need it this morning.

        2. “I didn’t change the AirTran headline because it was a summary of the LW’s assertion.”

          In other words, you will make the headline of an article based upon the LW’s assertion even if it is totally inaccurate? You didn’t even correct the LW that his assertion was wrong. I don’t think that is good journalism and it falls in the sensationalism category and reminds me of the headlines of the newspapers and magazines at the checkout lanes at the grocery store.

          1. You’re entitled to your opinion. Obviously, we disagree on this. I’m grateful that we can agree to disagree without being disagreeable about it. That’s what makes this discussion so interesting, fun and enlightening.

        3. “Could Costco have done a better job of notifying the reader in this story? Yes, and that’s what I was saying.”

          How? There was no specifics in the article just your typical rhetoric. Jeanne in NE provided documentation of her own rental with Costco which proved to be very clear and through. She asked for your response and you didn’t.

          You wrote the following two statements:

          1. “Could Costco have done a better job of notifying the Campbells of their rental location? Absolutely.”

          2. “Now, I don’t think Costco was intentionally concealing anything from Campbell’s wife.”

          My comments were:

          1. Chris, how could Costco have done a better job of notifying the Campbells of their rental location? Please provide specific examples on how Costco could have done a better job of notifying the Campbells of their rental location instead of your standard evil travel provider rhetoric.

          In regards to your second statement, I took it as you are implying that Costco was unintentionally concealing things from the public; therefore, I commented “What was Costco concealing from the Campbells? Again, please provide the actual things that the Costco was concealing from the Campbells instead of implying that the Costco is hiding stuff, being evil, etc.”

          You didn’t respond to Jeanne in NE or me. In my world, when I make a suggestion, proposal, recommendation, complaint, etc. to clients, employers, etc., I need to provide specifics, details, etc. not rhetoric or generalities.

          1. I understand. You’re trying to make a bigger point about my advocacy practice. You think that somehow, these little details would or should change the fact that I got involved in a case. You think Costco’s disclosure means you can presume to know what the LW saw when he was on the site? Or that another customer took the time to read the fine print on a hotel reservation?

            You also think that by calling my advocacy “yellow” journalism, that would stop be from helping people who you feel don’t deserve it.

            I’m sorry to disappoint you. At the end of the day, I advocate for the consumer, even when they make mistakes, even when they fail to read all of the fine print — and yes, even when my readers think I’m a “yellow” journalist.

            Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate readers like you who point out that the disclosure isn’t as inadequate as a reader suggests, or who argue that a consumer didn’t deserve my assistance. But that won’t stop me from helping.

          2. “You think Costco’s disclosure means you can presume to know what the LW saw when he was on the site?”

            The fact which you are denying or refusing to acknowledge that the Costco’s website is ‘idiot-proof’…if a person wants an airport location, you select ‘airport’. You can’t start the reservation process without selecting ‘airport’ or ‘city’.

            “Or that another customer took the time to read the fine print on a hotel reservation?”

            In regards to the Springhill Suite case that I mentioned, on the Marriott website in bold font, bigger font than the normal font, etc, the word ‘NON-REFUNDABLE’ is prominently displayed not once but TWICE before the LW hit the ‘reserve’ button. No fine print…just a LW who gambled and lost.

            “You also think that by calling my advocacy “yellow” journalism…”

            Your advocacy is a service so how can it be “yellow journalism”? I commented: ” On this blog, his articles are border-line yellow journalism.” I mentioned this because of your use of exaggerations, sensationalism in your article’s headline as well as lack of disclosing all of the pertinent facts in the articles.

            “At the end of the day, I advocate for the consumer, even
            when they make mistakes, even when they fail to read all of the fine print…”

            If a person booked a room with an ocean view but was given a room with a view of an alley and the hotel didn’t want to compensate the person…this is a wrong and this person needs an advocate if the person can’t get a satisfying resolution on their own.

