It might not be your imagination the next time you slide into an airline seat. Airlines are beginning to replace their seats with new 'slimline' models which reduce the width between each passenger. Adding insult to injury, the rows are moving closer together to add an additional row of seats to economy class.
Some newer seats come with added technology, like a USB and 110v charging ports. But this convenience comes at a cost that most travelers are not eager to pay: Comfort. The new seats have less cushion padding, with airlines claiming no loss in comfort because of better materials. This thinner 'slimline' seats will allow the airlines to push the rows closer together.
The average distance between economy rows had been 34 inches and is now slimming to 31 to 32 inches. Airlines claim that legroom is not being compromised because of smaller magazine pouches or moving the magazine rack higher on the seat.
Domestic carriers making the changes include American, Alaskan, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, United, and US Airways. International travelers may have noticed the crunch on Air France, ANA, British Airways, Lufthansa, and Japan Airlines. Website Seat Guru lets users look up the seating maps for various airlines and equipment, rating these seats on various factors including size, ability to recline, proximity to the lavatory or galley.
Not that we need another excuse to lose a little weight, but unfortunately it may help to avoid a snug fit on your next flight. And if you're not a member of airline rewards programs, now would be the time to start accruing miles to spend later on upgrades to business or first class. Ironically, neither business class nor first class are being affected by the crunch to add more seats.