THE airlines are not doing it. Congress could not either. Nor could a petition with tens of thousands of signatures. The Federal Aviation Administration declined to do it, too. But now, a federal judge may finally do what the others failed to, or would not: stop seat rows on aeroplanes inching closer and closer together.

“This is the case of the incredible shrinking airline seat,” began Judge Patricia Millett of the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in her strongly worded ruling, handed down on July 28th. The case began nearly two years ago, when FlyersRights.org, a non-profit passenger advocacy group, circulated a petition demanding regulation of the distance between rows of plane seats, known as seat pitch. Average seat pitch in America, the petition noted, had declined from 35 to 31 inches in the past few decades. (American Airlines planned earlier this year to space some rows just 29 inches apart on new planes, before agreeing under pressure to add an extra inch.)...Continue reading