Hawaii senators want an end to shrinking airplane seat sizes | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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Hawaii senators want an end to shrinking airplane seat sizes

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS In this Sept. 23, 2013 photo, Southwest Airlines aircraft technicians install skinnier seats on a 737 at the carrier's headquarters in Dallas.

A group of Hawaii lawmakers says the growing size of Americans and obesity issues should be taken into account when airlines determine the size of their seats.

Many travelers are getting fed up with the tight spaces they’re allowed on airplanes, so a group of state senators introduced a resolution urging the federal Secretary of Transportation to set minimum sizes for airplane seats.

“They’re packing more and more people into the aircraft,” said state Sen. Clarence Nishihara, chairman of the Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs, one of two Senate committees that passed the resolution today.

“They’re just stuck like cattle,” Nishihara added.

Airlines for America, an industry group that represents Hawaiian Airlines, United and other major carriers, opposed the legislation, saying there’s no data to suggest seat sizes are unsafe. They said domestic airlines carry 2.1 million customers — each with their own comfort desires and dimension needs — every day.

“Airlines already offer varied products within each aircraft at different price points,” said David Berg, senior vice president of the group, in written testimony against the resolution. “If an individual desires more leg room there is a product for that. Customers should decide what space they want, not the federal government.”

Industry experts say people generally choose lower fares over bigger seats, and that to offer lower airlines have to put more people on planes.

“My general opinion on this is that it’s ridiculous, because people say they want more room on planes, but what they really want are cheap fares,” said Brett Snyder, president of Cranky Concierge and author of the travel blog The Cranky Flier. “The airlines respond to that and have effectively tried to provide a variety of options for a lot of things.”

State Sen. Brickwood Galuteria, who stands at a tall six-foot-four and introduced the resolution, said he usually pays more for extra leg room, but a lot of other guys who are his size can’t afford the luxury.

After the hearing, state Sen. Lorraine Inouye, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Energy which also passed the resolution, said she’d suggest that it be sent to the Federal Aviation Administration, which is more likely to impact the situation.

“The Legislature is wasting its time,” said Henry Harteveldt, founder of Atmosphere Research Group, a travel industry research company. There have been efforts in the U.S. Senate to regulate seat width and leg room, but those have gone nowhere, he said.

“It’s never fun to have your seat mate using your shoulder as a pillow, but unfortunately these decisions are outside government control at this point,” Harteveldt said.

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  • Competition always improves products and services. We need to allow International carriers to fly from Honolulu to the Continental US and back. I know that we’ll have better options and quality of air service.

    The flying public deserve better.

    • US carriers provide many options. Customers need to shop and embrace the reality that you get what you pay for. US Cabotage laws prevent foreign air carriers from flying US citizens between 2 US cities. If you think dumping our entire US owned and operated aviation industry to benefit foreign companies and their employees while they replace our US industry is worth it, you are sadly mistaken. Americans need to stop stuffing food down their bloated bodies and solve THAT problem first. Then an economy seat won’t seem so bad after all. If you are a big person, spring for the offering of a “premium seat’ or go first class. if that is too expensive, rethink your travel plans. If you can’t fly because you’re so huge AND you can’t afford a big seat, then pray for the return of an ocean going ferry. Then we can wheel you aboard in a pick up truck. Hawaii politicians need to face reality. If a passenger is so big they cannot fit into a regular seat, that person creates other safety issues on the plane that are far more pressing. How do they get out? They can’t fit through an emergency door. They can barely fit walking down the aisle! Even in an effort to get on and off the plane normally, they slow (or virtually stop) the boarding process until they squeeze down the aisle and wedge themselves into a seat. There are far more issues here than just “fitting” their big bodies into a seat. Better pick and choose your battles carefully.

