US Senator Wants To Regulate Airplane Legroom

Filed Under: Travel

Oy vey.

A couple of days ago I posted about a bill from a Senator which would require hotels to more clearly disclose resort fees. While I generally prefer as little government regulation as possible, that’s a bill I completely support. Resort fees can be sneaky and dishonest, as they’re often not disclosed in advertisements. I support the concept of resort fees having to be disclosed more clearly because a lot of people book hotels and genuinely don’t realize these fees exist. It’s similar to the legislation a few years back which required airlines to advertise “all-in” prices, which makes perfect sense to me.

Well, it looks like the government is taking on another sector of travel, as New York Democratic Senator Schumer wants the Federal Aviation Administration to establish seat-size standards for commercial aviation.

JetBlue’s relatively spacious economy cabin

What’s his logic? Per the Associated Press:

“One of the most vexing things when you travel on an airplane is there’s almost no legroom on your standard flight,” Schumer said. “There’s been constant shrinkage by the airlines.”

Schumer said seat pitch, the distance between a point on an airline seat and the same spot on the seat in front of it, has dropped from 35 inches in the 1970s to a current average of closer to 31 inches, and seat width has gone from 18.5 inches to about 16.5 inches. He argues that the requirement is needed to stop airlines from shrinking those numbers even further.

“They’re like sardines,” Schumer said of airplane passengers. “It’s no secret that airlines are looking for more ways to cut costs, but they shouldn’t be cutting inches of legroom and seat width in the process … It’s time for the FAA to step up and stop this deep-seated problem from continuing.”

While that sounds nice in theory — after all, no one wants less legroom — the reality is that people aren’t willing to consistently pay a premium for more legroom, even when it’s reasonable. Years ago American offered “More Room Throughout Coach,” where they had a few inches of extra legroom throughout economy, though they found passengers weren’t willing to pay a premium for it.

On average airfare has fallen by about 50% over the past 30 years, even when you factor in fees. This allows more people to fly more often than ever before. That’s fantastic, and it’s largely thanks to airlines adding more seats to planes.

But you’d think the airlines have found the solution to Senator Schumer’s issue with the lack of legroom, given how widespread extra legroom economy seats for purchase are.

JetBlue’s extra legroom economy seating

Consumers can pay extra for these seats if they so choose, which seems like the best of both worlds — people can choose to pay the lowest fare, or otherwise can choose to be more comfortable for a reasonable premium. But Senator Schumer takes issue with that as well, calling it unfair:

Schumer pointed to a practice used by some airlines in which passengers are charged more money for seats with extra legroom. He says that exemplifies the problem.

“It’s just plain unfair that a person gets charged for extra inches that were once standard,” he said.

That’s an interesting interpretation of the free market. The airline industry has historically been extremely unprofitable, and the main reason for that was because airlines weren’t being run like businesses. Now airlines are actually doing well, spending money on new planes, hiring more people, etc. That should be a net positive for our economy, you’d think.

Furthermore, airfare is just about as cheap as it has ever been. Airfare was twice as expensive on average (adjusted for inflation) in the 70s, so does Senator Schumer support airlines doubling prices and adding a few extra inches of legroom so that everything is “fair” again? I’m sure that would do wonders for the airline industry…

Bottom line

I find this perspective puzzling, because most people know what they’re getting themselves into when they book Spirit, Ryanair, Easyjet, etc. For that matter, I think most people are well aware of the ability to purchase extra legroom seating. It’s easy to research seat pitch online, but when someone books a $9 fare on Spirit and is shocked there isn’t much legroom, I don’t have that much sympathy.

I might support something intended to disclose the amount of legroom to consumers, as opposed to regulating it.

What do you make of this attempt at regulating airplane legroom?

  1. Even a minimal familiarity with Sen. Schumer’s career will expose his lack of understanding of how markets work. People need to understand that this bill will not force airlines to give us more legroom, it will force us all to pay for extra legroom.

