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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: When I saw the letter from "PDX Traveler, Tigard, Ore.," I had to write. The seating problem he described has been created by the airlines. They moved the seats closer together to increase revenue, and they profit at the expense of their customers. Passengers should be able to use the seats they have paid for, the way they were designed to be used, without having to ask permission from the person seated behind them. And if they cannot, they should be compensated! -- 6 FOOT 4 TED FROM NEW JERSEY

DEAR TED: When I printed the letter from "PDX Traveler" I had no idea it would hit such a sore spot with frequent airline travelers. When I recommended asking for bulkhead seating, I was unaware that even though people may request it months ahead, there's no guarantee they will get it. From the tone of my mail -- and I received a bushel -- I'm surprised there aren't more incidents of "airplane rage" than we read about, because the situation is combustible:

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 6-foot-tall woman who has also experienced the smashed knee, pinned-in-place-for-the-duration-of-the-flight situation that your reader wrote about. As you suggested, I have tried to get bulkhead seating, but it goes fast. You usually have to take regular seating.

On a trip to Chicago this past spring, I was pinned in place, unable to move the entire flight. We changed planes in Detroit, and I vowed to my companion that I wouldn't suffer any more. When we boarded the next flight for the hop over Lake Michigan, a man took the seat in front of me, and proceeded to recline it. I braced my knees and he couldn't move. He pushed and I pushed. He turned around and angrily said, "Is there a suitcase behind my seat?" I just as angrily replied, "No, it's my knees!" His jaw dropped.

I was feeling a little guilty. Thinking he was probably traveling all the way to L.A. on the continuation of the flight, I reasoned that he could recline after I disembarked from the 20-minute flight to Chicago. When we landed, I stood to leave, and Mr. Recliner stood to disembark as well. He gave me a nasty look, and I said, "You got a problem, Bud?" Since I was a head taller than he was, he said, "No."

I admit, I may have been rude, but how rude was he? I'm tired of being physically crushed by inconsiderate people. If that means I must be inconsiderate, too, so be it. Nonsmokers have rights. Handicapped people have rights. Obese people have rights. Even short people have rights. I say, it's time tall people had rights, too. -- TALL IN FLORIDA

DEAR TALL: I realize that many travelers are fed up with being crammed into aircraft like sardines. The most effective way to resolve the problem would be to write the president of the airline, vent your feelings and request something be done about it at the corporate level. Since Americans are growing taller and bigger with each passing decade, something must be done to accommodate reality. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: You and your readers might like to know that airplane seats are uncomfortable because they were designed when fewer people traveled and air travel was more of a luxury. The basic airframe hasn't changed since the 707. Engineers say that the airlines are unwilling to pay for design changes necessary to produce the comfort customers want. If Boeing doesn't do it -- maybe Airbus will -- which will be to their gain! -- STEPHEN L. RENNACKER, BERKELEY, CALIF.

DEAR STEPHEN: Clearly, this is a problem that will not be resolved without cooperation from the airline industry. If anyone from the airlines would like to reassure the millions of people who fly every year and who read this column -- I'm sure it would clear the air.

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