You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 5 a.m.

Airlines are thinking small as Americans are getting big

By Dear Abby


This letter is to offer sympathy to "Trish in Louisiana" (Sept. 25), who was seated next to two large passengers on a three-hour flight. It has happened to me.

The airlines control the size and weight of baggage, whether it's checked or carry-on, and charge when it's overweight. So why do they turn a blind eye when it comes to passengers who must endure being crowded out of the seats we have paid for? If airlines aren't willing to screen passengers for size, perhaps they should provide a few rows of larger seats to accommodate them.

Airlines have sacrificed comfort for economy to the point that the seats are simply too small. I'm an average-size woman, but I find the seats are barely large enough. They're crowded so close together you can't move your legs, and they don't actually recline. I agree with your advice to speak up if you find yourself being squeezed. -- ELLEN IN LAS CRUCES


While your letter reflects the views of many readers, they all emphatically agree that airlines need to do a better job of customer service regarding the seating on passenger planes. My newspaper readers comment:


As America grows larger, airline seats grow smaller. Trish was right to be compassionate. If airlines treat large people (who are also paying customers) like dirt so they can turn a profit by squeezing passengers into every inch of space, they are wrong.

There are ways to be creative and not humiliate anyone. The flight attendant could have moved a child to her seat with Mom across the aisle.

I recommend that flight attendants think along those lines, because having a gate attendant drag people off flights is not the best way to handle this and should only be a last resort. We're all customers, and we all deserve to be treated with dignity. -- MARY IN VIRGINIA BEACH, VA.


The fault lies with airline management. They should specify up front in their ad campaigns that if the passengers' dimensions exceed certain parameters, they must buy two tickets. -- COMFORTABLE ON THE GROUND


My heart goes out to all three. I am a plus-size woman and my husband is "normal" size. His field is marketing, and I showed him your letter. He said recent surveys have shown that one-third of people who refuse to fly do so because of the tight seating, and not fear of an accident. Airlines pack people in like sardines to make more money, and it is resented.

I quit flying years ago because of claustrophobia. If I had to fly now, I'd buy a first-class ticket. I wonder why the planes don't have six or eight seats in the back of coach that are larger and cost more money, but less than first class.

Something has to be done to make flying safer and more comfortable for everyone. Surely we have the intellectual capacity to solve these problems. -- NO LONGER A FREQUENT FLIER IN NEW YORK


It's unfortunate that Trish didn't stick to her guns and continue with her complaint. I believe airlines should head these problems off at the gate. They have a box to check the size of carry-on luggage; they should also have a passenger seat to check the size of people. If someone doesn't fit, then that person must buy an additional ticket for a second seat. -- REFUSES TO BE SQUISHED

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $12 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)