Alex Witt   |  July 06, 2013

Airplane leg room shrinking, crowded flights growing

Aviation consultant Mark Gerchick joins MSNBC’s Alex Witt to discuss the current state of air travel and his new book, “Full Upright and Lock Position: Not-so-comfortable truths about air travel today.” 

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> the holiday travel rush hits high gear tomorrow with long lines p expected across the country. my next guest says for most people the magic of air trav morphed into an uncomfortable, crowded and utterly soulless ordeal to be avoided. not so comfortable truths about air travel today. with a welcome to you, mark. beside all these crowded terminals one of the biggest complaints about air travel today is the way we're getting crunched into the planes. no leg room any more. that's not our imagination, right?

>> that's not our imagination. back in the day maybe 20 days ago the average amount of space you had leg room is 34 inches and now 31 inches on average. some people give you more space and a couple airlines are talking about 28 inches of space, which is pretty much at the limits of anatomical possibility.

>> absolutely. you have to get up and move around a lot when you have that space. you write about what pilots do in the cockpit, besides flying the airplane. what are you talking about?

>> pilots are extraordinary people . the level of professionism of pilots is extremely high. i think of a guy like chelsea sullenberger. everything is screaming and all the alarms are going off and he turns to his co-pilot and says, got any ideas? the co-pilot turns back to him and says, actually not. what they do, these are long flights and in many a cases the auto pilot on the flight management system are flying the airplane and the pilots can basically do other things. they do, they talk and read and monitor what's going on. so, a lot of times they have to do other things besides hand flying those airplane.

>> let's talk about all the fees, mark, because when it comes to things that used to be tree, airlines are pointing out, okay, look at airfares adjusted for inflation. the average round trip from $149 in 1979 to $267 last year. all the extra fees, do they have to exist to keep airlines in the sky.

>> making the difference between profit and loss for the industry. they do. essentially a about $6 billion in fees that the airlines made last year just from bag fees and changing your ticket fees. and there are many, many other fees that we're seeing all the time. actually, fares have been going up since 2009 , also. depends on what point you start at. that plus the fees and flying while it's still a bargain is getting more expensive all the time.

>> you have to hunt for those bargains. what about the inflight.

>> the thing we need to worry about the most is not the air, because half the air comes in from outside and half the air is filtered through the hospital level filters. it's not as much the air as it is simply being packed in there. the volume of air that we get is shared among many more people. sort of like a rush hour elevator. plus, the real issue is folks kind of touching things. a guy next to you is sneezing, you might as well forget about it. doesn't matter what the quality of the air filtration system is.

>> that and coughing. please, remember to cover your mouths on