  • They got it wrong, fat people should not be flying, they pose a liability. If a plane has to change course and land, I get stuck with the delay. Lose weight, get healthy before you fly. Legislators forget that most of the tourist coming here are from Asia, most are skinny and fit in their seats not like fat a.. Americans. I worry everytime I see a fat flight attendant waddle down the aisle on American carriers, bet they can’t even do CPR! Worse, they are going to block my exit in an emergency. Add fat passengers to the mix….. I look at Asian carriers and they are skinny and fit when they move up and down the aisles, at least if they go done I can step over them or throw them to the side if I have to make a quick edit, burning to death hurts.

  • Hurray! I hope they are successful in regulating seat sizes. I’m an average size person who recently sat next to a smaller petite person. While we both fit in our seats, our shoulders were touching. If seats get any narrower, yes, we would fit in the seat but for most of us our the shoulder span is wider than our butt so we won’t be able to comfortably sit with our shoulders straight. I can imagine how uncomfortable it would be if I were sitting next to a bigger person! This sounds like another way to charge passengers more for what should be standard seats! These people who are making these changes should take a long flight in coach and see how they like it.

    • The airlines are selling you space on the plane. If you are large, then you need to pay for more space. Same with buying clothes. If you’re a large, you don’t buy small shirt and small pants.

  • That’s it, kids can’t do algebra so we cut out that requirement. People get too fat so we make door openings and seats bigger. As soon as the state starts running their own airline they can dictate how big the seats are. Until then, why don’t you work on getting the ferry back so we can have another alternate method of getting to the other islands.

    • No matter your prejudices, it is a fact that in the last 20 years the airlines have narrowed the ailes and narrowed the seats so that they can squeeze more people in the plane. You add that to all the nickle and dime and fees and IS a concerted effort just to make more money. Since your “imprisoned and captured” during the flight(at worst, the last flt I took the seat belt sign was on the whole 6 hours!!).We need an advocate!! It is also just attitude and service, someone else mentioned foreign planes. Most are interested in service and comfort and don’t do what Hawaiian. Delta United etc do to their passengers.
      Point 2 I am not a gym rat or fanatic at all, but I do believe it is not right, nor safe to have 3-400lb people try to sit in seats made for someone 180 lbs!. If that is life style and choice…Fine. But pay for 2 seats. Again, on another flt i took recently, A man that was at least 350lbs sat between us. His shear size resulted in his body taking 1/2 of each of our seats besides his.. The Steward eventually was so concerned that they took in back to sit on the double attendant seat until landing!

      • You got the best remedy so far; have x-large person to buy two seats. I traveled with a friend who was not obese, just a big guy and I still remember telling him sitting next to each other with our shoulders already touching each other; I said to him, “brah make sure you sit-small” to which he broke out into a loud laugh. We still laugh about that experience.

  • Take a look at videos and pictures of people from the 60’s and now. You’d be amazed how fat people have become. Thanks to the corn fed cattle, fast food and junk food.

  • What’s up with our Legislators. Can’t they come with an idea of their own??C’mon now HI Senators this was New York’s Senator Chuck Schummers idea!!

  • We always take a foreign airline over a US one if possible. They know how to treat passengers and there is almost always enough room to be comfortable on a long flight even if you have a heavier person in the seat next to you.

  • Once again, the republican morons of the chamber of commerce wants the conusmer to think its their fault for the uncomfortable seats. When in fact its about corporate greed. There is no logic to make the seats smaller to make the flying experience better. Its republican bull. Thank God they will be done once the new president takes over. Kiss the do-nothing, hateful republican senators and conressmen goodbye. The truth is, if the airlines just treated its paying customers well, they would have tons more business. I guess it doesn’t matter to them, because no matter how they treat the public, people will still have to fly in most cases. That’s why Singapore AL, Emerits AL and Korean AL have high satisfaction ratings versus almost all of the US AL’s. Greed is at the root.