            If a person booked an ocean view room but it was foggy for the entire and want compensation…there is no wrong here and the person doesn’t need an advocate.

            If a person booked a room on a opaque site where the rules are very clear and expect the hotel to change the room type and the hotel doesn’t or can’t…there is no wrong there and no need for an advocate but a ‘green mailer’.

            Most of your articles are not the first but the last one…I don’t see you doing advocacy. It seems to me and other readers (based upon their comments) that you are shaming the travel provider into refunds in the courts of public opinion.

            We must agree to disagree.

          3. Only a selective cursory and highly selective reading of this site by a cynical reader would yield such a conclusion. I refuse to believe you are that narrow-minded.

            You see the good that my volunteers and I do every day. You also see the many cases where I side with the company and tell the consumer to do his or her homework. You also see the research that I do on every case — not perfect, but it’s the best I can do with my current resources.

            I think you’re just trolling for a comment from me.

        4. In regards to research, it is common for other readers to comment that “additional information is needed before they can make a judgment” or “we are not getting the whole picture” or etc. There are many days that I do not vote in the poll because the article is lacking details for me to make a judgment on the story. I don’t vote on my emotions or biases…I vote on the facts.

          In the case of the Costco Travel, it is my opinion if you went to their website; look at the documentation of a rental agreement and the number of e-mails that are sent…your statement about Costco doing a better job of notifying the reader of the location shouldn’t have been made. The statement of the LW being an ignorant DIY travel agent should have been made.

          I remembered the article you wrote about the person who purchased a non-refundable room at a SpringHill Suite to watch a space shuttle launch. When it was cancelled, the LW claimed the website didn’t disclose that the reservation was non-refundable which you believe. If you spent 2 minutes at the Marriott website, it would have shown you that the LW was lying to you…he gambled for the lower rate and lost when the space shuttle launched was cancelled.

          I remembered articles about LWs that were claiming that their FF miles statement didn’t disclosed the expiration date. You believed the LWs without even looking at the paper statements and/or online statements. Again, just getting paper statements or online views for these articles, would have shown you that the expiration dates were printed boldly on the statements and the LW was lying to you.

          I can continue with articles after articles where you totally believed the LW’s story without looking at the evidence. I am not the only readers that have made comments about the “lack of facts”, “lack of information”, “incomplete research”, etc.

          I am not saying that all travel providers are good and all LWs are lying or vice versa. It seems to me after you had the lawsuit with the travel club in Florida that you stopped doing heavy lifting and it seems like the focus was on travelers that made their own mistakes and didn’t want to take responsibilities for them.

          It has always been my position that you should go after travel providers when they fail to deliver (i.e. the rate on the confirmed reservation was $ 100 a night but the hotel want to charge $ 200 a night) or those scammy travel clubs or worthless travel protection plans…I call this heavy lifting.

      2. Haven’t read Chris calling commenters who disagree with him “airline apologist” or “TSA apologist” lately. So he is making progress! 😉

        1. One of Chris’ comments was “I can deal with the trolls that leave comments here.” It is okay to call some of the readers trolls but it is not okay to call a LW an ignorant DIY travel agent?

          1. Nope. I was responding to someone else who called them trolls. And we also refer to people who come in and leave incendiary comments as trolls in our comment rules, which have been on the site for years without a complaint from you. Nice try.

      3. “There is a double standard when it comes to different opinions. It is
        totally okay for Chris to call names of people that disagree with his
        opinions but it is totally wrong for people who disagree with Chris to
        use the same type of names.”

        ARW, agree with you and kudos for saying so “out loud”… I get it, the focus of the article and the segement of the population it’s geared to. But like you I often find the use of words like “apologist” as clearly biased and indented to discredit the opposing view by use of a label.

