Last updated: 12:29 PM ET, Fri November 04 2016

Why Do We Accept So Little Personal Space on Airplanes?

I fly a lot, and my preferred airline is Delta. Having flown seven times to Europe this year alone, I’m very pleased to have reached Platinum Medallion status for the first time. But as we all know flying isn’t what it used to be. We have to struggle through increased security measures – for safety’s sake I completely understand – only to be subjected to cramped seats once onboard.

While it’s true that economy has always been rather uncomfortable, nothing puts it more in focus than other passengers encroaching on your already tight personal bubble. I thought I had seen it all until the ultimate subject of passenger shaming presented itself on my return flight from Puerto Rico just days ago.

Apparently, the woman in front of me thought the interactive screen in front of her was the only such seat-back one on the plane as she decided to drape her long hair entirely over mine repeatedly. Now I usually rely on my iPhone with pre-downloaded shows to entertain me, so it didn’t bother me so much as amuse me. But she was a real winner, talking on her cell phone while the plane was taxiing before takeoff and displacing precious bin space with only a small bag and a jacket.

To be sure, air travel is still remarkable. In fact, comedian Louis C.K. has even hilariously commented on our dissatisfaction, adamantly reminding us how incredible it is that, “You’re sitting in a chair in the sky!” And of course, he’s not wrong.

But just what happened to the pursuit of creature comforts in the air? Many of us travel to exotic destinations to be pampered in spacious accommodations, after all. Why can’t it be like that getting to and from?

Well, it can be, for a hefty price. I have also flown in business class, and it’s a treat that casts a harsh contrasting shadow on economy. And it’s also very expensive. I, for one, drool over the accommodations that Crystal AirCruises will soon be offering, but with an inaugural price tag of $159,000 per person, it's unattainable by most.

Surely, there must be a happy medium, but airlines struggle with the economy of scale as much as cruise lines do. The more cabins, or in this case seats, that can be stuffed inside a ship or fuselage, the more money they will make off of each run, and we all love to seek the lowest fare accordingly.

But let’s also be fair to ourselves. In the battle of inches, it would really be nice to see narrow body planes become wider overall. Thankfully, Airbus heeded the call by making its A350XWB response to Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner a little over seven inches wider, amounting to an inch more per economy seat.

I hope more manufacturers get on this bandwagon and start to give us even more than just an inch extra, without an exorbitant charge from the airlines to enjoy what we should have been given all along.

Comments