Today we start with a story that's good for you and me, but maybe not so much for the airlines

There was a time when you used to be able to book a ticket, even in economy, and hold out hope that you might land the budget business traveler's holy grail: an empty seat next to you. Maybe even a whole empty row.    

In recent years that's become a lot less common -- but a new report says there's some good news on that front for airline passengers (although again, not such great news for the airlines and their investors). 

This comes about because airlines have been adding capacity on their planes, which amounts simply to squeezing more seats into airliners that used to hold fewer people. But it turns out that customer demand hasn't grown at quite the same rate.

The raw numbers bear it out: About 83.5 percent of airline seats were filled in November, compared to 86.3 percent in July. That works out to about four more empty seats per plane, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Historically, it's still high: in 1978 airlines were filled to about 55 percent of capacity, and even in 2008 they were at only 80 percent.

It's also a boon to the legion of business travelers out there trying to save a few bucks in economy while chasing their entrepreneurial dreams.

You might be waiting in line a bit longer due to the government shutdown. You might find you're a little bit closer to the passenger in front of you due to shrinking seat pitch.

But your odds of winning the "empty seat lottery" are now a little bit better than they were not long ago.

Here's what else I'm reading today:

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Published on: Jan 22, 2019
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