Sunday, June 26, 2005

Putting butts in the seats

I just flew back from a short trip to the West Coast (and boy, are my arms tired!). I'm not a small person, so airline travel these days can be a tad bit discomforting. Let's face it; the glamour days of air travel are over. Flying today isn't much different than taking the bus, other than the bus is probably a little more comfortable.

What I don't understand is the decreasing ratio of seat size to butt size. It's a fact, for better or worse, that Americans are getting larger. So why do airline seats keep getting smaller? You get three big-butt people in a row, and you have a very uncomfortable bunch of travelers -- assuming they can all fit in without spilling over into the aisle. It just doesn't make sense.

I had the questionable pleasure of flying United this time around. On my way out, I flew standard cattle car class (excuse me, "Economy" class), and I gotta tell you, I've never seen seats so small. I used to bemoan ATA for having the smallest seats in the business, but United is now vying for that title. The seats were barely wide enough for me to squeeze into, and the space between me and the seat back in front of me was so small I could barely lower the seat tray. Forget about trying to get any computer work done; if the person in front of me laid their seat back, I didn't even have room to hold a novel at a readable distance. Completely unacceptable, IMHO.

Then, on the way back, I upgraded to United's Economy Plus class, which promises 5" more legroom. Actually, United promises up to 5 inches, so your mileage may vary. As United says on their website, "It’s our way of saying thanks to our customers." What a generous host United is. Thank you, United.

Of course, the Economy Plus seats aren't any wider than the cattle car seats, but at least you can lower the seat tray and maybe even have a little typing room. But here's the thing -- I'm not sure Economy Plus is any roomier than what Economy used to be. That is, I think United simply renamed the old, roomier Economy seats as Economy Plus, then squeezed the seats closer together in the new, improved Economy class. For a $48 premium I'll pay for the extra space, but I still think it's a scam.

At least my flights all arrived on time and they didn't lose my luggage. It's a shame when the lack of disaster defines a successful flight.

But that's just my opinion; reasonable minds may disagree.

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