As if air travel weren't already a harrowing experience, passenger seats are actually getting smaller

If you felt a little claustrophobic on your last flight, you’re not the only one. Passengers are getting grumpier, as airlines continue to downsize seats and book flights to full capacity.

Airlines somehow keep managing to shrink the size of seats in an effort to stuff more people onto planes. And if you haven’t been seeing empty seats, it’s because they’re now occupied as airlines make an effort to keep flights fully booked. Unfortunately, this can also mean passengers with tickets are getting bumped when flights get overbooked.

More Passengers Bumped

Private researchers who analyzed federal data on airline performance recently reported that consumer complaints to the U.S. Department of Transportation surged last year even though other measures, such as on-time arrivals and improvements in mishandled baggage, show airlines are doing a better job in some respects.

Some of the airlines analyzed included Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, SkyWest, Southwest, United and US Airways. The rate at which passengers with tickets were denied seats because planes were full rose almost 20 per cent from 2011.

Seat Sizes Shrinking

But it’s not just getting bumped that is making travellers angry. The complaints are in relation to airlines turning 130-seat airplanes into 150-seaters in an attempt to get more revenue from each flight. Travellers simply aren’t taking the sardines-in-a-can approach to travel lightly and are now voicing their complaints.

Apparently, airlines are even looking at ways to make the tiny bathrooms onboard even more compact in an effort to add more seats.

The rise in complaints is regarded as an indicator of how big the problem actually is, since many unhappy passengers likely don’t even know that they can file complaints with the Department of Transportation, whose job it is to regulate airlines.

So, I wouldn’t expect to see roomier aircrafts anytime soon. But as I mentioned earlier, flight delays and incidents of mishandled baggage are decreasing every year, and that, at least, is definitely good news for travellers.

Claire Newell is the travel media expert for Global BC, host of the travel series Operation: Vacation, best-selling author, spokesperson, wife and mother of two.

Originally published in TVW. For daily programming updates and on-screen Entertainment news, subscribe to the free TVW e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.