Oh, you want a comfortable airline seat? That’ll be extra

Bob Bradenbaugh thought he’d booked an economy class seat when he flew from Miami to Barcelona on American Airlines recently. It turns out he’d only bought half a seat.

“The spacing was so bad I had to remove my book from the seat pocket to keep my knees from hitting it,” says the 6-foot, retired federal law enforcement agent from Plantation, Fla.

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Bradenbaugh is like an increasing number of travelers who assume they’ve paid for a full product, but received only part of one. Whether they’re flying or staying at a hotel, they soon discover the travel industry’s latest, and most audacious, scheme: selling you something you thought you already purchased.

American Airlines is a perfect example. The airline once tried to entice customers by creating a roomier economy class section called “More Room Throughout Coach.” The steerage seats had a humane amount of legroom, roughly the same amount as before airline deregulation. Then it pivoted with the rest of the airline industry a few years ago, pushing the seats as close together as possible and selling the “option” of a roomier coach-class seat, called Main Cabin Extra.

Customers like Bradenbaugh had little choice. After he arrived in Spain, he visited the American Airlines site and reluctantly forked over $260 to “upgrade” two seats to the “Extra” cabin.

But airlines are by no means alone. Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission fined Marriott $600,000 for blocking personal wireless hot spots at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. The property reportedly used a company called Allot NetEnforcer, which promises to increase revenue with “tiered Wi-Fi package upselling.” Among its claims: It helped the Gaylord create service plans running as slow as 256 kbps. Marriott denies any wrongdoing and says it was just clamping down on “rogue” hot spots.

But who hasn’t checked into a hotel recently, logged on to the “free” Wi-Fi and found they didn’t make much of a connection? No worries, you can always “upgrade” to a faster option — for a small fee. Isn’t that the same thing as selling you half an airline seat?

Likewise, isn’t it half a hotel experience when you have to pay a mandatory “resort fee” to cover the costs of the fitness center, pool, and “free” Wi-Fi? Yet these fees continue to be routinely, and legally, added to hotel bills.

What’s behind this? The conventional wisdom says removing amenities and then selling them back at a premium is just good business. “Airlines are bringing in billions every year in additional fees, but they really need these fees to stay profitable,” says Jay Malik, a financial adviser and frequent traveler. As a benefit, prices are lower and customers can choose to buy only what they want to use, such as a larger seat or a checked bag.

But the conventional wisdom overlooks a few important facts. Many travelers are given the impression that they’ll receive a complete product, initially. They only discover on the day of check-in that they’re going to have to fork over their credit card again to reserve a seat or print a boarding pass. Also, claims that these half-products are keeping travel affordable are difficult to substantiate. When many of these so-called “a la carte” fees debuted, companies didn’t unbundle their prices by lowering their fares immediately. They just added the fee.

As for the lowered costs, that isn’t always true, say some travelers. Peggy Barrett lives in Cincinnati and often flies to Tampa. Even in economy class, she says the flights are expensive because Delta Air Lines has a near-monopoly at her home airport. The last time she flew to Florida, round-trip flights cost about $675, forcing many of her Cincinnati friends to consider flying out of Dayton, Columbus or Indianapolis to get a competitive price.

The two-hour flight itself was torture.

“The man sitting next to me in the middle seat had nowhere to put his legs,” says Barrett, a retired accountant. As a result, he sprawled into her personal space.

“It’s too bad the airline executives don’t have to go through what we lowly passengers do,” she adds.

Should travel companies be allowed to sell us half a product?

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How to avoid the extras

Fly or stay with a company that offers a more inclusive product. Many hotels include a fast and reliable wireless connection, and don’t charge resort fees. For example, Marriott’s Courtyard and Fairfield Inn & Suites include a high-speed wireless connection as part of your stay. JetBlue Airways and Alaska Airlines also offer a relatively fee-free flying experience.

Fight the fees. You can challenge some fees on a case-by-case basis. I’ve seen people with mobility issues convince an airline to provide them with a roomier seat. And I’ve talked my way out of pricey wireless fees. A polite visit to the front desk or check-in counter is often all that it takes.

Complain to the right people. Your elected representative needs to hear from you. They have the power to rein in travel companies when they misrepresent their products and force you to pay extra for something that should have been included.

171 thoughts on “Oh, you want a comfortable airline seat? That’ll be extra

  1. I would agree with the article to the extent that travelers are uninformed or otherwise deceived as to what they are purchasing. Full and adequate disclosure is always appropriate and should even be mandated by law. Beyond that, I don’t possess the wisdom to tell someone else that they’re not allowed to buy a crappy product to save money.

    1. Well, we do have the common sense to know that a car without seats or a windshield, while technically road-worthy, should not be legal. Why not for airline seats, too? And yes, the government should step in and do something about this.

      1. All it takes is a few travellers, stuffed in to tortuously teensy seating, to die of a blood clot, before airlines are taken to task.

        1. Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that DVT can be attributed to a cramped seat. It takes time for the clots to form and the victim is well away from the airport by the time thrombosis occurs.

          1. I suffered from a DVT a few years ago that made itself known about 2 days after I got off of a non stop plane flight from Frankfurt to Denver.

            So it must have been the plane flight that caused it, right? No.

            I was in a lay-flat bed on the flight in the 1st class cabin. I was not crowded in any way and was able to get up and walk through the cabin whenever I wanted. But since I was on a plane and got the DVT, that had to be what caused it! At least that is what the first doctor I saw about it claimed.

            The actual cause was most likely from other medical issues I had at the time, medicines I was taking for those conditions at the time, and my overall sedentary lifestyle. Spending two weeks on a tour bus seeing the sights before the flight probably didn’t help either.

            So yes, proving a DVT is the result solely from sitting in a cramped plane seat is impossible.

      2. So let’s put this logic to test. There are small cars out there that are street legal (and perform well in government and insurance crash tests) but the drivers seat/area is small. A person over 5’10” would be cramped and uncomfortable on a long drive. Same idea but different industry.

        Carver is right, if it’s disclosed then it’s the passengers problem for not researching. It’s the disclosure of what you are purchasing that is the issue.

        1. I do limit free choices when it comes to safety because the average consumer cannot make an informed decision regarding most commercial safety matters.

          1. How do you free-marketers feel about this? 300 British deep vein thrombosis victims and their families are seeking compensation in a group action against 30 airlines. Damages could be as high as £500,000 for survivors and £100,000 for bereaved families.
            That’s 300 people in the UK alone. I wonder whether the thrombosis rate was as high before they shrank the size of the seats?

        2. Let me see if I can summarize the argument you and @carverclarkfarrow:disqus are making. You’re saying that the free market should determine what should — and shouldn’t — be allowed. As long as an airline seat is safe, it should be legal.

