‘Increasing density’ and ‘customers’ comfort’ opposing concepts
by Don McKee
October 15, 2013 11:57 PM | 1090 views | 0 0 comments | 42 42 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Don McKee
Don McKee
You might have thought that flying on airlines wouldn’t get worse than the body scans and removal of shoes and belts with passengers crammed in like sardines — at least in the second-class section.

You would be wrong. Now the major U.S. airlines are tossing what’s described as “old, bulky seats” and installing new ones that require considerably less space and allow five to six more seats on each plane, reports the AP. This will mean more passengers can be squeezed into the same space on an airliner, and since the new seats are lighter than the old ones, fuel costs are less.

The airlines, naturally, say passengers won’t notice that the new seats are about an inch closer together from front to back “as measured at the armrest.” You won’t notice? Frankly, the old seats were too close together to suit me back in the days when I had to fly a lot. But the airlines say passengers will have just as much “personal space” above the knee in the new seats as they did in the old ones — although they say the seats are closer below the knee. That’s clear, right?

And on top of all that, the slimmer seats will generally have thinner padding. That might not matter to folks with their own ample padding, but less padding could mean discomfort for the somewhat skinny guys like me.

The Delta Air Lines director of customer experience, Michael Henny, gives assurance that more, slimmer seats are great for customers. He captured the whole concept in this statement: “Increasing density is a priority for us from the perspective of maximizing revenue, but the slimline seats are great because they allow us to do that without sacrificing customers’ comfort.” Somehow, when it comes to airliners, “increasing density” and “customers’ comfort” are opposing concepts, in my view.

This new squeeze move also means some airliners will narrow the gap between the aisles, creating a new challenge for the stewardess or steward in trying to push the beverage cart along the aisle. It was already a very tight squeeze. So now the passengers in aisle seats will be even more at risk of being struck by the beverage cart. That’s reported to be the No. 1 complaint from passengers.

All of this squeezing, says the AP, coincides with heavy spending by the airlines “to add better premium seats in the front of the plane,” also known as the First Class section which rakes in premium prices and, unless the squeeze is on there too, offers roomy seats and space.

In the good old days of airline travel 40-plus years ago, the reliable DC-3 had really comfortable seats, as noted by Vern Alg, consultant for Aircraft Interiors Exp and formerly with Continental. The seats were cumbersome and heavy, but “very, very comfortable,” he told the AP. “They required a great distance between the seats to achieve that comfort.” Enough said.

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