        When I see this occur, I tend to be more suspicious of the writer and not the opposition and wonder why the label is used.. Is it perhaps the opposing view has merit? Are they in fact correct in whole or part? …. and a way to pre-emptively discredit that chance, we’ll just label them “apologists”

        1. You know, you sound like a real airline apologist when you say that. I’m kidding. I haven’t called anyone an apologist in a while. One of my role models, the great consumer advocate Ed Perkins, used the term “airline apologist” to describe people who would defend anything an airline did, even when it’s obviously wrong for the consumer. I thought it was pretty clever, and have used it in the past.

          I have actually stopped throwing “apologist” around in serious conversations for a while now. Phrases like “airline apologist” and “TSA apologist” only make the other side upset, but they do nothing to encourage productive debate, at least on this site.

          By the way, if I really didn’t tolerate any disagreement, then your comment and most of Arizona’s comments would have been deleted a long time ago.

          I think debate is important. I love having a diversity of opinions. Some of the reader comments really do change the way I work (see the comments on today’s poll question, which led to me fixing the question).

          Arizona’s constant harping on me to meticulously truth-squad ever reader request for help? Not so much.

          I don’t have the resources to retrace every purchasing decision and ask, “Did this customer see the same thing I’m seeing now?” I would still advocate for the person, even if I knew a company clearly disclosed a rental location or divulged the restrictions in the fine print. After all, I’m a consumer advocate, not a company advocate. But I don’t mind being called to account, and yes, the other side often is “right.” But as I’ve said many times before, you can have all the facts on your side and still be wrong.

          1. Chris, thanks for the directed reply. I do cede that the frequency to which I see labels used in and by your column, for the opposing view point is not often – so that end I applaud that on your end. I just don’t think it adds anything to your “side” at all.

            I also agree that lively – and civil – debate is where things really happen. Yes, civil debate can be hard, especially when the matter is one that someone holds personal or passionate.. but to me, regardless of what side you’re taking, you’ve got to be civil… failing to do so, to me, really makes me give credit to the opposition, and not you.

            As the fact-checking aspect.. I see your point, you’re not equipped to do fact checking to the minutia.. but… I also see ARW’s point that facts, or lack thereof, can substantiate or discredit a case.

            I don’t think you’re going to be able to fact check to 100% every case that come across your ‘desk’, but I do think that a reasonably comprehensive vetting be done — and I do think that in the overwhelming percentage of your cases this is done. However, I also think that where information is not, or cannot be verified, that a clearly disclosed note be inserted into the article/text that this information is not or cannot be verified.

            There’s been cases I wanted to vote on, but given the lack of verifiable information, has made it difficult to frame my answer within one of two options given.

            Lastly, yes, you are a consumer-side advocate and not corporate-side advocate.. that’s OK.. in fact I think that’s good for the balance of “power”.. each ‘side’ needs their respective “advocates” (whatever form that may be) to lobby for their respective positions and actions.

    2. Wah-wah! People are starving!
      Dehumanizing? I can tell you without equivocation that I’ve been on an airplane where the purser, who sounded exactly like Jack Hawkins, ordered “ramming speed”!

  10. “But in order to work, the new seat standards would have to be government-mandated. American Airlines tried to offer more legroom in economy class in 2000, but failed when none of its competitors followed.” Economist translation: “People say they want more legroom and would be willing to pay a little extra, so an airline tries it. The market doesn’t respond because actions speak louder than words. So now we should use government force and coercion to make it work.” Love your site and your advocacy. There’s nothing wrong with voluntary action, but you lose me when you try to use the force of the state to achieve your desired goals.

    1. Also, you ask a question and then give a shifty answer: “but wouldn’t that raise the price of tickets? Not as much as you think, say experts.” Ask it again, only answer the question clearly: Q: Wouldn’t that raise the price of tickets? A: Yes, but “how much” is dependent on market forces and experts disagree when quantifying a number/percentage.
      I understand that everyone has biases, but at least mask it a little better if you’re not going to answer the question directly asked.