          That’s wrong. I think decency, civility and respect are important, particularly when you’re in a pressurized aluminum tube for an extended period of time.

          We’ve had this discussion countless times. These arguments have failed to persuade me, and they fail to persuade most consumers who read this site. We don’t have any meaningful choices when it comes to air travel. I don’t need to explain the evils of of an airlines seat with 28 inches of seat pitch to anyone. It’s obvious.

          The free-marketers who find their way over here from the other BoardingArea sites seem to fail to understand that my job — and indeed, this site’s mission — is to advocate for the least of the consumers, the ones who could only afford the smallest seats. I’m sorry, but not going to stray from that mission.

          1. And this is the point where I start to agree with you. There is a very large gray area where there are people who will take the ridiculously small and uncomfortable seats so that they can save $10 on the flight. And until those people stop trying to save every dollar they can, the airlines will try and squeeze every dollar they can.

            It’s a fine line and this gray area allows arguments from you and carver to be valid at the same time.

            I wouldn’t waste my time reading and responding if I didn’t think your mission was worth my effort (I don’t live in my moms basement and enjoy being a troll), but I think that in order to get to your goal you need to have a finite idea of what your trying to have happen.

            If your looking to have at least 33″ of seat pitch and one bag included with the price of a ticket as a minimum standard, say that! If you think that all damage to a rental car smaller than a half dollar is on the rental company, say that!

            You make excellent points that the status quo sucks and not many people like they way things are. But if your going to get thigs changed, you need to argue a for what should be the standard. Telling everyone how bad it is is good, but change won’t come until everyone agrees on what it should be.

          2. Or, as Chris says when advising on how to complain, always say exactly what you want to receive to fix the situation.

          3. But that’s the point… people will continue to take the cheap seats to pay less. Are you suggesting everyone be forced to pay (I’m picking this number of the air just for example’s sake) $50 more so everyone can have more leg room? Why shouldn’t people be allowed to pay $50 less if they don’t need or want that leg room? Free market is what it is. If you want the roomier seats, pay the money. If the masses really wanted roomier seats, it would demand them.

          4. When we start FORCING people to get on a plane, I’ll agree. There are plenty of people that exist in today’s world that never have and never will get on a plane.

            +1 for Carver

          5. Some people have no choice but to fly, I.e., my husband flies for his job at least 16 flights a month.

          6. Technically, he does. Nobody is forcing him to get on the plane, he has chosen a career that requires it. Regardless, that’s not my point really.

            My point is Chris thinks it should be illegal to sell small seats, even if they are perfectly safe. Thats ridiculous. Sure, it’d be great if companies had some compassion and made all seats comfortable and equal, but if airlines chose to make smaller seats and sell them at a cheaper price, thats my choice as a consumer to decide if I want to buy it. Maybe I’m on a tight budget or maybe I couldn’t care less what the seat is like and just want to fly somewhere. Either way, let me decide.

            Again, I’m not arguing what would be nice to have, I’m just saying there should be options and if I, the consumer, am willing to settle for something to save money, that’s my business.

          7. Fortunately, we can summarily dispense with much of the argument.

            1. Evils of 28″ seat pitch.

            The evils of a 28 inch seat pitch may be obvious to you but certainly not to repeat Spirit passengers. How do you explain someone flying Spirit a second time. They are fully aware of how cramped they are, yet they made the choice to fly Spirit again. You certainly aren’t advocating for them.

            2. Meaning choice

            We can also easily disprove the meaningful choice argument. The only airline with 28″ seat pitch is Spirit airlines. No passenger is ever is a situation where they must fly Spirit. Spirit is never the only airline that flies from Point A to Point B. For every route in America that Spirit flies, there is at least one other airline that flies the same route. With its 65 planes, no one is forced to fly Spirit airlines. There is always a reasonable airline alternative. Picking Spirit is always a choice, albeit perhaps not a wise one.

          8. That response contained no information and was akin to the playground’s I’m right, you’re wrong. When one fails to address the points, it leads to the inescapable conclusion that one cannot.

          9. But he owns the website so he can decide he’s right when he wants to, which is always (that he wants to). Just as I still have the right to choice with respect to what kind of airline seat I want, despite his ceaseless appeals for it to be dictated to me by the government, you and I have the right to choose to visit or not visit this website.

          10. BobChi and Carver Clark Farrow thank you for taking the time to comment on my site. We may strongly disagree on this issue, but are there issues I think we can agree on. We share a desire to make the world a better place and we love solving problems, like most of the readers of this site.

            You’ve commented here for years, so even though you might not want to admit it, I think you like it here. And I like having you here.

            The problem I’m having isn’t with your opinion, it’s the way you’re presenting your opinion. For a long time, we’ve had a simple rule here: be nice. When you say something like @BobChi:disqus just did, that I can decide I’m right when I want to, which “is always” or that we can feel free to “dispense” with my argument — well, you’re not being nice. And I think you know it.

            Your comments have provoked me to answer in kind, which was wrong of me. I’m sorry for that. I’m only human, and like you, I’m very passionate — in my case, I’m interested in furthering my own progressive, pro-consumer agenda and exposing customer-hostile attitudes among American businesses. There, I said it.

            I’m asking you politely to be nice. We can disagree without being disagreeable.

          11. I agree with BobChi that it’s your website, your rules.

            I find a commenter being labeled a “free marketer” or a “republican”, in opposition to a point-of-view, to be disagreeable. I don’t feel that such labels follow the “be nice” rule.

            I did think the second half of Bob’s comment to be tactless, in light of recent rule enforcement. Perhaps he thought in light of labels being applied and tacitly encouraged, that tactfulness could be suspended?

          12. Maybe we’re reading different websites.

            If I called you a “free marketer” because you support a a market without any government controls or regulation, and because that’s what you are, then that’s not an epithet. It’s the truth.

            If I call myself progressive or a Democrat or a socialist because I believe a regulated market is essential the the safety and welfare of consumers, then that’s the label I choose for myself. How can that be offensive?

            If you are no long allowed to summarize someone’s views with a label everyone understands — if, for example, you continuously support an airline’s right to do whatever it wants with a passenger, and as a result, I call you an airline “apologist” — then we’ve let political correctness water down the discussion to the point where it becomes meaningless.

          13. I personally am not offended by being called a “free marketer”, which is a neutral term, since I think that many of the issues which Chris wants to regulate – and he has every right to advance his arguments – should be dictated by the market. That’s a disagreement, not name calling. Chris says I’m not nice because I think he always decides he’s right. Perhaps I’ve overlooked situations in which he’s admitted he’s wrong, as I concede I don’t read everything here.

