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Cramped airline seating

Several years back, I flew a number of coast-to-coast flights on American Airlines. The trips were in fact rather pleasant. I could doze off comfortably and arrive feeling relaxed and refreshed.

The more recent flights have been rather unpleasant. Probably for reasons of economy, some(?) airlines have resorted to seats that are simply too narrow. Maybe it is just me, but I do not enjoy spending hours in a small space unable to avoid rubbing up against total strangers. At the end of the flights I feel tired and cramped, and really look forward to not flying again.

Short of getting the company to spring for first-class tickets (unlikely), is there some way of determining beforehand whether an airline is cramming people in too little space?

The recent flights were on Delta, Continental, and Northwest Airlines. The last couple of flights were with Northwest and Continental on Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 with six-across seating. In two out of three segments I was stuck in a center seat with seats on both sides occupied. Clearly (for me at least) the 17 inch seat widths offered are too narrow.

Unfortunately I do not remember the airplanes used on the prior American Airlines flights, or if perhaps I lucked out and the adjacent seat was empty.

At this point I intend to avoid flying if at all possible.