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Before You Go

For Sunday, May 25, 2014

By McClatchy News Services


‘Densification' crowds airline cabins

If you fly in the economy section, it may seem lately that you're sharing the cabin with more passengers than ever.

A new analysis suggests that some airlines are carrying slightly fewer passengers per plane, but it may seem crowded because more room has been set aside for passengers in the front of the cabin and less to fliers in the back.

The shift is evident by the number of airlines that have installed "slim line" seats in economy and coach while adding extra rows of roomy seats for high-paying business- and first-class passengers, said John Walton of the flight-rating site Routehappy.com.

Slim-line seats have thin cushions in the backrest, allowing airlines to squeeze in an extra row of seats.

Walton compared the original seat arrangement for several carriers with the seating layout today.

For example, United Airlines launched the Boeing 777-200 in 1995 with 12 first-class passenger seats, 49 business-class seats and 231 in economy — a total of 292 seats. Today one popular layout for the same plane has eight first-class seats, 40 business-class seats and 221 seats in economy — a total of 269 seats, he said.

To make room for roomier, lie-flat seats in first class and business class, Walton said, United squeezed more coach seats into areas previously occupied by galleys and lavatories. Thus, United 777-200s typically have four or five lavatories in economy, compared with six in the original configuration.

Seth Kaplan of the trade publication Airline Weekly said he can't confirm Walton's analysis, but agrees that passengers in the back of the plane are getting squeezed more today. "Densification is a major trend in the industry now," he said.


Los Angeles Times

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