Travel Notes: Minimum jet seat width recommended by Airbus

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The airline industry has been packing more passengers into smaller seats over the past few years, and now one of the world's largest jet manufacturers is calling for an end to the crush.

Airline seats with less leg room and thinner seat back cushions have been part of a growing trend in an industry trying to increase profits by fitting more passengers into each jetliner. The squeeze has prompted an outcry from fliers, particularly big and tall travelers.

Now, French-based Airbus is calling on the industry to adopt a comfortable standard, at least for the seat width. It released a study last week that says a minimum seat width of 18 inches improves passenger sleep quality by 53 percent, compared with 17-inch-wide seats.

"When it comes to flying long haul in economy, an inch makes a huge difference on passenger comfort," said Irshaad Ebrahim, a spokesman for the London Sleep Center, which conducted the study for Airbus.

Airbus said it has always maintained a standard of 18-inch-wide seats but noted that many airlines have installed narrower seats to remain competitive.

Airlines for America, the trade group for U.S. airlines, rejects the idea of a standardized seat width.

"We believe individual airlines should be able to determine fleet configurations that best meet their customers' needs, as they do today," said Victoria Day, a spokeswoman for the trade group.

Livelier safety messages

Let's admit it: Almost no one listens to the safety instructions that flight attendants give at the start of each flight.

Even the airlines know it. That is why so many have tried to make catchier safety messages.

Last week, Virgin America and Delta Air Lines unveiled new videos to get the safety message across to passengers in an attention-grabbing way.

Delta's new video has a definite holiday spin, featuring Christmas elves, Santa Claus, snowmen and "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek.

Virgin America's video is a bit more lively, with dancing, upbeat music and rapping children.

There is only one problem: In the videos, passengers are admonished to turn off their electronic devices during takeoffs and landings. The Federal Aviation Administration last week announced plans to ease those restrictions.

Delta spokeswoman Leslie Scott said the airline plans to make announcements after the videos are shown to explain the latest FAA rules. "This video is too much fun to scrap the whole thing," she added.

No word on whether Virgin America will do the same.

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