  2. Arguing that because air travel has become less expensive over time, people shouldn’t complain about seating options or have a minimum guaranteed amount of seat pitch makes almost no logical or economical sense.

  3. It has been said that the most hazardous place to be in Washington is standing between Senator Schumer and a microphone. I despise the whole lot of them but he’s one of the particularly egregious ones.

    Next he’ll be proposing a bill to ensure every passenger is entitled to a nutritious snack on every flight. Or how about a guaranteed aisle or window seat for everybody?

    I’m still surprised he didn’t propose a bill to exempt important people from himself from following the instructions of FA “bxxxxes”:

    Maybe he still hasn’t gotten over that little incident.

  4. @ Alan — People can complain all they want, and ultimately vote with their wallets. But why is that something the government should regulate? Airlines offer seating options which people are willing to pay for. If it doesn’t work, the airlines lose. Why not let consumers determine the limit, rather than the government?

  5. I think airlines should be required to disclose the pitch and the width of their seats in a transparent way; then everybody can make informed choices.

  6. How about the regulation over legroom for medium haul and long haul flights? Yes, people know what they are getting into.. but that doesn’t mean full service carriers also start reducing leg rooms to where legs won’t fit. Even though I like window seats, I always book aisle seats for longer flights as it gets very painful with there being no space for legs to go.

    I mean the big 3 US carriers are charging absolute ridiculous amount of money on routes.. I had to fly from Boston to Cincinnati, and the cheapest flight was $525. That’ s how much I had to shell out! They gave a bag of peanuts which probably just had 10 of them. They charge you for those cheap snacks, magazines, reclining seats and so many things?
    Why cant they remove those costs and add a premium for leg space? And what is the point of reclining seats if the seat pitch is so less? Who will choose magazines over leg space?
    Yes, airlines would have to charge a premium for legspace but they do have so many useless costs that can be replaced.
    For someone who does travel a lot..and a large chunk of it in economy, it is shameful that we need a bill to stop airlines from chopping our legs off. Decency much?

  7. His term is up for re-election in 2016. Like most laws submitted by elected officials in an election year, it has little to do with understanding or not understanding the market. And it has literally no chance of passing. It will give something for airline lobbyists to do, though.

  8. I agree with Ben. Most airlines offer premium economy with extra legroom and people still opt for the minimum legroom seats with the lower ticket cost. Let passengers choose which option they prefer rather than force everyone to pay higher economy prices for the extra space.

  9. Oy, yourself. Just keep the free market theory out of it. Disagree with the legislation all you want, but please don’t try to make it an economics argument. Your grasp of economics is pretty tenuous and the “free market” is a fallacy.

    Actually, I’m surprised he didn’t make it a safety issue. Shrinking room between rows makes it harder to evacuate quickly in an emergency. I’d think it would get further with that rationale.

  10. I’m kind of shocked at some of these comments that are in favor of this bill. If you want a better seat, there are plenty of options to get a better seat, you just have to pay more for it. Nobody is forcing you to fly in coach. If you want more leg room, a wider seat, more amenities, there are almost always first class seats available. If airlines shrink seats too much, people will stop flying said airline. The beauty of capitalism is that you have a choice. You are entering into an agreement to give the airline your money in exchange for their service of your own free will. As Ben points out, if the government starts regulating minimum seat sizes, the airlines will not be as profitable and will therefore increase ticket prices to make up for lost revenue. If you want mandated seat size requirements that will inevitably raise ticket prices, just buy extra legroom seats or a first class seat. You’re going to pay for the added room regardless. Just let those who are willing to sit in a smaller seat pay less money for it. Stop complaining.

  11. @ Lisa — Regulations are already in place to ensure safety. The FAA has to certify seats, and that’s based on all kinds of tests.

    To clarify, do you think extra legroom economy is unfair? And do you think it’s unfair that airlines have decreased the amount of legroom over the past 30 years?

  12. i am 6’1″ and will never pay extra for a more legroom seat in coach.

