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Airlines Are Finally Fixing the Shrunken Seats That Make Flying So Miserable — Here's What to Expect Delta, United Airlines and more have announced some big — and expensive — changes.

By Amanda Breen Edited by Jessica Thomas

Key Takeaways

  • Airline passengers are willing to pay more for a comfortable in-flight experience.
  • The Big Four domestic airlines have reduced seat width two inches since the 1980s.

Airline passengers sick of cramped economy seating are paying up to enjoy more room and other perks up front.

Now, some of the biggest carriers are trying to meet that demand by spending big on aircraft seating upgrades — a $2.6 billion market that's still growing, per AeroDynamic Advisory, CNBC reported.

Related: A 'Very Frustrating' Issue Could Thwart Your Summer Air Travel

Delta, JetBlue Airways, United Airlines, American Airlines, Finnair and Lufthansa are among the airlines that have recently revealed "upgraded first-class seats, suites with sliding doors or premium economy cabins," according to the outlet.

Singapore Airlines and Emirates are two carriers going above and beyond: The former boasts newer first-class cabins with full-height doors, joining beds for travel companions, and the square footage of a small hotel room, and the latter features an onboard shower for first-class passengers on some aircraft, per CNBC.

Of course, the price difference can be stark. A Delta business class ticket between New York and London leaving September 15 and returning the next week starts at $3,787. The economy version of the same route begins at just $449.

The Big Four domestic airlines, American, Delta, Southwest and United, have shrunk legroom pitch anywhere from two to five inches and seat width two inches since the 1980s, Condé Nast Traveler reported.

And travelers, who are already paying exorbitant prices to fly, have had enough.

Natalie Rasmussen, an application scientist who lives near San Jose, California, told CNBC that she refuses to fly economy on long-haul flights and recently paid $500 to upgrade on her Delta flight home from Europe.

Related: Traveler Upgraded to First Class, Then Faced 'No-Fly List' Threat

The interest in post-pandemic travel also appears to be a contributing factor: Economy seats accounted for almost 81.9% of seats between the U.S. and Europe in 2018, down to 79.3% today, according to aviation data from Cirium, per the outlet.

Amanda Breen

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior Features Writer

Amanda Breen is a senior features writer at Entrepreneur.com. She is a graduate of Barnard College and received an MFA in writing at Columbia University, where she was a news fellow for the School of the Arts.

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