The reason you may have to lean forward to look out the window of an airplane is because the airlines have squeezed in a few extra rows of seats. The windows can't be moved, so the result is a misaligment - and, for passengers who enjoy the view from 35,000 feet, a sore neck. But before long you may have to bend over to get a glimpse of the ground.
Coming soon: Standing-room flights.
Airlines are continually looking for new ways to pack more passengers aboard their flights, and no wonder: The New York Times reports that when American Airlines squeezed five more seats into the economy section of its MD-80 planes, it gained an estimated $60 million a year in revenue.
Airbus, the European airplane manufacturing consortium, is taking the airlines' demands for higher passenger counts a step further. It has proposed replacing seats with a standing-room option. Passengers would brace themselves against something resembling an upright gurney, and would be held in place by a harness. Standing passengers would be placed 25 inches apart, compared to a distance of 30 or 31 inches between seats.
Airbus plans to deliver its first superjumbo jet, the A380, next year, with a capacity of about 500 passengers. With a standing-room configuration, the plane could hold as many as 853.
It's expected that the standing-room arrangement would be offered for short flights - but if it catches on, the new class of low-fare, low-comfort air travel would be expanded to longer routes.
And who's to say that standing room will be the last step toward shoehorning as many people aboard as possible? Why not install tiers of bunks, so that the experience of flying would resemble that of making the middle passage aboard a slave-trade vessel? No doubt engineers are also contemplating ways of making better use of cargo space, creating a true steerage class.
Airlines' need to maximize revenue, and the public's demand for low fares creates irresistible pressure for crowded planes. The only question is whether a passenger in the cattle cars of the future will still get a bag of peanuts.
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|Title Annotation:||Editorials; New ways to pack passengers on planes|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||May 4, 2006|
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