Airline Seats Getting Smaller

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(CNN) - Trying to cut costs, airlines are turning to slimmer seats.  That's all well and good for them, but as Sandra Endo reports, passengers aren't exactly excited about the prospect of less legroom.

Airlines and travelers are feeling the squeeze...

"It’s getting a little tight for everyone."

But in different ways ... For passengers.

"They’re getting more and more compact with the space. Definitely, more people on, make us all in there feel like, as they say, cattle car."

For airlines it's their bottom line.  Many carriers are starting to use new thinner seats to pack more people onto planes.  

"Passengers are not willing to pay the true cost of airfare and airlines have no other option but to squeeze more passengers into their aircraft, into economy class. That's what they are using these slim seats for. They are able to add an additional row of seats in economy."

More rows, equal more dollars. The average seat pitch, which is the distance between one point on a seat to the same point in front, is around 30-32 inches on most major airlines. Southwest is shrinking their seat pitch an inch, but they say a new slimmer seat design actually gives passengers more space. Spirit has been using lighter weight seats they say are pre-reclined and can't be adjusted since 2010. But comfort is key especially for longer flights.  

"Like, I’m going to Las Vegas so, yah, it’s a long fight and absolutely uncomfortable. Gets cramped, my legs start burning."

"For people sick of airports or air travel, the train is always another option. Here, on an Amtrak train, the seat pitch is about 40 inches. In a car there are many factors but with the front seat pulled back, the seat pitch is about 32 inches. And things aren't that glamorous or spacious here in the white house briefing room. The seat pitch here is 34 inches."

On planes, there's also that other dreaded factor, the randomness of the seating process.  

(Reporter: "and is that your worst fear? Someone big sitting next to you?")

"Well I have to admit I don't like it. Cause it's hard to stay off of one another. And nobody wants somebody they don't know all over them, so, you know, it's tough."

to give you an idea of the difference of seat pitch in economy and first class ... According to Tripadvisor's seat guru, the average American Airlines seat has a 31 to 32 inch pitch.

Up front, in first class, the pitch is 39 inches.

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