          14. I appreciate Chris’ view, but want to clear up any misconception that implies that “deregulation” freed up airlines to make airplane seats smaller while seat pitch was protected before. The bigger seats and better service were largely a side effect of more expensive tickets, an era of better customer and passenger etiquette in general (people dressed up to fly, jobs were more secure, wages were rising and not falling with inflation, etc.), and other options in travel as others have pointed out (there was more train and bus travel available to consumers.)

            I AGREE with Chris that seat pitch should be regulated if only because of the higher security restrictions of air travel so adding additional regulation for comfort makes sense. Having flights diverted because people occasionally “lose it” in the air over fights because someone reclined their seat into a tall person’s lap is counter productive. But let’s make these PROPOSED regulations a bi-partisan issue.

          15. This is meant in the nicest way possible, Chris, truly. I think you are being a bit sensitive to Carver’s comments. I’m not even sure BobChi’s comments were “mean”, but I didn’t take Carver’s that way at all. That may be because I’m reading with the eye of an attorney to another attorney’s writing. He was honestly just being “attorney-like”. That’s kind of just how we are. I don’t think his last comment about “I’m right, you’re wrong” was meant to be hurtful. That is seriously something we (attorneys) would write in a reply brief to the court.

          16. I agree with you, Carver. Chris’ argument is the argument of someone who really cares about consumers, but I don’t think simply asking airlines to increase seat pitch without raising everyone’s ticket price is ever going to happen. In that way, I don’t think forced increased seat pitch will benefit the group he wants to help (those who can’t afford to pay more).

          17. I think your point no. 2 is important, but oftentimes overlooked. While it may be true that there are no markets in which Spirit operates that there is no competition. But certainly there are other carriers for which that carrier is the only choice in certain markets . . . especially in the case of small airports, with some routes receiving essential air service subsidies. Is there a place for “comfort regulation” where there is no effective competition or “meaningful choice” as to carrier? (A variant of this exists with aviation security. Early on, aviation security was a “choice” since passengers could travel by non-air modes, such as bus or rail. See United States v. Davis, 482 F.2d 893, 913 n.59 (9th Cir. 1973). Yet today, so many bus and rail routes have been discontinued that there is no meaningful choice, other than by air, in traveling to particular places.)

          18. I don’t disagree. I was focusing,perhaps too narrowly, specifically on the 28″ pitch issue.

          19. The free-marketers who find their way over here from the other BoardingArea sites…

            In your “Good guys won” article a few days ago, you
            rightfully took umbrage with certain terms levied against you, including “socialist”.

            I thought the new, kinder, gentler site and attendant rules was to avoid such ad hominems to eliminate counterproductive flame wares.

          20. I never, ever twist one’s words, intentionally or otherwise. You cannot in good conscience object to being called a socialist when you then use free marketers in the same manner. Neither use (except as self-description) furthers the conversations and only serves to denigrate those with whom you disagree.

            I invite you to lead by example.

          21. I have nothing against being called a free marketer. I guess his usage does imply, though, that people who believe in the marketplace are strange here and must have migrated in confusion from somewhere else.

          22. Agreed. It is fairly easy to insult someone by using facially neutral language, a flaw I must admit that I am prone to doing, and try to avoid such.

          23. I just defended you to Chris, lol!! To be fair, I don’t think you do it on purpose… at least not to actually hurt people. I think you act like an attorney and you respond like an attorney. And, it’s true, sometimes (okay, a lot) we take underhanded digs at people while writing things that sound neutral. I try to keep that kind of stuff to a minimum, but I know I’ve done it. We all have. Still, I think your comments sounded a lot like something you’d put in a reply brief.

          24. Good for you Chris. Don’t let these probably ‘republicans’ intimidate you. Their argument is ridiculous!

          25. “Republicans”? Oh, now you’ve gone TOO far. As Marie Barone once said, “I take umbrage. I take severe umbrage.” 🙂

          26. I hear you. By way of disclosure, I’ve been known to vote for Republicans from time to time (though none recently).

            I don’t see this as a political issue. It’s a problem of ignorance and insensitivity to those who are less fortunate.

            Call that a progressive or socialist agenda if you must. I’m not backing down from it. I’m proud to be on the side of the non-elites who fill the backs of the planes. I am their advocate.

          27. I wouldn’t presume to label it anything. Labeling something like this only serves to rally the troops and denigrate the opposition stifling what could be a useful discussion.

            Here’s my question. 42% of fliers say they would fly in Economy Minus to save money. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you would prohibit economy minus. How exactly are you advocating for the 42% of folks who expressed a desire contrary to what you are advocating?

          28. And that is where Chris isn’t recognizing that the people clearly want the cheapest seats – but then feel entitled to the most comfortable ones for free – does not and cannot work that way.

          29. Yes, I agree it is about those issues as well. But…it’s hard to take politics out of our society today. This is a policy issue that effects us all.. So yes, it is political! This free market discussion sounds like a debate in a ‘poly sci’ class from decades ago! Today, it rarely works in such ways, which benefits most of the ‘market’, it services! It benefits the corporations. Anyione that doesn’t see this is disingenuous.. The argument on this thread mainly between 2 commenters, sounds like college debates… All theory and very little practicality….in this day and age!!

          30. Patricia, I think you’re right about this being like a college debate. And the debate has run its course. (In fact, we had to briefly switch back to “moderated” comments because things were a little out of control late yesterday. We don’t want to have to do that again.)

            The readers have voted and public opinion is overwhelmingly on the side of sensible government regulation. We welcome those who disagree to participate in the next discussion.

          31. Absolutely, there’s a need for government regulations! Happy so many people still have some moduem of common sense! …;)!!..alias…’orsay’!

          32. Is it, though? What about Carver’s question about the 42% of people who would buy economy minus? That hardly leaves an overwhelming majority of people who want regulation. If you’re including some of those 42% in people who support regulation and then would ALSO buy economy minus seats… does that really advance your argument? Because by that token, all we’d end up with is regulated seat pitch in different sections. That’s not an improvement over the current situation. It’s just regulation OF the current situation. And I don’t see this as being about politics. I’m more or less a bleeding heart liberal and even I don’t see how regulation is helpful in this situation.

          33. Especially at a time when the “average” person is bigger in both girth and stature than they were when airline seats had larger pitch than they do now.

          34. The roll of the government should be to do for people what
            they cannot do for themselves, i.e. the assessment of safety and insure that advertising is truthful. Beyond that,
            there is a legitimate market for cheap, shoddy goods which should not be prohibited. There are two problems:

            1. If a monopoly develops and the product is
            essential, then some government regulation is in order, i.e. utilities, automobiles.

            2. The courts should be involved because industrial groups have, via campaign financing, bought Congressional protection, i.e. the pharmaceutical industry.