    I flew DTW-LAS in basic E on DL so no preassigned seat. No seats available at checkin. Get to gate and get seats in their premium economy.

    tell me THAT makes sense.

  13. For business travel, it’s not that simple. Many companies have travel policies that require their employees to take the lowest available fare, and won’t pay extra for premium economy. Yes, the employees might be able to upgrade themselves, but why should they have to?

    I’d also take issue with the assertion that “there are plenty of opportunities to get a better seat”. On many popular routes the percentage of elites with automatic access to premium economy is so high that few if any premium economy seats are available for late purchasers. (Again, it’s business travelers who are most likely to be faced with travel at short notice).

    And finally the dramatic consolidation in the industry has significantly reduced real choice and competition. Anyone who thinks that the airline industry is a libertarian free market is delusional….

  14. So you support regulation of luxury resort fees, but oppose regulation of economy seating, while you fly around the world in first class and stay at luxury resorts. Got it.

  15. If consumers want more legroom and are open to paying for it, please explain the success of Spirit Airlines. They proudly admit their seats are tiny and they charge for everything. I hear so many people say ‘i’m never flying spirit again’ but once they see they can save $40 on a flight to Florida, they go for it.

    I’d love to have free economy plus style seating on all flights, but i’d rather my fares be cheaper and pay for it when I want to (such as JFK->LAX) and not when i dont (LGA->PIT)

  16. @ Astounded — No, I support the *disclosure* of resort fees, just as I support the *disclosure* of legroom. I don’t think it’s the government’s job to eliminate resort fees, and I also don’t think it’s the government’s job to regulate legroom.

  17. @ Lucky – “But why is that something the government should regulate? ”

    Because the government should be able to ensure that the common carriers provide safe, reliable, comfortable services to taxpayers.

    I could buy the “free market” argument if there were more than three major US carriers, but with regard to the welfare of the public you can bet that those carriers will continue to reduce seat size indefinitely. Where does it stop? This will become a safety issue that the FAA will turn a blind eye toward (see also: lap infants). If Congress needs to step in, Congress needs to step in.

  18. @ Alan — Legroom has nothing to do with safe and reliable transportation, as the FAA still has to certify any type of seat. So regardless of this legislation, seats need to be certified for their safety before any airlines can install them. So this bill really doesn’t address safety.

    I guess what we’ll have to agree to disagree on is the government regulating “comfortable” services to taxpayers (and non-taxpayers, for that matter). I don’t view that as being the government’s role, though certainly respect if you do. At least we know where we disagree.

    If the government is going to start regulating comfort then I can think of many city buses, trains, and subways they could start with!

  19. I am in support of this Bill. If there was more competition between Airlines or Flight then I agree that this bill does not make sense. But since now competition is non existent between big carriers, it should be regulated until competition comes back. Airlines can literary squeeze us for their profit.

  20. “It’s just plain unfair that a person gets charged for extra inches that were once standard,”

    Senator Schumer, they are not getting “charged extra”. Economy plus costs about, if not less than, what economy did in the good old days when economy was more comfortable. Only now, consumers have the option for a yet less expensive, less comfortable option. Mr. Senator, would you be happier if they just called “Y+” “Y” and “Y” “Y-“?

    Mr. Senator, please do not shame the airlines – rather, shame the consumers who have encouraged the race to the bottom.

  21. @CompSpy, how is competition between airlines non existent? Airlines compete every day on cost. Just because there has been consolidation doesn’t mean there isn’t competition. From CHS where I am, which is a pretty small airport, I have access to AA, UA, DL, B6, WN, AS, even Silver and Porter. On every flight out I have a choice between most of them which vary on price, duration, and number of stops. While I’m loyal to AA, I just booked a flight on WN to BNA because of competition. WN offers a non-stop flight for a cheaper price. That in itself is competition.

