Air Travel And The Age of Cabin Crush

Travel is amazing and if you ask 20 people what they love about it, you will likely get 20 different answers. Ask those same 20 people what they dislike about travel and chances are that 50% or more will reply “air travel”! Security screenings, the kerfuffle of the boarding process, unpleasant flight attendants, and tasteless food (or lack of food) are all reasons for people to dislike air travel but perhaps the most universally loathed thing about air travel is airplane seating.

When it comes to fitting on a plane, my vertically-challenged physique finally serves a purpose, yay! But even at 5’3″ I notice a lack of legroom, especially lately. In a recent article from Scott McCartney of the Wall Street Journal, it is reported that ‘some airlines are down to 28 inches of space from the back of your seat to the seat back in front of you in their basic coach rows, down from the once-standard 32 inches of what’s called seat pitch.’ For me, that leaves just 13 inches between my knee caps and the seat back in front of me!! It’s no wonder I get buggy if I can’t have the aisle-over-the-wing seat! With so little room to maneuver, I fully appreciate my short stature like never before and empathize with those who actually need the legroom.

For me, that leaves just 13 inches between my knee caps and the seat back in front of me!!! It’s no wonder I get buggy if I can’t have the aisle-over-the-wing seat!

In the same article, and courtesy of, the graphic below illustrates the seat dimensions of major carriers in the U.S.

found on and

It’s not just pitch that is an issue, either. The width of the seats has changed. From the widest seat at 18.3 inches, some seats are now down to 17 inches. For reference, the average American male has a shoulder width of 18 1/4 inches (as per T-Nation). Hell, my shoulders are 15 inches wide and 3 inches of wiggle room DOES NOT allow for my preferred northern European personal space bubble. That means, that in addition to “rubbing shoulders” with my seatmate, I will likely be pressing thighs, too (hello, sailor!)

Apparently, this isn’t the issue it seems to be. With some engineering and design advances, it looks like we are getting more ‘living space’ with the use of mesh seats, thinner foam, and redesigned frames. As per the article, ‘Rockwell Collins says its newest seats have about 20% more living space than traditional seats before the slim-down diet. If you take that and reduce pitch from 32 to 30, passengers still end up with an extra inch of space, says Tom Plant, vice president and general manager, aircraft seating.’

To be sure you are prepared for whatever seating situation greets you on board your next flight, be sure to visit Not only can you see where you seat is located in relation to the exits and lavatories, but the legend tells you what you can expect from that location – good, bad, or otherwise. I consider to be part of my regular trip planning and love their Guru Advice section, including the very useful airport guides that give a high-level overview of an airport and its ground transportation and parking. I just wish they had an app I could access offline!

seat guru’s icon legend

To read the full article on shrinking seats, click here. If you want to combat the shrinking seats with a shrinking physique, click here or here. If you want to learn how to make small talk for the inevitable conversations that these smaller seats will demand, click here! As always, thanks for visiting Java And Junket and happy travels!