          35. Roll:

            verb (used without object)


            to move along a surface by revolving or turning over and over, as a ball or a wheel.

            (and so on)

            Perhaps you meant “role”?

          36. I can hear Miss Ekegrin, in her role as my 6th grade English teacher, roll in her grave at my error. Thank you for the correction and stimulating my memory of that wonderful teacher.

          37. Which was the reason to de-regulate in the first place. If we go back to the so-called “good old days” most people would not be able to afford to fly, as the costs would be significantly higher. MOST would have a problem with that.

          38. I think decency, civility and respect are important, particularly when you’re in a pressurized aluminum tube for an extended period of time.

            No argument there. I believe one should always behave civilly. But at the same time, we should respect people. What that argument boils down to is that if we let you buy a small seat you will act badly so we won’t. I respect people more than that.

          39. “I think decency, civility and respect are important, particularly when you’re in a pressurized aluminum tube for an extended period of time.”

            I agree with that statement completely and do my best to be respectful, civil, and decent to everyone I interact with during travel as well as other times.

            But how is forcing an airline through legislation to provide more leg room, include checked bags and the other things you push for as part of the price you pay for a plane ticket going to promote any of that?

          40. my airline had provided for all that and i was yelled at and/or called a “stupid b–ch” nearly every day by rude passengers.
            so, no Chris. those things do not lead to civility and decency, nor respectable behavior.

          41. Perhaps at least as much attention should be directed to choice as to regulation. Were there truly a greater number of choices, allowing for many different size seats and many different prices, n many airlines, there might be a little less justification for concern over seat pitch, for example.

            However, in the case of the airlines, most airports are only served by a few carriers, and there is little choice – take a small seat or pay considerably more for a larger seat or for first class (if that’s even available). Under those circumstances, there’s a little greater justification for regulation, so as to establish minimum standards of comfort. Yes, it would be difficult to determine what constitutes”comfort”, but in the words of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart (when discussing pornography): “I know it when I see it”.

          42. Perhaps. Something to think about. I’m a big guy and fortunate enough to fly first because coach would be truly miserable for me and the adjacent seat mates. The issue I have is that passengers seem to prefer cheaper small seats than larger, but more expensive seats. I’m not sure why I should play Big Brother and superimpose my thoughts on others.

          43. And I certainly think that in a perfect world there should be more, rather than fewer, choices. Hey, I’d even allow for standing room (if it were safe). My problem is that the airlines have very been very successful in limiting our choices, and can therefore impose standards over which we passengers have little control.

          44. My instinct is that we do. We certainly have fewer airline choices, routes and flight times that we did. And the greater number of airlines/routes/times would have been likely – I’d think – to offer a greater total range of seating. However, I have no empirical evidence to back up my gut.

          45. But another problem is like the woman above who was probably fine in the seat she paid for, small or not, but the man next to her was too big for his seat and overly encroached on her seat/leg area. That’s not fair. That’s the problem airlines have caused with their small seat/cheap flight wars. Some people will pay as little as possible and squeeze themselves into a small seat, but end up spilling over onto others, who don’t have any recourse.

          46. But not while inconveniencing people in the meantime. So someone squeezes into a seat that he or she doesn’t fit and spills into another. What are they supposed to do about it when it happens, especially when planes are so full there’s no room elsewhere? Do you kick the ‘too big’ person off the plane, delaying both the current flight and the person who may now have to wait for a different flight?

            I know some airlines require overweight people to buy two seats, but they don’t always see its necessary until they are at the gate. And I’ve never heard of an airline requiring a “too tall” person to buy another seat (i.e. one whose legs/knees won’t fit). And it can not always apply, if say the “too big” person is traveling with a child and spouse who perhaps doesn’t mind sharing the space. Will the “too big” person still be required to buy another seat? Will the whole family now have to wait for another flight (which could be the next day even) because there’s no room on the airline to buy that “extra seat”? Its hard to make rules.

          47. But just because they can only afford the least expensive, does not mean they should feel entitled to more, either. If you want more room, prices go up to match fewer seats. People PROVED they would not pay this when American tried before, as they ONLY buy by price-point. You can’t really have it both ways – pay $1.99 and get the filet mignon? Not gonna happen.

          48. Okay… in a way I can see your argument. You’re advocating for those who buy the cheapest seats because they have to. But let’s take, say, 3 rows out. I’m not sure that would be enough, but let’s just go with 3 rows… say 12 seats total. If those seats are $300 each, that’s $3600 the airline doesn’t get. Let’s say there are 100 seats left in that economy section. That means every person now has to pay $36 more for their seat to make the airline the same amount of money. How is that helping our family who can’t afford to buy the better seats now? It’s not. That $120-$150 extra might be the make or break point for them. Are you suggesting the airlines let the revenue from the lost seats go? Because I could get on board with that, of course. I’m just saying that I’m not sure that simply removing seats to add leg room is going to solve the problem.

        3. Are there only 4 cars on the market? Smart half car, Honda Fit, Buick full size, or Mercedes 7 class? No other choices? Sorry, pay a lot or pay a little, no other choices. False analogy.

        4. The difference is that you get to see and test drive a car before purchasing it. You can’t do the same with an airline seat or a Wi-Fi connection.

        5. The difference Jim is that you are allowed to sit in the car and see if you fit. You can make an informed decision as to the suitability of the car you are buying. The airline however does not tell you the size of the seat when you are purchasing your ticket. You must go through their website and search for any information as far as size, then guess if that is what you need or what you used to get.

          If the airline was to tell you straight up in the booking process that here is the seat size, without you having to do a pile of research to find that out, then I would agree that the consumer can make the choice.

          I rented a small SUV a couple months back because the car they had available in the class I wanted was smaller than the one I was really looking for. (different car in the same class had more driver room) I was allowed to look at the size of the car and then make my choice to upgrade to something a little larger.

          1. And you have a huge number of choices among models, manufacturers, and prices in order to be able to make a true comparison before you choose.

          2. But you still have the choice to take a small model. Chris is advocating reducing the options by removing the car that he thinks it too small. That’s where I have an issue. Big Brother knows best. I strongly object to Big Brother legislation outside of safety.

          3. If we haven’t reached the point where government involvement is necessary, we are very close. The housing analogy is not entirely wrong. Lawmakers passed the New York State Tenement House Act of 1901 that required proper ventilation and outward facing windows in apartments. Many landlords argued, as you do now, that the highly profitable apartments of the 19th century were perfectly safe for residents. But they were not humane, and even though there was a “market” for them, the government had a compelling reason to ban them.

            The question is, where do we stop? Look! This one goes to 27 inches. Is that enough of a squeeze for you?

            If there’s a market for that one, do we allow it? You may say “yes” but I say it’s time to draw a line.