  22. It’s amazing how many people do not understand economics. If there are less seats on planes prices of those seats will go up. As lucky mentioned the relative cost of air travel has decreased significantly. If the government did step in and mandate seat pitches cost of air travel would go up. That’s simple economics. The reality is this bill does not stand a chance passing congress anyways. But it is not a safety issue. As Lucky said the FAA certifies all aircraft types. Consumers should be able to pay for a 9 dollar Spirit fare if that’s what they want to do. Regulation would end those types of fares. And any business can “squeeze” you for their profit. That’s true in any industry in the United States. It’s called a profit and leads to jobs creation and returns to investors. Seems like there is a very anti-business vibe in these comments.

  23. @ Lucky —

    “Legroom has nothing to do with safe and reliable transportation, as the FAA still has to certify any type of seat.”

    Sure it does. How much more seat pitch do we have to lose before we are at a seat density that makes deplaning in an emergency situation less timely and more difficult? I would argue not more than a couple of inches. The seats themselves all meet FAA regulations of course, but I’m talking about the space between them. In this way, safety and comfort really are intimately related.

    “So this bill really doesn’t address safety.”

    I virtually guarantee that when the Schumer amendment is published, the stated rationale will be taxpayer safety.

    This thought that there is a broad “free market” with a universe of air carriers fighting for my dollars, and if I’m not happy with the offerings of one, I can go to another for a wider selection of products is simply not accurate. I am not generally in favor of the government regulating products, but given the consolidation in the industry combined with the way pitch has been shrinking, I am not opposed to common sense limitations on the lower end of seat density.

  24. @ Alan — That’s not accurate, though. The FAA *does* certify seats for safety based on evacuation time, etc. It’s not just the seats themselves, but density is factored into their certification. A configuration which is too dense wouldn’t be certified.

    And if Schumer’s intention is really safety then so be it, but that’s not at all the case he’s making. His claim is that it’s “unfair.”

  25. Not every seating configuration change results in a re-certification of the evacuation time. There is a threshold of, I think it’s a 5% change, over a previously certified seat capacity, below which re-certification isn’t required. In some cases, the reduced pitch resulting from adding more seats falls under that threshold, so the particular new configuration isn’t actually re-certified. Whether that would make a difference in actual evacuation safety I don’t know, but neither does anyone else as it isn’t tested in that scenario. I’d support requiring re-certification with any change.

    The FAA evacuation certification standards are far from perfect and the FAA and others have been studying whether to make improvements to make it even more realistic. I think that’s also something worth some hard empirical data and potential updates to the process – if one is really concerned with safety.

  26. Chuck Schumer has a little press conference every week on Sunday to announce a proposed initiative like this one. It is just designed to get him a little bit of local or national news coverage. It is not a serious proposal. He is not a dummy.

    I think airlines actually do a pretty good job with stratified pricing for different types of seats. On an averages domestic flight these days, you have the following options and usually these are in increasing order of price:
    1. Regular Y seat in the way back
    2. Regular Y seat closer to the front
    3. Emergency exit Y seat with more legroom, but maybe a fixed armrest or non-reclining seat
    4. Economy Plus, Comfort +, Main Cabin Extra, Even More Space – extra leg room seat towards the front of the plane.
    5. First Class
    This seems like a great deal of choice for the average consumer booking on AA, DL, UA or B6. WN and Spirit have fewer choices.

  27. I bought a subcompact for a very low price. It is unfair that the legroom in the rear is not the same as a Mercedes S Class. I think they should pass a law requiring all subcompacts to have the same rear seat legroom as a Mercedes S Class, you know… for safety. Hopefully, the car will still be real inexpensive. *Sarcasm.

  28. Mark F,
    Maybe you should compare apples to apples. Say a chrysler 300 or ford taurus to S class. how do their legroom compare?

    a subcompact would be more comparable to say, an SLK ?

  29. I’m not saying that I support Schemer. I’m simply pointing out that the simplistic argument that “anyone can always buy more space” is flawed in several ways.