      1. I am not aware of any experts especially ‘experts’ from academia and the government that can accurately price something out. You can look at the past and none of these so-called experts projected the costs of any government program accurately. Just wait a few years once Obamacare is in full swing to see the actual real costs.

  11. Is economy plus a bad idea? From a recent article from yougov

    42% of Americans who have flown said that they would be likely to
    purchase an “Economy Minus” ticket offering lower prices for reduced
    legroom. 15% said that they were very likely to purchase smaller
    cheaper seats. Women are more likely than men to consider downgrading
    to a smaller seat (47% compared to 37%) and Millennials (51%) are more
    likely than those aged 50+ (32%).

    Apparently 42% of American think its a great idea and are willing to back up that idea with dollars, despite the fervent opposition by our travel advocates. So what’s all the hubbub about? The question is, do we trust people to make up their own minds or do we as big brother know best? Simple philosophical question.

    1. If you follow the link to check the survey questions, the article misleads a bit as to what the poll actually asked.

      42% are at least “somewhat likely” to “purchase a seat with less legroom at a lower price.” It’s not clear that all the respondents are construing that to mean less legroom than what is currently available today.

      Subsequent questions from the exact same poll show that:

      59% believe that “the seats are already too small and should not be reduced further.”

      7% believe that “current seat sizes are large enough that making them smaller would not be a big problem.”

      1. Ah yes, the disconnect between what we say and what we do. Having to choose between the two, I believe the latter, i.e. Spirit airlines flying full.

        1. If you are referencing this poll as a basis for what people actually say, then the poll question matters. If you don’t care what people say, and just want to focus on load factors, then okay…

          Of course, Spirit’s market share is about 2%. There is clearly some segment of consumers who accept the tradeoffs they offer. There is also clearly a portion of consumers — who by Spirit’s own admission — don’t understand the tradeoffs, but purchase tickets on Spirit anyway. They explain that this is why their complaint rate has been more than triple that of any other airline, each and every year for the past 5 consecutive years.

          We don’t know how Spirit would perform in a more transparent world where the tradeoffs are crystal clear to every consumer.

  12. If I’m not mistaken 28″ pitch is the set legal minimum pitch. Don’t you mean the government should increase the legal minimum?

    1. I hope so. I don’t care so much about amenities but I do worry about safety, both in speed of evacuation and risk of DVT.

      1. So long as the configuration of the plane allows passengers to evacuate the plane, including via the use of chutes, in 90 seconds and the ratio of attendants to passengers meets federal guidelines, then the airline has met minimum federal guidelines. You cannot legislate the airlines to prevent risk of DVT, just as you cannot legislate restaurants to prevent the risk of obesity.

        I just had a delicious bacon cheeseburger for lunch as I was reading the comments here. I know what the nutritional data on that bacon cheeseburger is and I ate it with full knowledge. I purchase seats on an airplane and look at seat pitch using SeatGuru and I know the risks I’m getting into with those seat pitches. People at risk for DVT should take responsibility for their own health and buy the seat on the airline that mitigates their risk of DVT. If those folks can’t afford to buy a “Premium” seat now, I’m not terribly sure if they will be able to afford a seat on airplanes configured to meet some DVT-free regulation. If you take a look at the risk factors for DVT (such as on Mayo Clinic’s website), you’ll see that flying isn’t the ONLY risk factor implicated with DVT. Should we regulate all of those other factors as well? I believe no. Let’s try a little self-help here, before the government steps in to “help”.

  13. I am troubled by the professor’s position. He’s suggesting that we legislate comfort, a dubious proposition at best. But I’m far more troubled that his proposal would have the consequence of reducing competition by effectively crippling carriers such as Spirit and Allegiant and disenfranchiing those who travel on those airlines.

    If this were an issue of safety, I’d be 100% behind it. But ultimately, the esteemed professor’s point comes down to, I know better than you how much comfort you need. Those 42% of people who prefer saving that 7% should haven’t that choice. All in the name of comfort?

