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Fliers May Soon Feel the Squeeze as Airbus Adds Extra Seats to A380

Passengers on Airbus planes may soon be feeling the squeeze as the aircraft maker prepares to add an extra chair to each row that would create an economy-seat configuration that seats 11-abreast.

The new design, which is set to be featured in the economy section of its A380 Superjumbo is likely to leave more passengers wrestling for elbow room on the arm rests. The new set-up would be an option for airlines starting in 2017.

Adding the seat might leave passengers feeling the pinch, but the move, company officials say, is designed to lower costs. And consumer advocates note that the bottom line rather than, well, room for passengers' bottoms, is often the true motivating factor.

But the advocates worry about safety as well.

"How are we going to get out in case of an emergency," Charles Leocha, chairman of Travelers United, an advocacy group for consumer travelers told NBC NEWS "What's going to happen if something goes wrong?"

The Federal Aviation Administration says planes are tested so that everyone can exit within 90 seconds.

Still, concerns over passenger were raised during a Department of Transportation consumer advisory group hearing on Tuesday.

Flight attendants and others from the aviation industry expressed their concerns over increasingly full flights jam-packed with passengers checking luggage.

"Well, I think that you have a big problem and yesterday's hearing we had Julie Frederick — a flight attendant from American Airlines — who testified at the meeting and she said that you know, they have real problems — they have medical problems every day across their entire system and they're running into problems just trying to get the sick people somewhere where they can take care of them on a plane," Leocha said.

And flight attendants witness the stress of all of this first hand.

"There's a lot of things that happen when you have people in a confined space in a metal tube hurdling through the air," said Sarah Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants. "We see conflict more and more. Flight attendants every single day are de-escalating conflict and there's fewer of us on board to do it with more passengers in our care."

— Halimah Abdullah and Tom Costello