    I also think that evacuation testing needs to be based on real-world passenger populations. I have friends who’ve participated in such testing, and they’ve remarked that the tests include remarkably few people over 250 lbs. or 60 years old.

  30. Perhaps starting off a story relating to a Jewish Senator with “oy vey” is not the best look.

  31. Airlines should have to disclose the amount of seat pitch of every seat on the aircraft when you book the ticket. Moreover, I think hotels should have to disclose the square footage of their rooms on their booking page. But under no circumstances should a business be told by government how large or small their product should be.

  32. Let’s be honest here, Lucky – the only reason why you don’t agree with this potential legislation is because you almost *never* fly in coach, so you’re reality is completely skewed. The “free-market” is hardly a thing in US aviation, where three carriers essentially operate a monopoly, which is the opposite of what you actually want in a “free-market.” The airline industry in America participates in price-gouging ($200 for 3 extra inches is ludicrous). US Airlines’ revenue in 2014 was somewhere around 200bn USD, so please don’t act like these companies are scraping buy, not to mention the fact that taxpayers have bailed out the industry in the past. The bottom line of airlines in the US wouldn’t be hurt by taking a few extra rows out of their planes and in turn, creating a much more bearable experience for those who aren’t privileged enough to fly up front.

  33. I agree with Ben. We used to regulate airline fares and service. Deregulation has been an unambiguously good thing. It has significantly democratized air travel, with incredibly cheap base fares. If you don’t mind a little discomfort and perhaps carrying your own bag onto the airplane, you can fly at very low prices compared to what airlines used to charge.

    And today, the consumer is empowered with tons of competition and choices in most markets: If more comfort is important to you, then you can pay a little extra for that. If you care about seat width, you can buy a first class seat. Prices for first class have come way down compared to what they used to be; on domestic flights, I’ve bought a first class ticket for as little as $59 more each way. Each person can make their own decision as to whether that additional cost is worth it. Many people prefer to save some money in exchange for a tighter seat — there’s nothing wrong with that. The economy seats are perfectly safe. Flying is far safer today than it was back when it was regulated by the government.

    Many people accuse the airlines of being greedy, but the reality is that they hardly make any money over the long term. They’re doing reasonably well at the moment, but this follows a decade of losses — and they’re now in a price war where they’re practically giving seats away on some routes. Tickets from New York to Chicago cost less now than they cost when I was in college in Chicago more than a decade ago. I think consumers are being offered exactly what they want, and are willing to pay for.

  34. The job of the Government is to govern not to NOT exist! What is wrong with you people in America??? Look at where you are, unhealthier, less educated, less fit, more spoiled than any other time in your history! Look in the mirror, you have a Fascist presidential candidate, the economy is in the crapper for the average person, and you have succesfully lead the charge to resist any kind of international movement to help again the climate catastrophe that is facing us. But, woe is us, the Guverment is trying to meddle in the airline seat size – call Gary Leff!

    Here is a clue, it is the government you can thank for meddling in getting you security, roads, airports, trade, a 40 hour work week, women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights, free speech etc etc etc.

    Rant over. Good night, and good luck.

  35. ^ LOL at the guy who implied that the government gave us free speech. What else have they so generously “given” us? Who should I mail a thank you card to?

    Gay rights? Who was the entity that was restricting free marriage to begin with? And who is the entity that demands you go through them to get a “license” to marry? Oh wait, the government…

  36. I’m 6’6″ (2m) and no matter what Shumer does, I’ll never fit comfortably in a standard Y seat. This is why I’m happy to either pay for more legroom (on airlines where I can buy exit row seats) or fight hard to ensure my status (to get those same seats without additional cost). In fact, even though my company has a travel policy where I have to fly coach to India, I push back and tell them I won’t go because I DON’T FIT IN STANDARD ECONOMY SEATS. They let me fly Y+ on BA/CX. For Europe, I can pay a little extra for the legroom I need on AA/DL.

