Monday Insight – March 6, 2023

The Seat Size Bugaboo Continues
Makes Great Press – But Fake News

A federal appeals court just tossed out a lawsuit from a consumer gadfly organization intending to force the FAA to issue strict guidelines on airline seating.

The plaintiffs contended that airline seating is dangerous and unhealthy. Dangerous because cramped seating will hamper cabin egress in the event of an emergency. Unhealthy, because cramped seating can cause deep vein thrombosis.

The court simply pointed out that the contentions made in the filing were not backed up with any hard data or facts. Seat pitch has changed and it varies across the airline industry. But the seats passengers are sitting in on USA airlines have not shrunk. The average width is greater, actually.

Facts? Not If They Spoil The Narrative. What is amazing is that so much of the reporting on this and other related airline seating issues isn’t even within several zip codes of being factual. In almost all cases, they state that airlines have reduced the seat size – the width – consistently over the past several years.

In the US airline industry, that is a patent lie. Not just inaccurate, but a lie because any simple cursory review of the data would immediately discredit it, which indicates wanton intent to misinform. Take a look at the kind of trendy drivel that some of the media puts out as if Moses just delivered it on his way home from Mt. Sinai.

This chart is completely bogus. Yet most of the media just repeat what the consumerist flower children are telling them. Heck, even Senator Chuck Schumer has held political hoedowns demanding that airlines stop shrinking seat size.

Be nice if the good senator would bother himself with facts. No USA airline has cut average seat width by 2 inches in the past ten years, as is repeatedly being reported. AA hasn’t. United hasn’t. Delta, nope. Alaska, ditto. Southwest, same.

Damn The Facts! Full Speed Fake News! These airlines’ Boeing fleets have seats in the 17.2 – 17.5 inch width range. And it has been this width in the “coach” cabin since the first 707s took off in the late 1950s. In the meantime, fleets of A320-platform airliners, with economy cabin seats in the 18-inch range, and E175s with the same, have entered service – thereby making the average seat size even larger, not smaller. Plus, whole fleets of 50-seat jets, with seats at @17 inches wide, have been retired.

So, here’s the nitty gritty. A lot of the media coverage on this subject is simply bogus. As the chart shows, CNN has published data to show that seats are now something like 16.5 inches wide. A piece from the NBC Today Show claimed 16 inches. Nice. But there isn’t a single USA major airline with any seats that narrow.

Maybe in Asia. Maybe in another world, where a lot of this bogus reporting seems to come from.

Note to the media. If you want hard facts and data to back this up, take the time to look at our Aviation Unscripted video on the subject. Click here.