Talk about cabin fever: The continual shrinking of passengers' personal space aboard airlines is leading to stress and claustrophobia for fliers and crew, according to Consumer Reports' October edition.
In 1985, it reports, the average airline seat was 20 inches wide. Today? Oh my. The average is 17.5 inches wide, even though average passenger weights have gone up by 20 pounds.
In addition, the "pitch" of airline seats — the space between one seat and the next one in front of it — has shrunk by 2 inches, giving passengers less leg room.
And airplanes are just fuller than they used to be. In 1985, planes were about 60 percent full. Now, they are more than 83 percent full.
The magazine has no magic solutions, just a few suggestions to cut the stress: When boarding, occupy yourself with a book or music. (Those who do nothing perceive the boarding process as much longer.) During the flight, walk around, if possible, every hour. Bring a sweater so you are not cold. Report unruly passengers to flight attendants; don't try to fix the problem yourself. If you feel yourself stressing, chat with your seatmates to bring down your stress level.
In essence, just pretend you are not there.