Saturday, June 06, 2009

Airlines: Coach Class Becomes Cattle Class
Scott Reeves Jun 05, 2009 2:40 pm
Passengers given less space than average pig on the way to Baconland.

Suck in your hips, travelers, because some airlines are squeezing more seats into existing planes in an effort to boost revenue. But wedging your bovine butt into a smaller space on the redeye may be offset by another marketing trend: The size of many food products, such as candy bars, continue to shrink as the price rises. This may cause some to gobble fewer calories and, with luck, to leave their clothes untorn when squeezing into an airline seat in cattle class. American Airlines (
AMR) recently added 12 seats to its new jets, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Some airlines have removed galleys to install extra seats. This may mean that semi-putrid airline meals can no longer be microwaved; only a sociologist could crack the profound implications of that tactic. Here’s a guess: Cold airline food won’t taste any worse than warm airline food.

In fact, no taste probably beats any taste. In some instances, airlines have moved the rows of seats closer together to increase capacity. This means you’re in greater danger of being knee-capped if the 300-pound lummox in front of you suddenly reclines - assuming you’re not already sitting with your knees under your chin. Other airlines are installing slimmer seats.

The irony: many discount carriers now offer more space than some legacy airlines. JetBlue (JBLU) offers a whopping 34 inches of space in each row, including the seat, while Southwest (LUV) typically offers 32 to 33 inches in its Boeing 737s. It appears that United (UAUA), Delta (DAL) and Continental (CAL) are slimming down to 31 inches in domestic coach. Note: The American Meat Institute requires that every hog on its way to Bacon-land get at least 6 square feet of space. A 150-pound sheep must be given 5 square feet.

Your average interstate commuter? 31 inches is more than enough, says the FAA.Conspiracy buffs will say the great seat squeeze is part of an effort to encourage coach passengers to upgrade and get more space while dropping more moola in the airlines’ grubby mitts. This seems an odd bet in a downbeat economy, even for grassy knoll habitués.

Smaller seats for broader bottoms plays out against the proliferation of extra fees for checked bags, seat location, flight changes, blanket, pillow - you name it. If airlines keep nickel and dime-ing their customers -- well, $10 and $15-ing -- more people may decide to stay home. The upside: That would mean lot of folks will have more bucks to spend on those tiny little candy bars.

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