Are airplane seats getting smaller? U.S. committee investigating why

WATCH: It’s been called the shrinking airline seat. Now a U.S. Department of Transportation committee is looking into seat size and overall passenger comfort. Allison Vuchnich reports.

TORONTO – Ever feel like the seats on airplanes are getting smaller? Well, you’re not alone. A U.S. Department of Transportation Committee is looking into why the size of the seats are changing and how that affects passenger comfort.

An advisory committee heard testimony Tuesday from witnesses including officials from the FAA, the Center for Disease Control, and industry experts about whether the seats are too small.

Seat width and pitch (leg room) has changed in recent years as airlines push for higher profit margins. And it seems to be working; Air Canada’s profit soared to a record high $531 million in 2014.

So how has seat width and leg room changed over the years?

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Leo Kavanagh, Global News

Infographic by Leo Kavanagh, Global News

In an Airbus A320, the seat width is 45.3 centimetres (17.83 inches), according to Air Canada.

The WestJet Boeing 737 has between 78 and 83.8 cm of leg room in its economy class and between 91.9 and 93.7 cm in its economy plus class. All the economy seats on the plane are 43.18 cm wide.

According to reports in the Wall Street Journal and CNN, the industry standard in the 1990s was 18.5 inches (46.99 centimetres) of seat width.

WATCH: Travel consultant Claire Newell has tips on how to get the best seat possible when flying.

The seat pitch has stayed relatively similar, if not increasing in some areas. An Air Canada Tango press release from 2003 said the Airbus 320 offered an “industry-leading 32 inch (81 centimeters) seat pitch.” The seat pitch on the A320 flights now run by Air Canada is between 79 and 89 centimetres.

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Airlines are offering more options, both air Canada and Westjet offer “economy plus” on some planes that give people – for a price – a bit more room.

Air Canada declined an interview for this story.

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