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JULY 5, 2018
Meyerson on TAP
Adding Insult (More Precisely, Discomfort and Anger) to Injury. Airline passengers, abandon all hope. On Tuesday, Donald Trump’s Federal Aviation Administration decreed that it would do nothing about the relentless shrinkage of airplane seats and legroom. Rejecting a plea from Flyers’ Rights (a passengers’ organization) and a judge’s order that it reconsider its position, the FAA said that such concerns as passenger comfort were none of its business.
Over the past couple of decades, the average width of a coach airline seat has shrunk from 18.5 inches to 17 inches. The average amount of seat pitch (the distance between your seat and the seat in front of you) in coach has shrunk from 35 inches to 31 inches, though on some airlines it’s been scrunched to 28 inches.
The size of the average passenger has not shrunk correspondingly.
If passengers flying in steerage—excuse me, in coach—have problems with the FAA’s obeisance to the airlines, they’re left with what is effectively the non-option of imploring the airlines themselves. However, the years of seat shrinkage coincide with the years that airlines have increasingly come under the control of private-equity firms and other large-scale investors bent on squeezing more seats on to the planes and more profits out of the airlines. In 2015, a former private-equity executive and American Airlines board member penned a gushing column in The Wall Street Journal, celebrating how private equity’s ownership of American had eliminated the “inefficiencies” (such as the decent treatment of passengers) that had reduced the airline’s profits. Just yesterday, the Journal reported that a private-equity firm had purchased Sun Country Airlines.
Squeezed between the voraciousness of finance capital and the indifference to public welfare of Trump’s regulatory agencies, the American airline passenger has been officially told to lump it—and the lump had better be small. ~ HAROLD MEYERSON

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