Airline seats an even tighter fit as passengers become broader

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The Independent Online

Passengers are finding airline seats an increasingly tight squeeze, a survey found yesterday.

Two-thirds of men are too broad-shouldered for their neighbours' liking in the smaller plane seats, which are 16in wide.

Women, meanwhile, have their own size problems, having put on an average of 1.5in around the hips between 1951 and 2002 - now measuring 40.5in - and having become broader across the shoulders, according to the research by First Choice holiday company.

The findings, which were released during an Association of British Travel Agents' convention, which analysed data from the national sizing survey SizeUK, also showed that one in seven women would feel too broad-shouldered in the narrowest seats, while about one third of male passengers would feel cramped in airline seats that are 17inwide.

And based on their width from side to side at the point below the waist, nearly one in five women found a 16in seat a tight fit, while only 5.3 per cent would be happy with a seat one inch wider.

Tim Williamson, First Choice's marketing director, said it would be using the findings to lobby authorities for setting an industry-wide standard for defining seat width and would also be pushing for greater accessibility for travellers to know seat sizes before they book a flight.

"In the past, airlines have tended to push extra leg room as a selling point. But while it is common knowledge that people are taller than they used to be, the survey is the first to show just how much wider they have become.

"All airlines choose a configuration which is right for them and their business model, but we believe that the measurement should be transparent and easy for customers to access," he said.