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Seat Pitch-the Next Battleground?
Some Airlines Looking at Seat Pitch as Profit Booster
Seat Pitch Safety and Health Issues
Fees, Fees, Fees
Kate’s Week

Seat Pitch as Airline Profit Booster?

Taking the term “Cattle Car” to the next level, meet SkyRider, a new airline seat that resembles a padded saddle and lets airline pack in up to 40% more travelers per flight.   There is, apparently, no upper limit on ridiculous.
Even as airline passenger rights legislation builds momentum through Congress, airlines are still looking for other ways to squeeze us.
Seat pitch is the distance between rows of seats – the measurement from the same position on two seats, one behind the other – it is NOT the legroom area, as some believe. (For example, the back face of the seat in front of you, measured to the same point on the back face of the seat you are sitting in).  There are no FAA standards for seat pitch.  As things stand, the airlines can do whatever they want with it.
How much seat pitch do the airlines provide now?  The Skytrax site, run by research organization Airline Equality, published a report of current pitch offerings.  Depending on the airline, first class pitch is between 80 and 94 inches, while coach pitch is between 31 and 35 inches. 
So now what?  The picture at the right illustrates the seat.  According to a YahooNews article, these little beauties would decrease pitch to about twenty-three inches!  Think about your last, miserable coach ride, sitting in a pitch space in the low-thirties range. 
“Hey,” say the manufacturers, “Cowboys work all day in a saddle, no problem.”  Are any of you riders?  How long did it take you to get over that hideous, saddle-sore feeling?  Did any of you ever notice how funny cowboys walk?  Do you want to do a cowboy walk from Gate D5,231 to the baggage area at The William B. Hartsfield Airport?
The obvious discomfort aside, there are serious health and safety issues associated with this design.   Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is the formation of a blood clot in a deep vein.  The clot can break loose and travel to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism.  Immobility on long airline flights has been directly linked to DVT formation.  In fact, DVT is the second-leading cause of death on airplanes.  Think you’re immobile in coach now?  How about sitting on a saddle for four to six hours?  This is not just a matter of inconvenience and discomfort.  It is likely to be a matter of life and death!
Another life and death consideration is the ability to quickly evacuate an aircraft.  The FAA says in the Code of Federal Regulations that carriers must demonstrate the ability to fully evacuate an aircraft in 90 seconds. Obviously, the closer the seat pitch, the more difficult it is to get out of the row-especially if you’re in a window seat.  Do you want to be trapped in an airplane in an emergency just so the airlines can increase their bottom line?
This idea seems ridiculous on the face of it, but then, who thought airlines would ever charge us to move our bags with us, eliminate food service, think about installing pay toilets, open up an onboard blanket and pillow concession, and otherwise nickel and dime us to death each and every time we fly?
What do you think?  Visit our form at and weigh in under the News heading, topic Saddle Seats.  While you’re at it, take a look at our web site and sign our petition in support of airline passenger rights.

Seat Pitch Safety and Health Issues

We received an e-mail from member JoBeth C. last week, providing a vivid example of the DVT issue we discussed above.  Here’s her story, in her own words:
I flew from Madrid to Atlanta in May on Delta. When I got to my row, I had to climb over the aisle seat to get to my middle seat–there was no way a human adult could stand in the few inches of legroom, even with all the seats upright.

I picked up a Sky Mall catalog and measured my space: 11 inches, from my nose to the seatback in front of me. Delta’s website says I can expect 30 inches minimum, so I guess they reconfigured the rows from what would have been normal. Nearly every seat on the flight seemed to have at least 30 inches of space, and some had much more. No other rows were as tight as this one.  My seat’s overhead light would only illuminate the man’s head in front of me. My tray table was only four inches deep, but I couldn’t use it because it hit my seat arms and bounced up. Obviously, something was not right on this row, but the flight was full.

My knees hit the seat in front (I’m normal weight for my 5’8″ height) and within an hour, I had a cramp in one leg from being pretzeled into such a tight space. The seat belt light stayed on for about 80% of the flight, despite any noticeable turbulence — I got up anyway, as much as possible, trying to get the cramp to subside. It was the most horrible flight I have been on in 30 years of frequent travel — and I was stuck in that seat nearly 10 hours.

The horrifying result: I now have a blood clot (deep vein thrombosis or DVT) in my right ankle. This is not normal for an active 46-year-old, so my doctors are pretty sure it was this Madrid flight that did it. I have had to inject myself with blood thinners, and will be on Coumadin for at least three months, or possibly for the rest of my life. That leg vein will never be <
same.  In addition, my lower back went into spasm after the flight, and I am in physical therapy to treat that.

DVT is, according to recent studies, so common that it will strike one person on every two flights — but those are only the ones we KNOW about.  DVT can be fatal and disabling, yet is often mistaken for other illnesses and injuries (as in my case: one doctor told me I’d only sprained a tendon). It is considered the number one preventable reason for hospitalization in the U.S.

I complained in writing to Delta, with no result.  So I complained to the DOT, to the FAA, and to my wonderful senator, Barbara Boxer. I am trying to get the word out; an elderly or injured person sitting in a seat like this one would have a very high chance of having a fatal or disabling clot.
To me, this is a life or death issue, and definitely needs to be addressed in any legislation about passenger’s rights. I have spent thousands and lost weeks of work, thanks to Delta’s greed: they may make a few extra dollars by truncating that seat row, but they may be directly causing millions of dollars in costs to passengers.

 Fees, Fees, Fees

The DOT Notice of Proposed Rulemaking contains a number of proposals on airline fees.  First, they think that the airlines need to disclose all those junk fees up front, so that we can make informed decisions regarding real ticket prices.  Kate appeared on the Fox Business Channel Friday, discussing this very issue.  They also say that if we have to pay an airline $25 to $50 to deliver our bag to us at our destination, then they should deliver the bag at destination!  If not, give us our money back, they say.
These and the other proposals are absolutely reasonable, but, of course, the forces of the airlines and their supporting organizations are rallying to fight them.  “Reasonable” and “airline” are not words normally seen in the same sentence, we fear. 
The Airline Transport Association, true to form, has issued a statement of objection to the DOT’s suggestion that airlines should return money for unfulfilled contracts, like baggage delivery.  If you and your bag don’t arrive at the same place at the same time, the airline has failed to fulfill their contract with you, and the money involved in that contract should be returned to you.  Carl Unger published a wonderful article on the Smarter Travel web site, stating the ATA’s objections and then demolishing them, one by one.  Please take a minute to click on that article.
Friends, the airlines will do whatever falls under the “Because They Can” category until we stand up and tell them they can’t.  None of this regulation activity- any of it- need have happened, but most airlines have acted without regard for us, and with total regard for their bottom line, for so long that it’s obvious the government needs to step in.

Kate’s Week

Kate talked with USA Today’s Gary Stoller last week, discussing the fee issue.  To read his article, click here
MSNBC asked Kate to weigh in on the tarmac delay rule controversy again, and she did that in the interview for this story
Finally, as we mentioned above, she appeared on the Fox Business Channel Friday morning in a live interview, discussing the unbundled fee issue.
We now have a blog spot on the Huffington Post!  Check out Kate’s first posting.
 As always, she fielded e-mails and phone calls from members raising passenger rights issues and concerns.


“TheWar Is Not Over”
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