            Is that “ridiculous” as one of the commenters suggests? No. It’s reasonable.

          4. As I’ve stated before, I’m not into Big Brotherlegislating comfort. That’s the beginning, end, and middle. I’m still waiting for a justification for that paradigm.

            The NY Law relates to tenements. Who lives in tenements? People without choices, people who are in a desperate situation. By contrast, coach is flown by all socio-economic classes of people so the comparison, while attention grabbing, is hardly analogous.

            Moreover, in general comparisons with the 19th century are generally disingenuous as the 19th century occurred prior to modern consumer protection laws. It was a completely different legal, social, economic and moral framework. Remember, we still had slavery in 19th century America.

            It’s the same reason why we don’t allow usurious interest in consumer transactions and why payday loans are being regulated. The person who would get bitten would be the least fortunate among us.

          5. As I said, those arguing against the tenement laws in the 19th century used the very same reasons you are today to justify the actions of the airline industry. They didn’t want the heavy hand of government — or “Big Brother” as you put it — interfering with a free market.

            I wasn’t the one who brought up the small apartments in this discussion, by the way.

            We are offended when someone invokes a 19th century example because to our 21st century eyes, the practices look barbaric. You call it disingenuous. But what will future generations say when they see our arguments?

            It’s really easy. The airline industry is on the wrong side of history. Case closed.

          6. Are you seriously comparing coach travel with living in a tenement? I can’t believe my eyes.

            A tenement is, in most English-speaking areas, a substandard multi-family dwelling in the urban core, usually old and occupied by the poor

            The issue is whether or not people are making a choice

            In 19th century US, people did not. The three basic necessities of life are food, clothing and shelter. This is basic 3rd grade social studies. People in tenements required shelter and this was the only option presented by society. The poor and elderly were unable to exercise any choice.

            By contrast, all economic classes of people travel in coach, including rich ones. And similarly, it’s usually young professionals who live in podments or micro-apartments, exercising their choice to live in expensive SF though many other places are available at cheaper prices and more space.

            Thus any comparison between tenements and coach travel fails instantly. Simply put, if rich people are willing to use the goods and services, it is hard to claim a lack of meaningful choice.

          7. Again, I didn’t bring up the apartments. But as I noted, I see many parallels.

            It’s a shame you’ve decided to distort my words yet again. I’m also sorry that you are so blinded by you own free-market ideology that you can’t see the wrongness of what is happening.

            I think I’ve been more than patient in trying to explain this, so I’m afraid I’m going to have to let you continue believing what you want. You are entitled to your opinion, even if it is incorrect.

          8. Chris,

            You know better than to argue with a recreational arguer. It’s like trying to teach a pig to dance… accomplishes nothing and annoys the pig.

          9. But we are not the tenement owners or landlords, we are the tenement residents to continue to analogy. The airlines are the tenement owners and would be perfectly happy to squeeze more of us into even tighter seating and reduce the number of FAs as well while claiming there would be no reduction in safety, as the Tenement Owners similar did when they had no windows or ventilation of their buildings. In both situations, the government has enacted rules governing the safety of the residents / passengers (proper ventilation and windows / maximum number of passengers on a specific model of plane and minimum number of FAs) while leaving the actual comfort level to be judged by the free market.

          10. And if that is truly Chris’ position, I would disagree. We drive past a Smart car dealership (owned by the Mercedes dealer right next door), and we often comment on the two. (We’re still waiting to see a used Mercedes in the Smart car trade-in lot). I have no problem with extremes, so long as there is adequate choice, that’s what I think we are seeing disappear with the airline industry, and that’s where the friction shows up.

          11. And I would add that no matter how much research you do, because of the airlines’ adhesion contracts, they can change your seat for any number of reasons without your consent or prior notice. I can shop carefully, reserve a “better” seat based on “choice”, and still not get what I thought I was paying for.

      3. Let’s deconstruct that position. Assuming full and adequate disclosure and no safety issues (two positions I have consistently taken): a person knows that he or she will be cramped by flying Spirit with its 28″ leg room and nickel and dime ways. But the person decides that he would rather save money and be cramped, print a boarding pass at home, doesn’t care about seat assignments, etc. Do we respect that person enough to make his own decisions without interference? That’s what this ultimately comes down to. Respect for the consumers.

        We have the same thing here in the SF Bay area with micro-apartments. 250 square foot apartments are being rented in San Francisco for around $1,650/month. That 250sf includes kitchen and bathroom. I certainly would never deal with them. I think they’re crazy. I wouldn’t even stay in a hotel room that small.

        But for young people in the Bay area, many of whom would rather live in a tiny, matchbox apartment in San Francisco proper, instead of getting a decent sized apartment elsewhere this is ideal. By the position presented, we should outlaw those apartments because they are too tiny and cramped.

        It’s a choice that you probably wouldn’t make, but why deny other’s the same rights as the rest of us to make their own decisions? Let’s have enough respect for the consumer that given the necessary information, they can make their own choices.

        1. Argument by analogy is a slippery trap. Being cramped for a few hours on a plane is not equivalent to living every day in a cramped apartment. On the other hand, it is an example of how to save money at the expense of comfort.
          The analogy fails in that in order to fly one has very few options: Cramped economy, more expensive less cramped premium economy, much more expensive business, and ridiculously expensive first class are all that is available, plus there are very few sources of airline travel for any particular trip.
          Living space has many sources at many different prices, ranging from room mates sharing to owning a mansion. So that is to my thinking a false analogy. Cars, too, have many sources at many price points, from jalopy to superluxury, and also is a false analogy.
          In effect, price/space is a non-continuous variable in travel but is much closer to a continuos variable in other spheres.

          1. I concur that there are many options for housing as you correctly state, yet people still take the crappy 225-250sf option. That suggests that even when presented with a plethora of options (roommates, live elsewhere, etc.) the small cramped option is a viable one for many people.

        2. a person knows that he or she will be cramped by flying Spirit with its 28″ leg room and nickel and dime ways

          I disagree. Seat pitch isn’t even part of the ticket contract, and generally isn’t disclosed at all when you buy a ticket on Spirit or any other airline.

          Experienced travelers know where to find the information (e.g. third-party sites like SeatGuru), but even then there is absolutely no guarantee you will fly on an aircraft with the seating configuration you anticipated at the time you booked.

          Even if it were disclosed, inexperienced travelers don’t have much context to assess what 28″ (or 30″ or whatever) means in terms of comfort.

          When it comes to “nickel and dime ways”, the monopoly distribution system that underpins flight search engines shows only base fares and doesn’t know about ancillary/un-bundled fees. So Spirit’s flights will often appear first and cheapest, even when they aren’t. The ancillary fees are normally not disclosed on search engine websites. Those sites are presently required only to provide a separate link to the carrier’s baggage fees (only).