    Then, and I’m sure the professor has this information, what about when we leave the macro-level? The 7% increase may be overall, but what about people who fly on routes that are also served by Spirit and the like. Without those carriers, I have to assume that those routes would experience a greater cost increased due to the reduced competition, i.e. the lack of the “southwest” effect.

    1. I agree, I would far prefer saving some money than have more seat pitch or leg room, I’m average height and skinny, I fit just fine in my seat. In addition, none of the legacy carriers have the capacity to absorb all the non legacy carrier traffic.

    2. How about we just make the competition more transparent for a change?

      If legroom (and other unbundled amenities) were a standard part of what’s disclosed in a fare quote — so that it’s possible to filter, search and compare prices on the amenity….

      If we had decent consumer protections for passengers who are downgraded — e.g. someone who pays for Standard Economy and is forced to sit in Economy Minus…

      If we had decent Right to Care protections (a la EC261 Article 9) for passengers who are severely delayed or stranded…

      …the Spirit’s and Allegiant’s of the world would probably hate such changes the most. But it would mean fairer and more transparent and humane competition than what we have today, which would be a big win for consumers. (And consumers would still be able to search for and buy 28″ seats that don’t include a carry-on bag if that’s what they truly want).

  14. I wonder.

    To quote “If you’re a big airline, you’re probably going to love this idea,” says Hoffer. Since when does the big airlines love something that benefits passengers?

    Let’s get rid of the competition that’s crushing the big airlines. Let’s make it harder for Spirit and Allegiant to compete. I’m sure the big boys would have loved to get rid of Southwest as well.

  15. Perhaps the problem with suggesting all “premium economy” class is demonstrated by what happened with American Airlines. The article says that American tried to add a little more room “…but failed when none of its competitors followed”. If that means that travelers voted with their wallets, doesn’t that suggest that cost is still a greater driver of utilization than comfort? If so, all is lost….

    1. Yes the article glosses over that point. If passengers were willing to voluntarily pay for it then other airlines would have followed.

    2. American then added it somewhat back with main cabin extra with a decent amount of seats. It wasn’t making enough money on it so are cutting out several extra legroom row. United still has more extra legroom seats than any US carrier. Still many flights i’m on its 1/2 empty while regular seats are full. People just aren’t buying it.

  16. Passengers are voting with their wallets as LonnieC and Carver has commented. For years, I have been saying that for years…1) passengers want the lowest fares and they don’t care about anything else or 2) passengers want the lowest fares but with the amenities of ‘first class’…leg space, hot meals, free alcohol drinks, etc..

    ‘Economy Plus’ at American Airlines was a failure because people didn’t want to pay for it. The flights that I have taken on United, the Economy Plus section was not full…usually there is not a passenger sitting next to me.

    Personally, I have enjoyed my flights that I have taken in Economy Plus on United and Continental (before the merger with UA). I travel for business but I paid the difference a few times out of my own pocket when it wasn’t reimbursable because it was a value to me.

    It seems like Chris and his comrades want the airlines to be like the Model T…”Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black”

      1. Chris,

        I don’t understand your response.

        comrade: a person who shares in one’s activities, occupation, etc.; companion, associate, or friend.

        comrade: a fellow member of a fraternal group, political party, etc

        comrade: a close friend you have worked with; been in the military with, etc.

        Comrade: “friend”, “colleague”, or “ally”

        Of course, the word ‘comrade’ was used by the Communists in the Soviet Union as well as the word ‘comrade’ was used by the various socialist parties around the world. But neither the Soviet Communists nor socialists parties invented the word nor do they have an exclusive usage of the word ‘comrade’ nor did they invented the word.

        For example, I play an online strategy game which has NOTHING to do with Soviet Communists, socialists,etc. which we refer to each other as ‘comrades’.

        If you are referring to my usage of ‘comrades’ as calling your friends communists or socialists then you proved my point…you made a judgment or assumption without having the facts.

