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Air travel has become a game of chicken between us and the airlines: They continually find a way to make us pay more and we do it, because we continually have to go places. You may not have noticed, but the major carriers have slowly and gradually shrunk the width of an average coach seat to a measly 17 inches.

Go ahead, grab a ruler. "A push over the past decade by carriers to expand higher-fare sections has shrunk the area devoted to coach on many big jetliners. But airlines don't want to drop passengers. So first airlines slimmed seats to add more rows," The Wall Street Journal reports. 

Making seats tinier and more uncomfortable should come as no surprise, because, well, we've all dealt with airlines and their cost-cutting tricks. They're no strangers to adding fees to things that we used to get for free. They even know you're so scared of a middle seat or checking in at the gate, that they actually create fake shortages (the reason it looks like a lot of seats are booked when you check online) in hopes you will pay more for a premium seat.

"This doesn't sit well with many travelers, particularly those who are large or overweight," the Journal astutely notes. Don't look now, but that also applies to a lot of Americans who are, as seemingly every news organization is quick to tell you, getting fatter by the minute. Fat Americans, meet your tiny seats. If these seats keep shrinking, and people keep getting bigger, then inevitably most people will have to buy an extra seat or one of those seats which turns into a bed—and that's exactly what airlines want. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.