Speed Reads

RIP personal bubble

It's not your imagination. Airplane seats are shrinking.

Feeling increasingly cramped during your holiday travel? You're not imagining it. Airlines and aircraft manufacturers have been oh-so-subtly slimming down their planes' seats and facilities to squeeze in more passengers, The Wall Street Journal reports. The average flight now has 142 seats, compared with 137 two years ago, thanks to the installation of skinnier seats, tighter bathrooms, and smaller galleys to cram in more rows. Airbus, which makes planes for American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Lufthansa, and many others, plans to boost the maximum number of passengers allowed on its A320 jets from 180 to 189, and from 220 to 240 on the A321. JetBlue's A320 planes will increase to 162 seats from 150.

A key trick to packing in more people, The Journal notes, is using thinner backrests that give passengers more legroom but less overall seating space. The traditional seat afforded 32 total inches of space with 22 inches of legroom, while a typical new design gives just 30 inches of total space but 24 inches of legroom. While you can stretch your feet a bit more, there's less distance between your nose and the head of the guy in front of you. Psychologists say it's that lack of eye-level room that makes people feel so squished in.