  17. I know a couple who next week will be flying round trip Tampa-LAX on Frontier. Despite the fact that the male is about 6 ft. tall and weighs about 250 lbs., they say that they would rather be uncomfortable to save a few dollars. I believe that travelers should have the opportunity to make that choice. Domestic airlines like Frontier, Spirit and Allegiant should be able to continue to offer their 28″ seat pitch provided they make their status known to potential passengers. A category for them which could be called “economy minus” or “maximum capacity seating” should be required in their advertising and prominently displayed at booking sites. That way, the travelers would know what to expect. The FAA should require carriers who do not to adopt the “economy minus” standard should offer a minimum seat pitch of 33′ or 34″. I am willing to pay a reasonable sum for some extra space. I’m sure that many others are too.

  18. As people have pointed out, there can be problems with too much government regulation. There can also be problems with greedy corporations gouging customers. The ideal free market would give people a multitude of reasonable choices but right now that’s not the case with airline seating. The first class, business class and economy plus type seating are not reasonable choices because of the airline’s practice of demanding what looks to be an unreasonable premium for those seats. Thus, the 58 percent who don’t want to trade tighter seating for cheaper fares are stuck with barely adequate seating.* I would favor some government regulation that sets an allocation for seating. For example: flights lasting more than 90 minutes can have up to 50% of ther seats with a seat pitch between 30 and 32 inches and 50% of their seats are required to have a seat pitch of at least 33 inches. That would give airlines some latitude to configure their planes as they see fit and still provide choices to travelers. – *For much of the population who is not flexible and agile but is also not ‘disabled’ the current economy seating truly is not adequate.

    1. Your plan will add more costs. For example, an A319 and an A320 plane in the US Airways’ fleet can fly the short routes (an hour flight) of PHX to LAS and PHX to LAX as well as long routes (more than 3 hours) PHX to ORD and PHX to IND. Under your proposal, you will be reducing the flexibility of US Airways to use a ‘short-haul’ plane for a long-haul route in case of a mechanical problem.

      1. Your scenario is very probable but the argument about raising costs was also raised when the airlines fought the requirements concerning planes sitting on the tarmac too long. In that fight passenger comfort won out over the costs to the airlines. I think the idea of regulating seat pitch is also one that airlines can live with. If it means that prices go up incrementally then so be it. For many of us low price is not the holy grail and we don’t like that the airlines seem to think It’s the only thing important to those of us who are not fortunate enough to always sit in the front of the plane. – Also, it’s amusing that you write about flexibility when that’s exactly what I’m hoping to still have after a long flight.

  19. I don’t like the government in my business, but there should be a law about how much “pitch” and seat width is a minimum.

    …hell, cattle going to slaughter have stricter regulations on their personal space in transport than we do in a cabin of an airline.

      1. Actually, PETA is the worst of the worst animal-rights group. They actually “adopt” animals and they kill them. About six years ago, a few of their “troops” were caught putting the animals they had killed into a dumpster.

        Yup. Hate them with a passion and will glad to vent said hate anywhere I can.

        1. I am indifferent to PETA what I am a BIG fan of is abolishing cruelty to animals (except ugly, mean ones like Sydney funnel web spiders. I can get behind mean OR ugly but not both. Swans are okay they are mean but pretty, ugly I can handle if they stay away and mind their own business, and I promise not to harass them and treat their environment with respect).

  20. Wedge ’em all in so nobody can tip over. Everybody wears diapers. No expense for flight attendants, meals, seats, toilets, overhead compartments.

  21. I have cut air travel in half, some years by 2/3rds, because of the discomfort factor.
    That is when i was working. Now as a retiree I try to do most trips by car, planning well in advance and making it an interesting trip. I flew once this year and not only were the seats terribly uncomfortable, the routing had me going from the Northwest (WA) to Colorado, Illinois and to my destination in eastern PA. Same coming home. What deranged mind figured that routing? And of course it was my deranged mind that accepted it. Sop — driving, even west to east, has its advantages, if you have the time and can manage the increase in cost of travel on the road. Well, I confess that there is a bit of Jack Kerouac in me.