          By the way, the airline industry has previously shown (in litigation against Sabre) that even travel agents are unduly influenced by order in which flight options appear in the search results.

          1. Even if you don’t know 28″ from 34″ seat pitch, the second time you fly Spirit you were fully aware that you will be cramped. I believe all of Spirit airlines are 28″ seat pitch.

          2. I’d love to see hard data comparing Spirit’s repeat customer data with other carriers.

            Here is what Aviation consultant Robert Mann had to say:

            “if your business is not built on frequent repeat customers, you don’t have the same impediments as network carriers who spend a lot of time cultivating repeat passengers… Spirit’s customers are seeking low prices. They don’t have the same degree of repeat frequency…”


          3. Oh, I absolutely believe that. I would say Spirit customers are like Priceline. They go wherever the cheapest price can be found. If it’s Spirit then so be it. So unlike AA or Delta which caters, though the loyalty program, to gain repeat fliers, Spirit appears to get customers whenever its the lowest cost. That doesn’t mean people never repeat, it’s just not a goal.

          4. Spirit appears to get customers whenever its the lowest cost.

            Spirit gets customers when their taxable base fare happens to be the lowest, which results in their flight appearing at the top of the search results.

            That often happens even if they are not really the lowest cost.
            They know many customers will fail to catch that (and also fail to catch other tradeoffs).

            And to make matters worse, the government subsidizes their cynical fees by exempting those from the 7.5% ticket tax.

          5. I assume you mean because of the ancillary fees. The few people that I’ve know who flew Spirit were aware of these ancillary fees and avoided them because

            1. Didn’t care about seat assignments
            2. Traveled light
            3. Printed out boarding pass

            They were satisfied with their experience on Spirit.

            I don’t know anything about the 7.5% ticket tax or its exemption

          6. As of 2013, 38.4% of Spirit’s revenues were from ancillary fees. The figure is likely over 40% by now. I doubt their average customer is correctly marking up the base fare by 40% when they make their purchase.

            Base fares are taxed at 7.5% (U.S. Excise Tax; aka U.S. Domestic Transportation Tax; aka U.S. Ticket Tax)

            Ancillary fees are not taxed, which is part of the carriers’ motivation for unbundling.

          7. So, I think it would be wise to distinguish first time Spirit customers from repeat. I can see how you might get taken by the fees, although you really should read. But the second time, you are most likely aware of the pricing structure and calculate accordingly.

            Otherwise that old adage, first time shame on you, second time shame on me seems to be appropriate.

          8. Wish brings us back to the question I asked before about repeat business. I suspect Spirit has far more infrequent and first time passengers than other carriers.

            Also, even repeat customers can get caught by fees that didn’t come up or didn’t exist on prior trips.

          9. Very interesting! So what happens when the gov’t decides to tax those ancillary fees? Will carriers throw in the towel and go back to a one-price structure?

          10. i’ve often related this conversation i overheard at a Spirit gate:

            Man #1: I hate Spirit! I’m never flying them again!
            Man #2: I say that every time. Then I check prices.

        3. Would your position change if there were few if any choices – say only one or two housing manufacturers controlling the entire market in San Francisco? And they only sold micro units because “most people are cheap….?”

          1. That’s a great question. Honestly, I’d have to think about it. Housing is a necessity and I’m wary of monopolistic behavior. But are we talking about banning micro-apartments or requiring that some bigger ones be built?

          2. No, no, no. Not banning. I was positing a situation similar to the airline industry where there’s little real choice, and the market was controlled by just a few.

          3. But I think we have to remember. Housing is a necessity and as such the government has a greater obligation to ensure the general welfare. Flying is not.

      4. This is a micro-apartment 225-250sf. Ridiculous, but they are going like hotcakes. Hopefully the image shows up.

        1. In Seattle, they’re called “podments”. They are TINY!! My son looked into living in one of them after he graduated from college, but decided to rent a normal size apt and have a roommate instead.

      5. The government has to do something for your comfort? Europe has carriers with worse seating. I would guess Asia does, too. I am with Carver here. My son rents a tiny room in Williamsburg for about 1500 a month (with some utilities divided between roomies). Why should the government deal with airline seats and not housing?

        1. Just like purchasing a car (as I stated above), the difference between renting a car and flying on an airplane is that you get to see an apartment before you sign a lease. On a plane, you don’t know what you’re getting until you board the aircraft.

          Some of you may be thinking that you can choose your seat in advance on most airlines and pick one in which you will be comfortable. I have done that and then, a couple of weeks before the departure date, the airline notified me that it has switched aircraft types from a 757-200 to an Airbus A320. Because because of lower seating capacity of the substitute aircraft, the aisle seat that I had “reserved” has became a middle seat. The traveler has no recourse when this happens.

          1. If you fly Spirit you are going to be uncomfortable. They choice isn’t which seat to fly on Spirit but to pay more and fly a better airline.

        2. The government does deal with housing. If the city decides that their residents aren’t being served with such small apartments, then they could pass a local ordinance that any new or remodeled apartments or units be of a certain size. Cities do this all the time with regards to new construction. They regulate that a new house must be on at least a certain amount of land or that you can only have so many units per acre. Or how high the building can be.

        3. Worse seating than what? Even Ryanair and EasyJet have more seat pitch than Spirit. I believe that’s because they have to comply with (tougher) UK regulations.

          If it was purely about comfort I would agree with you. But there isn’t a clear dividing line between the comfort issue and the public safety/health issue. These are common carriers, and if a substantial segment of the population is too tall to safely fit in the seats, then that presents an access issue and a health/safety issue.

          1. If it was purely about comfort I would agree with you

            That’s all I’m saying. To the extent no safety issue is presents, we should not be legislating comfort

      6. the government mandates are exactly the same for airlines and car rental agencies. Both meet the standards set by the government. Your position does not make sense.

  2. “But who hasn’t checked into a hotel recently, logged on to the “free”
    Wi-Fi and found they didn’t make much of a connection? No worries, you
    can always “upgrade” to a faster option — for a small fee. Isn’t that
    the same thing as selling you half an airline seat?”

    No, it’s not the same thing. If they give you 5kbps for free…it’s still free. If you don’t like the free option and want to pay for it, nobody is forcing you to do so.

    1. That’s true enough, but what is wrong is for the same hotel (Opryland) to interfere with my ‘free market’ cell service that allows me to create my own hotspot for my own use within their hotel. (Opryland) Hence the need for the FCC to step in to correct the abuse.

    2. To me a 5kpbs service would not count as WiFi since you could not load most any page without your browser timing out. Technically the WiFi would be there, but if it is unusable by everyone then it really isn’t there. In fact I am heading to Vegas and have to pay a daily resort fee, which includes extra things like the pool. However, the pool isn’t open, so shouldn’t they be reducing the price of the fee or room to compensate?

