Unlike most of my well-researched, carefully thought out commentaries on important issues of the day, this colorfully worded rant actually sparked a number of comments, pro and con. So in the interest of promoting the public debate, I thought I’d point out a contrary opinion from KOMO curmudgeon Ken Shram: “The Bigger Butts are Airline Executives“.
Ken suggests the airlines deserve the blame for giving us only 17 inches of space in a coach seat, saying he’s fed up with airlines “shoehorning passengers into smaller and smaller seats.”
I had actually considered this angle, but dismissed it based on simple geometry. Most of the jetliners in service today are configured with three coach seats on either side of an aisle. While airlines can adjust available leg space by adding or subtracting a row or two, the only way to increase seat space is to subtract an entire column.
Thus it seems unlikely that the airlines have been shrinking seat width, as there is nothing to gain but a wider aisle; the number of seats per row has certainly not changed.
Perhaps what we need is a new “Plus Class” where a “three and two” configuration could provide coach class service in a wider seat, for a 20% premium. But my guess is that consumers’ preference for low-cost airlines is far greater than their desire for comfortable seating.