I normally try to avoid writing totally negative air travel posts, because, obviously, I want people to travel and fly. But this topic of the shrinking seat cannot be avoided, and I'll try to suggest some remedies.

The problem, as the Wall St. Journal's Scott McCartney points out in this article (you may need a subscription to read it): "park bench" airline seats that have much thinner padding that previous models (they're as hard as sitting on a park bench in other words—although I've likened them to a church pew in the past posts). And because they're thinner, the airlines figure they can move rows of them closer together, which means more seats per plane.

Along with other design tweaks, such as moving the seatback pocket higher up, you'll have about the same amount of knee room as with the more generously padded seats. But more seats per plane equates to more fighting for overhead bin space, because they're not adding more bins, and longer lines for the lavatories. They're even making the lavatories smaller, and United, on some planes, is eliminating one of the four economy class lavatories, all to cram in more seats.

Not only are these new seats thinner, but, as the Wall St. Journal's graphic shows, the bottom seat cushion is shorter. The graphic shows a person sitting with the front edge of the cushion resting just under the knees. But unless you have very short thighs, that's not what happens. The front edge actually digs under most people's thighs somewhere in the middle, and after a few hours of flight, it hurts. It really is painful.

I've found the new seats to offer better lumbar support in some cases, but the bottom seat cushions are simply a pain in the ass and the legs, although I have long legs and someone who's shorter and with a well-padded derriere might not even notice (I do not have a well-padded derriere it must be noted).

I needn't tell you that the airlines are doing this to save fuel (lighter seats means less fuel burned per flight) and to cram more people into their planes. In their defense, the in-flight entertainment systems we all love, and the wiring for 110-volt outlets at all seats, add considerable weight to planes, so they're compensating by making the seats lighter.

So what to do? There's not a lot, but here's what I've come up with so far: