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Jul 29

US Government Mandates Higher Ticket Prices

An advocacy group has successfully won an appeal, forcing the FAA to take another look at the size of seats on airplanes.

Why That’s Bad


That just doesn’t look comfy, but it does look cheap.                        Photo Credit: Creative Commons

I know the arguments. Seat sizes have been getting smaller for ages. It’s uncomfortable. People are getting air ragey. I understand that and don’t like the smaller seats, either.

But this argument regarding airline safety is simply a red herring. It has nothing to do with safety. It’s all about comfort. The seats have been tested and most flights offer bigger seats should you need one. You just have to pay for them.  As for the “getting out of the seats in case of an accident” argument? I think we’re past that. So here’s what will happen if we get laws regulating a minimum seat size:

  • Coach passengers will get another two inches or so.
  • Airlines will have fewer seats available to sell.
  • Ticket prices will go up.
  • Fewer people will be able to fly.

Sadly, travelers can’t have it both ways. We can’t complain about ticket prices and then also complain that the seats and service aren’t good enough. Costs per seat will go up and ultra-low cost carriers will be forced out of business, or to raise prices (which will force them out of business). The major airlines will simply raise their prices even more.

According to this article, “Critics accuse the airlines of being more interested in profit than passenger health and safety.” That’s not only wrong but patently stupid. Wanna know a quick way to bankrupt an airline? Show that it’s not safe. People have no issue driving 80 MPH on the way to the airport (and there will be more people on the roads if fewer people are traveling on planes) but the minute an airline is declared unsafe, its customers will desert it (as they should).

As for airlines caring about profits? Of course they do. They’re businesses with shareholders, not government-run utilities. The average traveler has shown that the number one factor in choosing a flight is price. Ultra-low cost carriers are growing capacity by double digits.

Airlines must be safe, but the system is currently the safest in the world. The government cannot mandate comfort. And it’s worth noting that the airlines already do offer seats with plenty of leg room, but most people don’t want to pay the price to sit up front (and again, I don’t blame them). But if there were demand for the product, airlines would offer it

The long-term trend in airline prices has been down. There are certainly years, such as this one, that they have been up, but passengers are paying a lot less to fly now than they did before deregulation. And ultimately, that’s good for everyone.


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    • Mike on July 31, 2017 at 8:25 am
    • Reply

    I agree with the idea that safety is the primary issue. The problem is, there is no evidence linking a tighter pitch to difficulty in evacuation. Common sense says that there is a point at which pitch so tight that people can’t get in or out of their seats, but the Europeans have been flying planes with pitch as narrow as 29″ without any trouble. American wants to go to 30″.

    The airlines are certainly not the world’s greatest corporate citizens, but I have to agree with them on this one. Consumer demand has been for lower prices, and there’s only so much that they can do to compete. Passengers who want more space can get it; it just costs more money.

    • Alex on July 30, 2017 at 7:38 pm
    • Reply

    This is not “bad” setting a minimum standard will allow for safer travel without putting passengers at risk. Beyond safety passenger cinfort will improve. The current race to the smallest trend in economy seat size and pitch has gone too far.

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