      1. I would want a reduction in the resort fee if all amenities were not available or provided, since I am a rather frugal person by nature. I have never been to Vegas and am absolutely unfamiliar with how things are done, but I have mentioned things of that nature on trips to other places and have been compensated in other ways, such as a room upgrade or a breakfast or some such. Perhaps that’s a matter to explore on the forums, where knowledgeable people can chime in?

        Wi-fi is tremendously important to me, and I agree that a meager trickle of availability doesn’t count as access. And I *have* successfully negotiated room discounts or substituted amenities for perceived value lost, although hotel management generally gives me the “stink eye” for standing my ground on such issues. I note such on my TripAdvisor reviews and don’t return to those hotels when I’m in the area again.

      2. Be prepared for 1/2 mb wi-fi service to be included in the resort fee. If you want 10 mb speed, that’s going to cost you a least $10 per night additional. I found this out when I recently stayed at Paris Las Vegas. That property is owned by Caesar’s Entertainment which also owns at least eight other 2500+ room resorts in LV. All have the same mandatory resort fee and slow internet policies as Paris.

  3. I’m flying Frontier for the first time in two weeks and they wouldn’t let my husband and me purchase a seat when we checked out because all the “regular” seats are booked and so the only option is to pay to upgrade to “premium,” which I refuse to do for centimeters more of legroom. Curious if we’re going to check in and find we don’t have a seat—or if they’ll make us pay to “upgrade” when we get there.

    1. So the system is working properly for you as you are making a conscious choice as to paying or not for additional space. That’s how markets have operated since the dawn of time.

      1. I fly 100 legs or so a year (usually Southwest, Delta, AA, United) and I’ve never experienced this with an airline when I’ve already purchased a ticket and then am told there are no “regular” seats left. Totally taking a gamble, but they have to put my husband me somewhere, right? Assuming they’ll upgrade two loyalty members and put us in their places.

        1. I’ve haven’t flown in a few years so I’m not familiar with buying a ticket and not having a seat at time of purchase. Be sure to let us know how all this works out.

        2. yes, that is likely what will happen. nearly certainly. or they will release unsold premium seats to you, if there are any left after the loyals are upgraded. try to check in less than 24 hours prior to departure, just in case.

        3. It’s common on all assigned seat airlines if yiu have not experiences it in 100 legs as non elite, i’m shocked. Even more likely on UA due the ratio of economy plus to normal economy. In the end you wont be charged for a seat even if you get moved to an extra legroom one. Either those that get free extra legroom seats at 24/72 hours (DL is changnig to 72 hours for silver and gold to get main cabin extra seats) will switch to them, elite upgrades to first class will clear opening up regular seats, or they start assigning the extra legroom seats to those without seat assignments.

          1. I find American is the WORST for “free” pre-assigned seats. But you are right – have seen this MANY times. Which is why I go back daily into my clients seat options to get them seats.

    2. I ran into a similar situation a couple of years ago when flying to and from a funeral. I paid for the upgrade on the way to the funeral. I decided to “play chicken” on the way back. I had purchased seats for the 3 of us; the airline had to put us somewhere on the flight. I assumed that the seats would be undesirable seats. How did it work?

      First leg was a regional carrier – the seats are pretty much cramped all over the plane, so not too bad. The 3 of us did not sit together, but close to one another. The second leg was a large jet. We were upgraded to first class (free!). The third leg was a smaller jet, and we got middle seats toward the back of the plane. I took the seat all the way in the back, by the toilet, and let my husband and his father take the seats a little farther forward.

      You have tickets. Be sure to check in online promptly when able to do so. Show up at the gate in plenty of time, so that if you still don’t have a seat, that the gate agent can assign you a seat. Be very nice to the gate agent. Thank the gate agent regardless of the seats you get; you may be re-assigned right close to boarding time.

      Good luck!

      1. ALWAYS ALWAYS be nice to the gate agent. I am appalled when I’m standing behind someone who is yelling at the person behind the counter. Don’t these jerks realize that the agent controls their seat? They’ll end up in a middle seat in the last row by the toilet. I am ALWAYS polite to the gate agent, and usually that gets me moved up a few rows, or even to an exit row. Sometimes they even give me a free drink voucher!

    3. Frontier recently changed how the extra leg room seats are assigned. Previously, the higher level frequent flyers could choose those seats at booking. Now they have to wait until check in to select those seats. Of course anyone could and still can buy them at any time.

      So I would not worry. As long as you use the online check in 24 hours before departure, you should be able to get actual seat assignments as the high level flyers will be grabbing the extra leg room seats. Unfortunately, you may not get seats together. But you can still ask at the gate to see if they can rearrange to put you together.

    4. This is actually somewhat common, though the circumstance varies based on type of demand. You are a confirmed customer and still are entitled to a seat. You are not required to buy premium seats. You can see if anything is available when you check in online or at the airport, and if not, the gate agents will have to assign your seats. You just have no guarantee of the seats you may get. They could be two middles in the back, or you may luck out and get premium seats anyway, if not enough people have chosen to purchase them. Many people book tickets without having seat assignments….it’s not that big of a deal. And of course, this has nothing to do with Southwest (since you mentioned), where no customers have advance seat assignments.

      The one significant difference is that in the case the entire aircraft is oversold, the most likely people to be involuntarily bumped are among those without advance seat assignments. This is, of course, after accounting for people who do not check in, misconnecting passengers, other people volunteering to give up their seats, etc.

      1. They are supposed to ask for volunteers and if they don’t have any I believe they start looking at the lowest fare paid for bumping purposes but that’s how it’s supposed to happen not in any way am I implying it actually happens like that when they overbook a flight. :-/

  4. Not yet noted is that although Bob Bradenbaugh provided himself relief by removing the book from the seat pocket, putting a book there in the first place is against FAA rules. So in absence of the illegal book placement, everything was fine for him. Next case!

    1. Which FAA rule says that you can’t put a book in the seat back pocket. I’ve been doing this for many years and no member of the crew has ever told me that I can’t put a book there.

  5. “Customers like Bradenbaugh had little choice. After he arrived in Spain,
    he visited the American Airlines site and reluctantly forked over $260
    to “upgrade” two seats to the “Extra” cabin.”

    Sounds like a perfect solution.

    1. I went to buy a hamburger, but they were small. I had no choice except to buy a bigger hamburger, how dare they charge me for the larger hamburger.

        1. Sadly, yes. I was so upset. I thought they should have been bundled into the price because well, who buys a burger without buying fries and a drink?

