Wednesday, October 1, 2014

American Airlines Introduces Stand-Up Seating

Fort Worth, Texas, Oct. 1, 2014--American Airlines CEO W. Douglas Parker announced today that new planes being ordered will feature stand-up seating for coach passengers.
“We’ve been trying to squeeze more profit out of our coach passengers for some time,” he said, “and we’ve reached the limit of how many seats we can stuff in. But we can fit 20% more people into coach by standing them up. So we are confident that this new seating will do wonders for our bottom line.”
Asked how passengers might react to having to stand for hours, Parker said people already accept standing for hours at concerts, on line to buy new Apple products and so on. “They’ll be able to lean back and rest their butts on a rail, so it will be relaxing,” he insisted during a news conference at which reporters seemed skeptical at first. He said it would remind passengers of the fun they have at amusement parks on rides that stack them against a wall while the ride spins and subjects them to centrifugal force.
The announcement follows new seat configurations in airplanes that now have 9 or ten seats across, and which have also cut front-to-back space as well.  Some seat backs are now closer than normal reading distance to the passengers, but work fine for the incredibly near-sighted.
Parker said that with the new seating, passengers could use Google glasses for reading and gaming while flying. Passengers can rent the glasses for a fee expected to be about $59. Touch-operated compartments above their heads will have drop down drinking tubes that attendants can fill with  drinks of choice. No food will be served, but passengers can fill their pockets with snacks and sandwiches. When the "Torso Belt" sign is turned off, passengers will be able to move their arms and get to their pockets.

To further add to profits, soft drinks and water, formerly free, will now cost $4 each.
Reached by phone after Parker’s news conference, Arizona Senator John McCain applauded the innovation. Asked if it might be time for regulators to set minimum standards for seating—or standing, he said, “Hell no! We need government to stay out of civil aviation and let private industry continue to do a great job. The important thing is that we continue to buy more planes for the military, obsolete them quickly, and then stock pile them in the Arizona desert.”
The announcement apparently sat well with investors. American Airlines stock rose 5% following the announcement.##

Need I say that this press conference never occurred? It is the fantasy I had while sitting and fuming for the time it took to fly from New York to Chicago in an American Airlines Boeing 738. Not only was the seat very narrow, but the back of the seat in front of me was so close it was disturbing.  I tried to read but I needed to hold my Kindle a couple of inches further from my eyes. That was impossible  because the seat back was too close. The tray table, on which I've always been able to rest a book and see it well, also was too close. It's also a joke to say the seats "recline." If they move 5 or 6 degrees, I'd be surprised.

I could have gotten a seat with a bit more room, but that would have cost over $50, at least for some categories. A multiplcity of categories of seats now exist for we coach passengers; the airline geniuses, taking their cue from the Wall St. geniuses, slide and dice the inventory to create prices for newly optional services--like being able to read.

It all got me to wondering just how far this  airline industry will go in their effort to squeeze every bit of profit from their customers. With mergers leading to fewer competitors, there's little incentive to do anything but squeeze us tighter and tighter. So, even though I do think it's time for some minimum standards for seating--don't large people have a right to fly for coach prices?--John McCain lawmakers are as likely to back any bit of government regulation as I am to go sky diving.  So folks, get ready to stand up.

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