    1. My next trip is a 17 hour drive in February almost to the panhandle of Florida. It is cheaper in terms of real dollars than to fly and rent a car once at our destination, but there is a real cost in terms of time. But my husband and I are planning to go via a route we haven’t driven before and will stop in several towns and cities to break up the drive and refresh our bodies and our spirits. Road trip!

      1. Road trip…lucky you!! Love those and being able to stop and see something along the way or taking a road unplanned, finding something fun, is priceless. Enjoy!!

      2. We used to fly to Southern California but we always felt rush in our itineraries in order to get to the airport. By driving, we can do stuff and if we run over, we don’t have to worry about missing our flights, etc.

        Back in October, we drove to Arches National Park and the drive to the park was enjoyable and unless was worth the trip in itself.

    2. I only drive in the states and I rent a car during those times. In reality I don’t enjoy driving, I’d rather someone else do the vehicle operation so that I can read or work on my iDevice.

  22. Ah, this old chestnut again. Customers want cheap fares first and foremost. As I’ve posted before, I use “want” to indicate what they show by their behaviours, not what they say they want. Sure, they’ll whine about being jammed into that notorious Spirit plane that got all its seats rated “poor” by seatguru, but most of them, given the choice, will save that $20.

  23. flights are so terrible i have stopped flying unless i am going to europe or asia for several months……i drive up to 2k miles before i will sit in one of those seats…..has the airlines considered how much money they will loose now that gas prices are dropping?

    1. No because a significant high paying group of consumers called “business passengers” pretty much have to fly. Leisure travelers, and leisure fares the ones that would drive were pretty much priced and sold at cost anyway.

      1. Absolutely

        I’m taking a week vacation around Xmas. I am driving to LA because I can keep my own car and avoid the holiday travel madness.

        But when I have court in SoCal, its not even an issue. I will pay whatever the airline charges. I can’t afford to waste a day driving down and a day driving back when I have other clients and obligations to attend

  24. Having read a number of behavioral economics books recently (e.g. Predictably Irrational, The Undercover Economist, Thinking Fast and Slow), I’ve learned that most of us, certainly myself at least, are not as rational as we think we are, and the airlines are aware of that.

    When the airlines offer rows with larger seats, and then say (as they do with luggage, and some other add ons) “would you pay for your ticket of $X + $Y more for four inches of legroom”, I think most people seem to say no, because they don’t want to pay the additional $Y.

    But if the airline pricing model offered, “would you be interested in a deeply discounted “Special Economy” seat with benefits such as four inches extra legroom for only $Z (which is just $X + $Y), I suspect that more people would purchase that, than pay for an add-on. There are probably other formulations which would work even better.

    Therefore, I suspect that the American Airlines example of offering, and failing to sell, more expensive, but larger seats, while instructive, is based on a particular set of facts which don’t necessarily reflect everyone’s reality.

    Also, if Travelocity, Expedia, etc., showed prices and seat pitch for those prices when purchasing seats, rather than hiding the seat pitch information entirely, I strongly suspect that many people would factor seat pitch into their purchasing decision. The problem is that I have never been told the seat pitch I’m going to get at the time of purchase.

    1. I don’t think so for a couple of reasons.

      1. That’s how several carriers, American, Virgin, and Delta price their tickets. It’s always, to use your terminology, $Z, not $X+Y. The economy+, whatever the designation, seems to sell out last even though it’s way smaller than economy and less pricey than First.

      2. When American offered MRTC, the problem was that coach is a commodity for many people. If the product is undifferentiated, then you pay for the cheapest, period.

    2. People who fly Southwest factor in seat pitch AND 2 free bags 🙂 They are smart flyers.
      Of course the exception is the 737-700.