          And the kicker was, I actually bought a bacon cheeseburger and they charged me extra for both the bacon and the cheese. I need a consumer advocate.

          1. I actually remember when Wendy’s charged extra for tomato on a burger back in the 1980’s. It was something like 15 cents. Their argument was that there was a significant percentage of their customers ordering burgers without tomato so to them it made sense to have it as an extra cost option. The other hamburger chains didn’t go along with that so the charge was abandoned.

            Sounds a lot like today’s airlines to me. “Let’s add this charge/fee and see if it sticks.”

          2. Good question. It is just convention to charge more for a cheeseburger than a regular burger without.

            Why don’t they charge extra for each topping you get on any sandwich? Probably because it would be a nightmare when settling the bill.

          3. i always ask for NO tomato (or mayo), but i do want cheese. i get charged. to me, that should be an even exchange!

  6. I think you meant to say, “Should travel companies be allowed to sell us 86.5% of a product, if we want it?” Because that is what it is. The standard economy seat has 86.5% of the legroom that the Main Cabin Extra seat has.

    And you forgot to add the condition of us wanting it. Why? Because Mr. Bradenbaugh, at 6 feet tall, is taller than roughly 80% of Americans. So, are you arguing that the 80% of the population should have to pay for a product that we don’t need and may not want, so that the 20% of the population that may want, and arguably need, doesn’t have to pay more?

    And here I thought the pro-regulation folks were supposed to be looking out for the “little” guy.

    source: http://www.seatguru.com/airlines/American_Airlines/American_Airlines_Boeing_777-200_B.php

  7. I paid for a better seat with delta for a transatlantic flight ………….a security delay kept us waiting 2+ hrs on the plane and after the flight i found i was numb from sitting in a seat without any padding. i agree, if the airline executives had to sit here for 13 hrs they would reconsider what they are doing.
    also, i traveled far more when it was not so horrid…..now i drive or take a ship across the atlantic so they have lost my 4 or 5 additional flights…….multiple that by millions of passengers and perhaps they will wake up

  8. Sorry, but Bob did buy a whole seat — it was just a very small one with minimal leg room. He bought what the airline offered from among the available choices.

    Many people seem to be happy with the tight seating, just look at how full Spirit flights are. And for many people who are 5 feet or less in height and around 100 pounds weight, the size of those seats is acceptably comfortable. It is the rest of us who are considerably larger than that (myself included) who have problems with the current small economy seats. So demanding that the government regulate seat size more than it already does is pointless. The current seats meet all requirements for safety which is all the government can or should regulate.

      1. Probably many. A friend of mine routinely flew Spirit because he wanted to save money. He knew what he was getting and was satisfied with the product.

        1. I’ve never flown Spirit but I have a friend who does to visit her daughter. She is not a small woman by any definition, so she evidently knows what she is getting herself into and chooses to do so despite the lack of space and free or included amenities.

          1. That’s my point. She is making an informed choice. Chris would take away that choice from her. i wouldn’t.

      2. Was not able to find any documentation giving the numbers for repeat passengers, but it would have to be fairly significant or they would have run out of passengers to fill their planes by now.

    1. I cant stand elliots polls. The wordings are tweaked to get people to vote how he wants them to vote. I think he can be even more misleading than the corporations he is fighting against

  9. Since the document states small personal items can be placed in the pocket, unless this was a volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica, he probably was not violating the rule.

    1. Maybe. Maybe not. We have no information if this specific book was a “small, lightweight items, such as eyeglasses or a cell phone…without exceeding the total designed weight limitation…approximately 3 pounds.”

      But if this book was interfering with knee space it would have been substantially larger than a comic book.

      1. Even if the book was simply a small but thick paperback the couple of inches in thickness it occupied would be a relief to have back. And we also don’t know if he placed the book there before takeoff or during the flight. I’m sure a FA would have said something if the book was noticeably large enough.

  10. Perhaps some of the contributors will know: How, when and by whom are passenger safety standards determined? Specifically, when an airplane is designed, I expect that someone (airline? FAA?, other?) conducts tests to determine how quickly a fully loaded airplane can be emptied in an emergency. However, when an airline changes the number of seats, increasing the capacity of the plane, is another testing done? By whom? Does anyone know?

    1. My understanding is that before the airline is sold to airlines, the determination is made as to how many seats the aircraft can accommodate. For example, the safety people (I don’t know who they are) determined that the A380 can carry 800+ people safely, but any more than 550 would make the experience miserable so that was the configuration it was initially ordered in.

  11. I am a fan of paying for what you want. But I am not a fan of cheating your customers. A coach seat needs to be comfortable for a normal size person, not an obese person, not a 6’9″ person, an average size person. This means it needs to be larger than it is now. My legs are as long as a person who is 6’5″. I do not expect the airline to sell me a comfortable seat in coach, I understand that I have to pay extra for a comfortable seat. Since the airlines will never to decide make all the seats in coach larger and forego the revenue, I do think that this is one of those rare situations that need some legislation. It’s a sad situation.

  12. I am small, and not squished in an airline seat….but it is horrendous for me when the person next to me spills all over my space.

  13. Hmmm…I wonder what any of our pathetic Congressfolks have to say about how us peons in the bathroom of life must fly the uncomfortable skies.

    Chris, have you tried asking if this is on anyone’s radar?
    After all, there are laws that set regulations for the size of cages for animals being sent to slaughter…and believe me when I say a cow on the way to get hit in the head has more personal space than a typical ecomony class seat.

  14. My feelings about this are very different from all the ones posted here. These are “first-world” problems. People constantly complain about how horrible it is to fly, but they still do it…and I’m not talking about people who have to fly for their job or to go to a funeral. Everyone flies because they want to take vacations and they go through it no matter what…how many people would love to be in their shoes and be able to afford to even take a vacation? As a fan of limited government, I am strongly against mandating a specific seat size unless it can be proven that it’s a safety issue. Has anyone thought about what would happen if all the airlines had to reconfigure their airplanes to fit larger seats? Fares would have to go up.

  15. I think that resort fees are a different class of annoyance since they are compulsory apparently.
    I think it is fine to charge for extra room when the basic room on a seat is big enough. I do not think it is fine to sell a “normal” seat that is too small and then offer an upgrade to what should have been the basic offering in the first place.

    Some of these things need to be fixed by regulation and other things need to be fixed by the marketplace. Unfortunately, the marketplace is going in the opposite direction that they need to be going.

  16. I too am amazed at how some of these gate agents tasked with the assignment of where you’ll spend the duration of your flight in seat assignments are spoken to all I can do is shake my head and hope I get the seat they’ve yelled themselves out of;-)

  17. It’s just a matter of time that the Airlines will be selling standing room only space, pretty much like a subway with strap handles to hang on to

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