According to the Wall Street Journal, with the push to promote first class seats to generate higher revenue, airlines found themselves with less space in economy class. To solve this problem, and not drop the number of passengers that can fit on board, carriers have slimmed the seats down to 17" (43.18 cm), about as big (and as comfortable) as the seats in a stadium.
The squeeze can help cash-squeezed airlines. Air France recently expanded the premium sections on its 777s while cutting the floor space in economy class. Yet the carrier kept the number of economy seats constant by switching from nine- to 10-abreast in the back, a spokesman said.
"On a 777, ten-abreast is the way to go," said Emirates President Tim Clark. "You'd be nuts to do it any other way."
Pressure in economy cabins also lets airlines upsell coach passengers. Air New Zealand Ltd. flies 10-abreast 777s on which fliers can book three economy seats that convert into a couch by raising the arm and leg rests.
Passengers aren't happy facing decreased shoulder room, more frequent bumps from service carts in narrower aisles and less overall comfort, said Andrew Wong, regional director of travel website TripAdvisor LLC in Singapore. Based on feedback to the company's SeatGuru website, he said, fliers "are becoming aware of increased seating abreast?particularly for the 777."
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