    • honupono: Where is it written that the Chamber of Commerce is involved? That’s not in their Mission Statement. Also, the person who introduced the resolution is not a Republican. Brickwood Galuteria is a diehard Democrat, reflecting the mentality that government is best to run private enterprise. Hawaiian Air (ironically a company Galuteria once worked for as a sales representative) and other airlines, offer fair prices based on individual needs and affordability, keeping in mind there’s no perfect solution to the argument. Bottom line is (pun intended), others will pay for the additional space being pursued and undoubtedly those who don’t want it or don’t need it, will end up paying for it anyway. That’s the Liberal mindset.

  • minimum size, minimum wage, soon to come minimum sleep, minimum see, minimum talk, minimum family time. when are these nuts going to stay out of your life? pay for seat if you’re uncomfortable. choose the flight that best fits your need.

  • A few years ago airlines were screaming about needing to charge for each piece of luggage so that fliers would stop carrying so many suitcases, reducing the weight of baggage. Some even charge for carry-ons. They said nothing about the weight of passengers. All in the name of reducing the amount of fuel required per plane. Now they make the seats smaller and closer together so that they can add seats. More seats means more weight from additional passengers (forget the size issue) and more weight from the additional suitcases. If the airlines were really serious about saving weight and the resultant saving fuel, they would have fewer seats per plane not add more seats. Maybe it’s time the government re-instituted government regulation of the airlines. We’ve tried letting the airlines regulate themselves and basically what that has done is to allow the airlines to charge whatever they want for every little thing. When I flew in the 60′ and 70’s airlines cared about passenger comfort and providing good service. Nowadays it’s all about their bottom line (and investors financial returns) passenger comfort and good service be damned.

  • You legislators are wrong. Pass a law it’s a crime to be obese or buy two Sears. Or pay more for luxury seats. when is it a life or death situation that a person travel on an airplane?? I agree the seats may be a little tight but catering to obesity is not right

    • funny, is this happening to anyone else? comment text is displaying as centered but when I post the HTML5 code to close centering, it appears normally. –strange (/center)

  • Moilee, “…this was New York’s Senator Chuck Schummers idea!” Sorry to hijack your post but I wanted to make sure it was not just a reply to your comment and we again give proper credit to Senator Chuck Shunmmer. It should have been noted in the new piece. Thank you for pointing this out.

  • Seriously????…I’m sure they have more pressing things to address!!…A lot of these “career politicians” have run out of ideas and have to be replaced by new blood. Get rid of the dead wood!

  • This battle has to be fought in Congress and with the Dept of Transportation. Don’t know of a Hawaii legislature resolution would have any effect.
    They need to get our vaunted Congressional delegation to do something about this in conjunction with others in the Congress.
    For starters, they may want to compare seat sizes with foreign airlines to see if their passenger accommodations are better, despite the fact that people in other countries
    are not as porkulent as those in the West tend to be nowadays.
    Unfortunately there is hardly any real competition in the US anymore since deregulation and the gobbling up of smaller airlines by the big boys.

    • Not only seat sizes but I look at the newest men’s suits which in my opinion looks like it’s atleast two sizes too small, especially so on a big person; what’s with that?, again a way in which the apparel industry saves on using less fabric.
      In foreign/Asian films where most actors are naturally slim, it looks o.k. but other than that?, not o.k. to me.
      Just another scheme to squeeze the consumer out of $$$$$.

  • The FAA is the “official lobby” for the airline industry. Google it. Try the NTSB to effect real change. Safety? I was on the UAL “seat change crew” at SFO: put more seats in for summer, take seats out for winter. Leg room. We were SHOCKED when the “FAA” allowed for the removal of FOUR inches of leg room between seat rows located adjacent to aircraft emergency exits located over the wings. The “FAA” claimed that the aircraft could still be evacuated in less than the required 90 seconds. In a hangar using gym-spa “volunteers”.

  • So much hatred towards overweight people, so should they get the best tables at restaurants if they are made to pay more for larger seats?

    The point is to stop shrinking seat sizes!!! we are not asking for larger seats but instead asking to stop shrinking them.
    So tall people have to pay more because they are tall? Is this the type of america we want to live in? everybody for themselves?
    Shame on you Pilot2.

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