Ergonomics in the Air: 7 Tips for Frequent Flyers

Disclaimer: We are not affiliated with any company, vendor, or product listed in the following article in any way. 

On average, one billion people make a round-trip once a year, that’s not accounting for the frequent flyers. By latest statistics, there could be up to a million people in the air at any given moment.

Each flight can last for 30 minutes up to 16+ hours. During those times, we are mainly in the static seated position with little room for free movement or basic movements in general. Mr. Wong, a frequent flyer, tells The New York Times that, “Economy class is now an unbearably painful experience.” We are not designed for sitting, especially for such a long duration of time.  Add to the equation the vibration effect, plus improper seat design, and the outcome you get is slouched people leaving the plane with poor posture and difficulty straightening their backs.

In 2016, the average economy traveler paid around $349 and business travelers paid $989 for a flight in the United States. The average cost of an international economy flight was $2,525, with business and first class ranging from $4,000 to $15,000, depending on the product and route. The duration of an average domestic flight was 2 hours. For that amount of money, you and your back have the right to support and comfort.

Seating on planes is actually getting worse over time. For example, the average pitch (distance from one point of a seat to the same point on the seat in front of it) of an economy seat ranges from 28-34 inches with the more common number being 31-32 inches. USA Today, with collected information from SeatGuru and Consumer Union, points out that this is an inch or more less than in previous years. They go on to discuss how even the width of the seats have changed. They state that, “The worst seats today measure either 17 or 17.2 inches, when about 19 was as tight as it got through the 1990s. In fact, even the widest seats for sale in economy today—from 17 to 18.5 inches —would not have been offered several years ago.” Further, the reclining option is from nothing to about six inches in economy class and the seats do not offer lumbar support, an adjustable armrest, or an adjustable table tray.

There are some newly proposed plane seat designs being discussed, however, some are just starting to make it to the market and are not yet widely offered. Lufthansa is one example of how new seats are being utilized and customers have expressed nothing but praise for the airline’s change. In the meantime, Wired, Yahoo!, and Business Insider have discussed some new and upcoming ergonomically aware plane seat designs that we might be seeing in the near future.

While ergonomically correct seating is still on the way for most airlines, bringing your own products along can make a huge difference while you wait for a better seat to be produced.


There are a few options you have while traveling that will reduce the effects of riding on a plane. Here is what we suggest:

  • When you travel, you can attach a lumbar roll to your luggage. Since having to carry extra items while traveling on a plane can be burdensome, it is suggested that an inflatable lumbar roll is used. There is a plethora of inflatable lumbar rolls on the market as well as other types of lumbar rolls available that will suit anyone’s needs. The two we suggest are the Original McKenzie® AirBack™ Inflatable Support or the Original McKenzie® Self-Inflating AirBack™ Lumbar Support.
  • Remember to take a neck pillow as well. The pillows we suggest include the Cabeau Air Evolution®, the Cabeau Evolution® Pillow, and the Cabeau Evolution Cool®. 
  • DO NOT buy gel based seat cushions, or any other gel based accessory, as these will not pass security.
  • Laptops and other portable devices can make you slouch and sit for a prolonged period of time with static posture and minimal movement. Try using a tray table or a portable laptop stand to avoid using a laptop on your lap. Further, try getting up at least every 30 minutes, even if it’s for just a second, if permitted by the crew.
  • Try using The Air Hook which allows you to skip bringing the tray table down to take up more room. Instead, it uses the tray table in its closed position to give you a drink and electronics holder.
  • Lastly, we suggest moving in general as well as doing some back exercises before getting on the plane. While on the plane, ankle exercises, neck exercises, and sitting/standing stretches will help reduce the effects of sitting on a plane for a prolonged period of time.

The bottom line is, your back is in your hands. A visit to the doctor or therapy can be a very costly aftermath of improper seating on a plane. Considering current ticket prices, who wants to add medical bills on top of that? For more information please feel free to contact us.

Sources: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, Yahoo!, Business Insider, USA Today