Can airline seat squeeze impact your health?

Health and safety worries investigated by US committee
Airlines are squeezing more and more seats into their economy cabins, a trend that is rising still further as carriers try to protect profit margins from falling ticket prices. But it is also raising concerns about health and safety, Reuters reports.
Seat pitch (distance from one seat to the same spot on the seat behind or in front) has shrunk to 28 inches (71cm) on some flights, from the more usual 31 or 32 inches. Slim-line designs and creative placing of galleys and toilets are adding to the squeeze.
“If you’re a dog, you have very specific rules, but if you’re a human being there are no specific rules as to what is humane,” Charlie Leocha, head of consumer group Travelers United, told a US government advisory committee investigating the problem this week.
Making the squeeze even tighter on most flights, as airlines get better at managing ticket sales, the middle seat is rarely left free.
According to the International Air Transport Association, ticket prices are expected to fall by 5% on average this year. At the same time, airlines’ average net profit margin is forecast to rise to the best result in the last five years – but only to 3.2%.
Health and safety impacts of the great seat squeeze include more outbreaks of air rage and fights over reclining seats; it being harder for crew to treat anyone needing medical help; and, potentially, slower exit of the aircraft in an emergency. Meanwhile, tech and seat innovations are taking some passengers’ minds off the tight seats.
“Economy seats are on a downward trend, but airlines are adding in perks to make you forget more quickly just how squeezed in you are,” said Jason Rabinowitz, data research manager at cabin rating site Routehappy. “The more seats are shrinking, the more technology they’re packing in.”
[pictured: Airbus A350 economy cabin; courtesy Airbus]


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