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Roomier seats coming to the U.K.

It’s all about the seat, baby!

Food, in-flight entertainment, friendly service … they all play a part in the overall experience of flying from point A to point B. But the single most important factor in determining travel comfort is the seat travelers will be strapped into for several hours or more.

And what is it about airline seats that makes them more or less comfortable? First and foremost, it’s legroom. More is better. Less leads to claustrophobia, or worse.

The industry trend is toward less. The obvious reason: the more seats airlines can cram onto their planes, the more tickets they can sell. It’s the profit motive at its most stifling.

So it’s heartening to hear that at least one airline plans to thin out seating on its aircraft, increasing legroom in the process. Unfortunately the airline in question, Thomas Cook Airlines, is U.K.-based, so the change will have little impact on U.S. travelers.

According to a TravelMole report, Thomas Cook will increase coach seat pitch from the current 30 inches to 33 inches, beginning in May 2008. The change will occur on the company’s Airbus A330s, planes used for longer-haul flights.

As many of us hoped when American rolled out its now-defunct “More Room Throughout Coach” seating several years ago, any such move might provide the competitive spark that would spur an industry-wide trend toward roomier seating. History suggests the more likely scenario is that greed will eventually win out, and Thomas Cook will revert to its old, cramped ways.

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