  37. “While I generally prefer as little government regulation as possible…”

    This is where I lost hope for this post. I’m sick of out of touch and underinformed people making this argument, because it’s actually harmful. It’s totally ok for you to be out of touch; I mean, your job is reviewing luxury travel. But try to refrain from discussing government policy in a way that comes across like a college freshman who’s three weeks into Econ 101 and just discovered Ron Paul exists.

  38. Just to quickly follow up, that’s not to say that I agree with Schumer’s proposed regulation. It’s just that the logic you used to defend it grates a bit. Upon rereading my post, I also want to apologize for being rude; I’m midway through a PhD in political economy, and I spend so much of my time as a TA listening to college freshmen make bizarre arguments about their newfound libertarianism…as you can imagine, it’s even more pronounced in an election year!

  39. @VS your just attacking Ben not making a stand on the issue. Government involvement in most industries is inefficient as government is inefficient. If you disagree with that fine, but let’s be honest no one holds government spending in check, hence the deficit. Of course there needs to be saftey standards which all companies are held accountable but it is not a government issue to ensure comfort of passengers. Consumers should have a choice to choose a cheaper fare with less leg room if that’s what they want. This legislation would destroy that. And to use the argument of something being unfair as to why to enforce regulation comes across as very harmful to the ideas of capitalism and the free market. I mean where do we draw the line…maybe I should have to share part of my house with other to allow them to be comfortable. Just like a politician you attack Ben but do not make any elegant argument to the contrary or explain how you would describe the issue. Not to mention Ben writes a travel blog, not a political blog, it is not realistic for him to make a PhD level argument on his blog.

  40. Well, my issue is you do not know exactly what your legroom will be when you buy a flight because the airline can change configuration or equipment without recourse. I bought a seat on ANA 787 8-abreast when that’s all they had, months in advance. At check in I find they have reconfigured to 9-abreast. I didn’t get what I paid for.
    Lucky, I get your reasoning but they airline needs to be forced to state and commit to provide the product you purchased, exactly.

  41. I think most people who are against this and posted here, have some sort of status with an airline. Due to the consolidation in the industry consumers don’t really have a choice. The airlines know you have to fly and cannot take a car or the train as an alternative. If the people who are so against this have to fly regular coach East to West coast or Texas to Washington state frequently their answers would be different. Flying in coach these days sucks. And what you deem reasonable for an upgrade is not affordable for a family of 4.

  42. Okay here is the problem I am having. For those who want to make the argument you have to fly and you don’t have a choice. You could argue that for any industry. There are three major grocery stores near my house. Do they make a profit when I buy groceries…yes. Do I sometimes buy cheaper cuts of meat or seafood…yes. You can’t use the argument of the grocery stores know you have to eat so they make a profit and sometimes charge too much. You could make this argument in any industry. This topic is rapidly approaching a political debate.

  43. I’d be interested to see a more detailed/scientific analysis of the psychology behind airfare purchases. It’s true that people seem generally unwilling to pay even a little extra for a superior product, but that really isn’t the case in most other areas of life. Plenty are willing to pay more for a burger at Five Guys than at McDonald’s. They’re willing to pay more for a sweater from J. Crew than for one from Target. They’ll gladly pay more for brand-name electronics than for cheaper off-brands. Heck, people shell out money for nicer hotels all the time. So why isn’t there much demand for a higher-quality, higher-priced product when it comes to air travel? I’m guessing the obsession with finding the absolute lowest price really started picking up with the advent of Kayak and other aggregators that put the cheapest flights at the top – sometimes flights that are only a few dollars more expensive get bumped to page 2 of results.

  44. Agree with Lucky on this. I always pay for my extra-legroom seats the day before departure (unless there are tons of F seats available and I’m sure my upgrade will clear). Even at this late stage, there are always several premium seats remaining. Airlines don’t even charge that much for extra legroom seats on domestic flights. And yet people don’t pay for them. If enough people were paying that premium and seats were always running out, airlines would have an incentive to expand that section or possibly increase legroom cabin-wide. At the moment though, they rarely ever sell all those seats and end up upgrading their elites into them.

