Coach-minus: a new low in high-flying travel

I find that with real world engineering back of the napkin calculations are easy, simple and wrong.
If passengers were simply shovelled into aircraft like sacks of rice you would be correct. But they are not. They have to be seated. The seat occupies a certain floor area in the cabin. Larger people require a larger floor area, and so the additional weight is not just the lardass but the weight of the additional cabin space required as well, including the larger and heavier seat.
It isn’t rocket science but it is aircraft engineering. If a small person seat fits eight wide on a 30 inch pitch and a large person seat fits six wide on a 33 inch pitch, then with a 50ft long passenger space we can fit 160 small people or 108 large people. The weight of the passenger compartment is roughly the same but we can only carry 3/4 the number of paying passengers.
The increase in weight per passenger relative to the aircraft weight is irrelevant.
In exactly the same way European cars are usually designed to carry 5 people (3 in the back) while roughly the same model in the US will be designed for 4. The additional weight of 5 average Americans may only be half an average person compared to 5 average Europeans or Japanese, but an entire passenger is left behind.

You might say Mother Nature has a poor grasp of theory.

Business thinks no further than the next few quarterly profits, or when it’s worth it to dissolve the corporate charter and cash out altogether. If the broader economy collapses, they got theirs, and they will bail like rats on a sinking ship.

Why it’s happening is because our government governs pandering to the interest of those same people.


You’d have a better point if airline seats haven’t been getting progressively smaller, which they have. I stand by my point.


Which is hilarious, because there are people who could accurately be described as neoliberal, but who use “liberal” as a kind of slur.


I believe the CIA and others do that quite well, and they don’t charge to ride, either!

As for the smaller seats, less headspace, etc., I stopped liking commercial air travel years ago for all the same problems and over time I’ve shifted to driving myself or taking rail for long trips. Flying entails so much disturbance and loud noise and crazy people before boarding the damned aircraft that it just isn’t worth the hassle. Now I drive, take backroads and enjoy the trip. And here I am again, wondering about high speed rail in the U.S. and when that might happen. Probably just after we get pigs to fly.


Neoliberal is a useful term of analysis if you’re talking about a pattern, since the mid-1970s, of rolling back progressive policies from the post-WWII era. On the other hand, it’s actually misleading if you use it to describe patterns of political economy that have dominant since the Industrial Revolution.

So unless there’s a link to airline deregulation – which there well could be, but I don’t recall the article suggesting one – it doesn’t make sense to apply “neoliberal” to airlines charging more while offering less, since that’s what the bourgeoisie always tries to do.

Does the name of the airline rhyme with “benighted”?

Between airlines sucking and stupid post-9/11 bullshit, I don’t fly for pleasure, and as rarely as possible for business. I’ve let my passport expire, and have no current plans to renew. These things make me sad, but welcome to the new reality.

I’ve been saying that for years but in my scenario passengers are heavily sedated before boarding, stacked horizontally in large crates that are loaded onto cargo planes. On arrival the process is reversed, the passengers wake up and voila! No complaints from the passengers, no snacks or meals. Airlines could save more money and make bigger profits by eliminating flight attendants and hiring a couple of keepers to oversee the human cargo. A system for hydration and dealing with human waste would have to be developed but I’m sure they could work that out.

Also see Ray Vukcevich’s great short story, “In the Flesh”, 2002.

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If only there were some way to compare the relative popularity of airlines that unbundle (and charge lower base fares with higher opt-in fees) and those that do not (and charge higher base fares with lower opt-in fees).

Oh wait, there is. We have Southwest and Spirit, and Virgin and JetBlue…

Despite all of the complaints, people are actually freely choosing the unbundled airlines, despite the ‘classic’ options being widely available (at least for the time being). I wish it were different and more people would choose otherwise (I do), but this is simply not the case.

Thanks! That was as good as any Twilight Zone episode.

How do you evacuate the plane in case of emergency?

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Good question.

At that point in airline history passengers will sign a waver stating they will not hold the airline responsible for any injury or death that might occur. It’s the Free Market economy, baby!

Pigs do fly.


The idea of having classes of people is certainly a political idea!

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“The reality – demonstrated by the airlines boasts of windfall profits generated from “extras” fees – is that unbundling is used to extract fortunes where none were paid before.”

That’s simply not true. Airlines are big business but barely profitable even the most cursory look into the industry shows you that.

The airline business (as opposed to other bits in air travel like fuel, airports etc which are more profitable) is so competitive these days little money is made and investment in any single airline long term is really quite risky.

The industry on average it is one of the single worst industries you could invest in (overall) over a 20 year period and the return negligible compared to even the safest of investments.

Also it’s not a bad thing. Budget airlines are many many times cheaper than airlines previously were and travel to many more places and more frequently. You can use traditional airlines if you want to pay what you used to pay to get everything included, there are a lot of them and they are standard for long haul flights. I got a return to Edinburgh august last year for £80 in peak season. 15 years ago that would have cost me hundreds of pounds.

In the old days before budget airlines really competed with the main airlines (this is very true in the US where regulations on routes made effectively a series of semi-cartels) that is when you are price gouging.

This is absurd because you aren’t paying for extra you are getting money off for less. If you travel with children, are short etc I could see wanting to take that up if there were a few seats on a plane that were smaller.

I’m 6’4" tall and I couldn’t deal with less space, it shouldn’t be standard but I could see why people might want to do it.

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Yes, well, we’re PEOPLE, regardless, so you’d do well to remember that when talking about us like we’re not fully human or not “in the room” somehow.