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Tempers flare as legroom in planes shrinks

Airlines use thinner seats and squeeze in more rows to keep fares low

Published Mon, Dec 23, 2013 · 10:00 PM
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[NEW YORK] Flying coach can be a bruising experience these days.

Rory Rowland said he was rudely rebuffed after he asked the person in front of him not to recline his seat on a red-eye flight. When he later got up to use the bathroom, and the other passenger had fallen asleep, "I hip-checked his seat like you wouldn't believe," Mr Rowland, a speaker and consultant, said, then feigned innocence when the enraged passenger complained to a flight attendant.

With air travellers increasingly feeling like packed sardines, flying has become a contact sport, nowhere more than over the reclined seat.

Now, it's only getting worse, as airlines re-examine every millimetre of the cabin.

Over the last two decades, the space between seats - hardly roomy before - has fallen about 10 per cent, from 34 inches (86 cm) to somewhere between 30 and 32 inches. Today, some airlines are pushing it even further, leaving only a kne…

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