Three things I'd change about air travel

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Three things I'd change about air travel

Three things I'd change about air travel

Seats in the Senate

Humans are getting fatter. Airline seats are getting smaller. Two worrying and clashing trends.

Back in the so-called golden age of travel seat pitch (that's the distance between rows, therefore indicating legroom) was a healthy 34-36 inches (86-91cm). Now, you are considered lucky to get 31 inches and it is trending towards 29 inches on budget carrier economy flight.

Yes, yes, you get what you pay for and the global trend for airfares over this time has shrunk along with the seat size. But wouldn't it be nice to think knee-cap bruising from the seat in-front could be avoided just as part of their standard service, rather than having to again get out your bank card and cough up cash?

Thankfully, one of the world's fattest nations, the United States, looks set to regulate on this regular pet peeve of air travel.

The amount of legroom is getting smaller and smaller.

Ahead of the pack: US-based carriers look almost certain to be forced into adhering to minimum seat width and a minimum distance between seat rows. This Washington ruling, which would affect one of the world's largest air passenger markets could provide a counter-balance to the shrinking legroom trend – led by budget carriers and followed by so-called full service airlines – of slowly cramming more passengers into the back end of the plane using smaller seats.

Put Baby in the corner

I'm not saying they need to be caged, but can't there just be a young families section? The two-year olds can harass each other, not the back of my seat, and the parents can have a passive-aggressive one-upmanship contest over teething, crawling and first words.

Yes, nothing kicks off an airline opinion battle like the threat of screaming babies and terrorising toddlers ruining your air travel experience. I know, I know I'm a "condescending yuppy with zero empathy", I'll "understand one day", why can't I "think about the poor parents".

But come on, the bad luck of sitting next to a teething child and their completely unfazed parent(s) is so prevalent it's a bad travel cliché. I wish more Western carriers would bite the PR bullet and designate family zones on their long-haul flights.

Ahead of the pack: Budget carriers AirAsia, Scoot Airlines, and IndiGo as well as Malaysia Airlines have introduced "kid-free" zones where customers can purchase seats without the risk of sitting next to a noisy child.

Yes, that's right, they've spotted something flyers are willing to fork out for an are exploiting it. Business travellers and miserable people like me are their target market. On other carriers it's best to request (or more commonly, shell out for) an emergency exit row seat, where no children are allowed to sit anyhow.

The price we pay for low, low airfares

Last week it was an airline named Colbalt, the week before it was one named Primera. Last year saw the final Monarch flights taxi down the UK's runways, while AirBerlin also met a debt-riddled end.

With each was a collection of stranded passengers left wondering how to get home and how to get a refund on their ruined holiday. Each now-defunct airline will have had its own sorry set of factors contributing to its downfall – intense competition, higher oil prices etc – and running an airline is a notoriously fickle industry.

The race to the bottom of cost-cutting and service-cutting (and our collective love of cheap airfares) has left profit margins so thin, that there is little padding to protect from a price shock like a global jet fuel price spike.

A similar trend of airline failures occurred after the one-two punch of the last oil price spike and Global Financial Crisis from 2008.

Ahead of the pack: Any of the ones left standing. New Zealand based carriers are on solid financial footing, while flag-carrier airlines are seldom allowed by their respective governments to go bust, a recent example being Alitalia, the ailing national airline of Italy which was recently gifted a multi-million euro loan from Rome to buy itself some time.

Budget carriers do not have this luxury and are best booked via a credit or debit so you can reclaim money if the carrier fails before you fly. A good reason for a sound travel insurance policy. Let the buyer beware.

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