Calls for a big improvement in legroom on aircraft would mean major changes for some of the UK’s largest airlines.
A report by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has called on the Civil Aviation Authority to implement its own research findings and increase the recommended minimum seat pitch on airplanes to 30 inches. Seat pitch is the distance between the the back cushion of one seat and the back of the seat in front.
The Lords said the increase was needed because people are getting bigger.
Such a move would affect some of the UK’s biggest short-haul carriers, including Thomas Cook and Thomsonfly, whose planes currently have a seat pitch of 28in.
No-frills airline Easyjet would also be affected as its seat pitch is 29in.
Long-haul flights would not be affected as airlines already have a more generous seat pitch on these routes.
The British Air Transport Association (Bata), which represents UK airlines, said any change to legroom allowance would have a huge knock-on effect and would be likely to increase the cost of travel and carbon emissions per passenger.
Neal Watson, from Bata, added: ‘Airlines may need to operate more flights to meet demand and this would reinforce the need for additional runway capacity at UK airports.’
But Which? believes the changes are necessary. Travel spokesman Bob Tolliday said: ‘We agree with the committee that the guidelines should be revised so that the seat pitch is raised to 30in, there are clearly good health reasons to do this.’
On the issue of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – where a potentially fatal blod clot develops – the committee thought the risk to passengers was no greater than with other means of transport, but wanted to see more research carried out to assess the effect of air travel on passengers with existing risk factors.
The Science Committee also criticised the government’s increase in flight tax for premium economy passengers from £40 to £80.
It felt the extra charge penalised those who might have a medical need to sit in a seat with extra legroom.
The committee also called for further research on whether problems with contaminated cabin air could have long-term health effects on pilots and air crew following anecdotal evidence it received.