The decreasing size of seats could affect your ability to escape in an emergency and can make you more likely to develop health problems while on a flight.
I originally assumed this CBS News article was going to be click-bait, but it actually makes some good points about safety standards, the ideal scenarios used for them, and how reality differs.
For example, the article talks about how evacuation tests are done in planes with 31 inches of seat pitch, when a lot of planes have less room than that. There are further biases to the test.
Before any new jet is allowed to fly, the manufacturer must prove that everybody can evacuate in 90 seconds with half of the exits blocked.
Carry-on baggage is strewn throughout the cabin, and the test is conducted in night-like conditions. However, the cabin is not filled with smoke, and all of the passengers are physically fit, dressed in athletic clothing and know that an evacuation is coming.
Basically the tests are done by the manufacturer and do not necessarily follow the configurations the airlines ultimately develop. The evacuees are also in ideal physical condition and are experiencing ideal conditions.
That’s not your average flight.
As far as the health part, the author linked the smaller seat pitches to blood clots. The article also briefly mentioned a stat–that people in the window seat are twice as likely to get blood clots as those in the aisle.
I”ll take this a step further and suggest that the smaller the seat pitch, the less convenient it is for people to get up. This makes them less likely to walk around and even more likely to develop blood clots.
I’ve had some flights where I’ve felt pretty uncomfortable in my seat. My legs have fallen asleep and my knees have ached. And I’m a petite person.
I can’t imagine being a tall person in coach for some airlines.