  25. Part of the problem is the pricing model on economy plus. For example, last year I flew from Guam to Hawaii, Hawaii to Houston, Houston to San Antonio, then after 2 weeks went on from San Antonio to Houston, then on to Norfolk, Virgina. It was a government ticket so it ran around $1750. Now, on an itenerary like that, when do you care most about legroom, the two 8 hour segments across the Pacific or the less than 2 hour hops? Guess what was cheaper, by far? The upgrade to the two Pacific legs ran $180. It would’ve been approximately that to upgrade on each of the other legs. Makes no sense! And the flights weren’t sold out.

    Really, to me the legroom is needed most on intercontinental flights. I do believe there should be a minimum seat size for safety, but you can put up with being crammed for a few hours better than 4 or more, and you’re going to spend accordingly. Interestingly enough, the government flew me back on Delta, and their service through Japan was outstanding. The regular economy seats had decent legroom and reclined by sliding forward. It made a big difference. No need to upgrade there. Guess who I’ll fly if I buy a ticket myself?

    1. Delta Intl Narita eqpt usually has 31-32 in. pitch in coach. One of the worst across the Pacific.
      The smart money is on KE and OZ, imo since they have 34″.
      One more thing, ever seen a DL FA clean the bathrooms? Probably never.
      Try KE and they do it regularly throughout the flight. And that’s in coach.
      I just flew back on KE ICN-JFK A380. Service was the usual – great.

  26. This is one of the most interesting things I’ve read on the current state of economy seats on an airplane: “There’s not enough room (to assume the brace position),” says Hoover, a college lecturer who lives in Amsterdam, who notes she is a “normal-size” person. Like many passengers, she feels the tight quarters in coach class are unsafe and that the government should mandate a minimum amount of space between seats.””
    Why not approach the problem as a safety issue? There must be some retired legal people willing to take this on with the FAA. Surely nothing else is going to stop the torture … or would the airline lobby just beat this idea to death before it got anywhere?

  27. Let me guess where we’re heading with economy class. When, in the early 1950s, I flew in a military transport, Lockheed Super G Constellation from California to Korea,
    troops sat in webbed seats (it was a sling or a hammock) hung from the
    ceiling. They were so close, that the person hanging in front as well as to the side had to move in order to get out of your webbed seat. All the seats faced towards the back of the plane.

    The sling/hammock had two positions, up and back. Orders came over the loudspeaker that, row by row, beginning at the front, we would go to the john; after which it would be
    near impossible to get out except for the most dire need. When it was time to sleep, all seats were moved to a reclining position. The guy in front of me was about 10 inches from me.

    I hope no airline exec is reading this for ideas…. 🙂

  28. Nice idea, however consumers almost always vote with their wallets! The most profitable airline by far is the ULCC Spirit Airlines. JetBlue is feeling the pinch and thus, has to scale back a little. How many new airlines started with all first class seating, and how many are still left?

  29. Recently flew first class. The guy next to me was tall. When the seat in front of him reclined it pushed his legs back and he had to put his laptop away. So to all of you who advocate flying first or premium to get more legroom if it’s “really necessary” – what are tall people supposed to do, pay for two seats and sit sideways? In my opinion the airlines are going to continue to push the envelope on this to make more money and nothing is going to be done. Business travelers by and large don’t have a choice about their travel arrangements and the airlines don’t care about leisure passengers as much (if at all).

  30. Actually, Delta already has this – same seats, but the record is nonchangeable, and does NOT allow for pre-assigned seats – you only get them at the airport, and too bad if you are not flying together! (E fares)

  31. If the US would change its restrictions on foreign airlines we would all get better and less expensive service. One of the major reasons the US airlines can get away with such awful service and grossly unfair policies is because they have a monopoly.

    1. It isn’t going to happen. Just like other countries aren’t going to let US carriers do their domestic routes. I am ok with that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: