Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Standing room only

We have it for buses, trains and ferries, why not airplanes? According to reports today, Airbus has been advocating the use of standing passengers to increase passenger numbers on planes. Hey, we all know that with the way seats have gone there isn't much comfort there anyway and for airlines it saves the cost of carrying around all those heavy seats.

Here is the relevant bit:
Airbus has been quietly pitching the standing-room-only option to Asian carriers, though none has agreed to it yet. Passengers in the standing section would be propped against a padded backboard, held in place with a harness, according to seating experts who have seen a proposal.

Well that is one way to drive business class sales. It is also unclear whether there would be any real loss in safety. And for families, well my kids want to wander around the plane anyway. I am happy not to pay for a seat there.

Of course, the big move here is to take more account of the third dimension of space. On long-haul flights, the preferred way to be put is not seat, certainly not standing, by flat and horizontal. It always occurred to me (and given my lack of sleep on planes I have spend some time thinking about this) that by laying everyone down we could have everyone lying down in three rows vertically as well as horizontally. The idea would be a bit like those Japanese capsule hotels. So the move to consider standing seems to me to be a move in the right direction.

But another question occurred to me while reading today's accounts: why do people sit on the space shuttle? After all, if there was ever a time that sitting didn't matter and being strapped in standing was a good idea, isn't it for Earth orbit space travel? If we are lifting payloads at $x'000 per kilogram, let's save on those seats. Let's face it, they are gravity-specific furnishings.

[Thanks to Scott Stern for pointing this news out].


Andrew Leigh said...

This is a very cool story. If it saved me $100, I'd happily stand for a flight of <1 hour.

But regarding your capsule-plane idea, and the space shuttle, isn't the answer that lying down is comfortable if you're sleeping, but damn annoying if you're awake, trying to read, eating, etc?


Anonymous said...

The space shuttle has seats because it launches at 3 or more gees. You'd really struggle to stand under that sort of acceleration.

Aircraft seating is reasonably efficient as it is, because the vertical space is mostly taken up by overhead storage lockers. I wonder if the standing tickets will be limited to short passengers to minimize the loss of storage?

Anonymous said...

yes but then there's the problem of food...
and then there's air sickness, i get air sick myself and i see the difficulties in using a sick bag while lying flat, and should you not manage to get your sick in a bag in time i wouldn't like to be the guy underneath.