The bottom line on airline seat roominess is that it’s more about safety than comfort for passengers in economy class.
The final version of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 says that the FAA should “study” the need for seat size regulation. The bill says the seating dimension should be safe and says nothing about comfort. To make seats more comfortable they would need to be to wider and recline more. The recline portion or pitch portion is easy and could improve a little. The airline could remove a couple of rows and increase the pitch or recline of the seats. The seats getting wider is a bigger problem. Most seats on US domestic flights are six-across and since the aisle must remain a certain width and the airplane itself can’t get any wider the only option is to reduce the seating to five-across in economy class. Realistically that change won’t happen as airfares would have to increase to cover the lost amount of revenue from decreasing the number of seats the airlines have to sell.
The bill says the seating dimensions should be safe—not comfortable. The FAA is heavily involved in passenger safety, and the key safety measure they’ve set is the ability of passengers to evacuate a survivable crash within 90 seconds. Comfort and elbow room are not part of the safety measure. So if you want comfort you’ll have to pay more for business or first class.
The best solution is to make your flight in economy class as comfortable as possible so that you can sleep during the flight. We’ve found the best way to do this is to block out as much as you can about your surroundings and try to sleep during your flight. Soothe your senses with eye-shades, noise canceling headphones, neck pillows, and lightweight blankets that fold down small. An alternative to the blanket is a large fashionable shawl. In essence, you’re cocooning yourself away. To make sure you never leave home without them always pack them and keep them in your carry-on bag or carry-on tote.