    People yap and yap about legroom and won’t pay 50 dollars extra for a seat with more room. Same thing with all the fees for bags and other things. The legacies offered that, and customers were consistently shelling out for the lowest fares on Spirit, Frontier etc. And Ryanair and EasyJet in Europe. True consumer preferences are revealed by purchasing behavior, not constant complaints about the declining quality of air travel.

  45. @James about the psychology as you put it – part of it might have to do with the fact that travel is simply a means to an end for most people. Sure food is a means to fuel our bodies, but most of us would think of the burger as something we want, so we’d pay more to enjoy a better one. A flight, however, is an just an inconvenient couple of hours in a noisy vessel to get where I really want/need to be.

    Of course, this is not the case if you love planes and/or traveling like Lucky and a lot of his readers.

  46. “It’s totally ok for you to be out of touch; I mean, your job is reviewing luxury travel. But try to refrain from discussing government policy in a way that comes across like a college freshman who’s three weeks into Econ 101 and just discovered Ron Paul exists.”

    Yessss! Why is it that the most economically illiterate tend to be those who claim to be most aggressively pro free market? The classic “prices will rise, it’s econ 101!” retort to discussion of increasing the minimum wage is my personal favourite.

    Also thank you for articulating how gross it is for someone who spends his life reviewing 1st class travel to talk about how people can ‘simply’ pay for more legroom in economy if they’re so inclined.

  47. Question: does the USA have regulations for the transport of animals (cows, sheep, etc.), specifying minimum space per animal, maximum transportation distance, for example? Such welfare regulations exist in the EU, except for humans 😉

  48. Anyone who thinks competition really exists doesn’t live in the real world. Bankers all went to Harvard and know what each other are thinking. Airline executives have worked at several airlines. Yes you have choice and can vote with your wallet. You have a choice of 30 inches on one airline or 30.5 on another! Or you can just pay more and make it 31! Enough variation so no one can say there’s no choice, but not enough to really matter.

  49. Any time a Democrat starts talking about “fairness” I check my wallet to make sure nothing’s been taken.

  50. I take umbrage at the idea that we “have to” fly. We don’t. People have lived for thousands of years without leaving their little village and the human race hasn’t gone extinct. You don’t need to take all the kids to the family reunion three states away or on holiday to Florida, that is a want.

    What people have not been saying is that cheaper airfare, caused in part by having more seats in a cabin, has led to those people who could not afford to go see grandma for Christmas ten years ago being able to do so now with the whole family.

    We also don’t think of travel as an even in itself. It’s just a nuisance to deal with untill we get to where we need to go. We cry about the good old days of luxury travel and then buy a ticket in the $1MEGABUS because traveling comfortably is too expensive. We complain but don’t see the value of more space, of better amenities. We like to complain. And that’s the crux of it. We complain about leg space and overhead space and then refuse to pay $50 for an exit row, or $200 for premium economy.

  51. The issue is that the industry is only partially regulated. Drop regulations prohibiting foreign carriers from flying domestic US routes. Drop government controls on which carriers get which gates at various airports, and maybe you could get actual competition. Let Emirates, CX, or El Al compete ORD-DFW, etc. Knock down barriers to entry and someone else might come up with a large legroom product, without some of the other garbage I don’t care about, for the same price as a legacy.

    BUT, we have a system that is rife with regulation, thereby limiting competition. In that situation, partial regulation has limited competition to the point that choice is limited. Air travel as we know it only functions because of heavy, competition limiting regulation.

    With that in mind, I encourage the government to make any rule it likes to further regulate one of its pet industries, and hopefully it makes my life a little better by getting my knees out of the back of the guy in front of me.

  52. If the government wants to get involved in things, why not fix that it’s often cheaper to fly 8+ hours internationally than 2 hours domestically.

    Let foreign carriers run domestic routes — then we’ll have some fun and service again.

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