Why Airlines Are Making Planes Less Roomy

May 5th 2017

Kyle Jaeger

There's a lot to not like about flying: overbooking, delays, lengthy security lines, and a lack of legroom to name a few examples.

Well, that last complaint is getting worse.

Plane in the Sky

In a bid to add more seats to its planes and increase revenue, American Airlines announced on Wednesday that it would be decreasing the amount of legroom you'll get on a flight. United is also considering shrinking space to make room for additional seating, CNN reported. So if you've ever felt like your flights were getting a little cozier, you're not alone. Data from Seat Guru demonstrates how much legroom we've lost over the years.

ATTN: created illustrations that break down the amount of legroom you get (or don't get) on seven major airlines.








Airlines have been compromising comfort to cut costs since 1978, when former President Jimmy Carter signed the Airline Deregulation Act. The law freed airlines from federal government control, allowing them to decide things like fares, routes, and legroom. Though the law did lower overall fares and increase the number of flights, it's also left passengers more cramped, Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst at the Atmosphere Research Group, told ATTN:.

Discomfort ranks among the top complaints passengers have about air travel, and Harteveldt said that American's decision to reduce legroom could become a factor influencing how passengers select their flights going forward.

"Airlines have already cut costs to the bone," he said. "Adding these seats isn’t about American [Airlines] reducing its costs. It’s about American trying to make more money."

Though companies looking to make a profit isn't unusual or inherently wrong, Harteveldt noted that his research firm found that 23 percent of consumers are "loyal" to a specific airline — but that loyalty has declined "in each of the 17 years that I’ve been an analyst."

He went on to add, "If American wants to make more money, it should take steps to create and deliver a product so good that travelers will fly American even when it’s not the most convenient or least expensive airline."