Poll a large number of fliers about what they want in an airline, and the answer will be legroom. Airline seats have shrunk for years, at least in coach. Travelers believe it has gone too far.
In a recent study by Morning Consult, legroom was at the head of the list of what fliers wanted, with it mentioned by 81% of those questioned. More overhead storage was second at 78%, another issue of smaller and smaller amounts of space for passengers. Food service on long flights took third place at 71%, followed by reclining seats at 69%.
It is no secret why airlines keep shrinking seats. More passengers per flight means more money. Several members of Congress are so miffed about the trend that they want a standard and larger seat size. Most airlines have coach seats that are less than 17 inches wide. A quick look inside most commercial airplanes about to take off shows that there are a lot of people for which 17 inches is not adequate.
Airlines have started programs that offer passengers relief from seats that are small and do not recline. Premium economy is what the service is often called. For an upgrade fee, which can be in the hundreds of dollars, passengers can sit in a no man’s land between coach and either business or first class. It is a win-win for the airlines. Passengers who want more room and can afford it increase passenger dollar yield per plane. Passengers can’t like the fees, but at least they can ride in comfort.
The airlines have taken the dislike of small seats and turned the problem around. For the 81% of fliers who want more legroom, it’s available. What used to be free has become costly.