Anyone who’s tall enough knows the struggle of trying to squish into the back of an airplane’s seat — so it’s a bit surprising that The Wall Street Journal managed to wrangle the CEOs of American Airlines and Delta, both six feet, three inches, into the cramped coach seats of their respective company’s airplanes to talk about seating space. And while there, both CEOs said that their seats wouldn’t get any tighter, though neither apologized for the scant legroom at the back of their planes. If people wanted more space, both said, then they can pay more for it.
“I feel what our customers experience,” American Airlines CEO Doug Parker told the Journal. The CEO claimed to ride coach about a third of the time — typically when the swankier seats were already booked. Delta CEO Ed Bastian, meanwhile, said that shrinking seat sizes was something the airline had to do in years past, when it was losing money. “We’re not making those decisions any longer,” he said.
Legroom in standard coach for both Delta and American can be up to a full two inches skimpier than that of similar planes from Southwest or JetBlue. Recently, American Airlines and others have even trimmed down the size of their seating to pack more people onto their flights, particularly in coach. While it might make sense economically, the tight squeeze makes for an unpleasant flight. Some passenger advocates have even tried to lobby Congress to force a federal standard on airlines, arguing that tighter rows make for a safety hazard in the event of an emergency (though the truth is that it actually won’t, according to experts).
United CEO Oscar Munoz was asked to participate in a coach-seat interview with the Journal as well, but declined.