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  1. #1
    Maximum Gluteus
    Reputation: Gregory Taylor's Avatar
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    Of Asses And Airplane Seats

    Dear American Airlines:

    Earlier this week I booked a round trip flight between Washington DC and Chicago on your fine airline. It was an unexpected business trip - scheduled at the very last minute - and I was lucky to get flights that accomodated my schedule.

    The trip to Chicago was fantastic. Your cabin crew in First Class was exemplary. My coffee cup was never empty, the hot towels were refreshing, and it was very nice being addressed by name when the flight attendant hung up my suit coat or offered me a Wall Street Journal.

    The flight home was, well, a different story.

    The travelling public knows that while the cost of air travel has come down as a result of the deregulation of the airline industry, this "race to the bottom" in terms of ticket price has been accompanied by a corresponding erosion in the level of service and comfort offered to the "economy" class traveller. Everything from luggage to meals now has a fee associated with it.

    Also eroding is the amount of "personal space" that an air traveller can expect as a part of Economy Cabin service. I suspect that it is not my imagination that seats on airplanes have gotten smaller over time so they can cram in a few more bodies, and that flights are far more crowded than the have been in the past. I'm sure that, like the rest of the industry, American Airlines is doing its best to make sure that there is an ass in every seat when one of your airplanes takes off for its destination. Profit margins are slim enough as it is, and an empty seat means lost revenue.

    The one thing, however, that has not gotten smaller over time is the travelling public. And by this, I am referring to the physical size of the average American air travelller. One need only stand in an airport lobby for a few minutes to be struck by the fact that the target market for the airlines is no longer the slim and sophisticated "jet set" that first made air travel the stuff of dreams. No, the average airline customer is now rather beefy, as well as ill-tempered, ill-dressed and encumbered with a plethora of plastic bags and small children.

    Let us pause for a moment over the descriptor "rather beefy."

    I suppose that my seatmate on the flight home from Chicago was probably a perfectly warm and wonderful human being, once you got to know him. The problem is that, at well over 300 lbs., dressed in bib overalls, and covered in dog hair, even a winning personality couldn't fix the fact that he didn't fit into the small economy class seat that American Airlines saw fit to rent to him for the trip between Washington DC and Chicago. I suppose that your marketing types or corporate psychologists (you do have at least one of those on staff, don't you?) counted on the fact that I would probably be polite enough to share a fair chunk of my seat - about 25% of it, by my estimation - with him for the duration of the flight.

    I am pretty sure that it was at least 25% of my seat. I had plenty of time to think about it, especially during the hour or so that we sat on the ground while the mechanics tried to fix the lavatory door that would not latch.

    Now I might not have had much of a problem with giving up 25% of my seat if I had been given a choice about it. I'm a nice guy. More to the point, I'm a reasonable guy, one who looks for the practical solution to a particular problem. But, you know, it is very hard to think of a practical solution to a stumper of a problem like how do you accomodate a 300 lb. person in a seat that would be marginal for Twiggy (you younger folks can Google this '60s reference) when every seat on the flight is taken and your torso is dangling in the aisle because you are bent over the arm rest at a 45 degree angle. Hell, even the cabin crew in Coach is smart enough to know that it is best to avoid making eye contact with the customers in these situations. They know just how miserable you are. They're miserable too, so it is not a surprise that they just laugh and throw ice at you as the drink cart hits you on the head every time they roll by.

    However, once we landed and I was able to resume breathing, the answer to this ugly situation came to me. And the answer is this: market to your target audience, beefy Americans. Celebrate the folks who are paying your salary. Raise ticket prices a bit, but install human sized seats in your airplanes. Seriously. Make them comfortable. Put your customers in familiar surroundings, like the bench seat in the front of a Ford F150 pickup truck. Make it feel like you are sitting in front of the TV at home, watching QVC and re-runs of "America's Most Wanted" with a big bowl of Cheetos on the coffee table. Call it "relaxed fit" seating or something like that. Replace cabin staff with Hooters girls. If you need more incentives, offer free NRA memberships and name your airplanes after past NASCAR champions. Who wouldn't want to buy a ticket to fly on the Waltrip-liner or the Richard Petty Shuttle, especially if there were Hooters wings on offer and a trip to the shooting range once you landed.

    For AA Advantage Club members, how about a free tattoo at the 100,000 mile level?

    I know: genius.

    You can thank me later. Actually, you could pay my orthopedic bills, but that is another issue.

    Your friend,

    Greg
    Last edited by Gregory Taylor; 06-23-2011 at 09:59 AM.
    Yet another cycling blog...updated whenever.
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    We inched our way up the mountain, kilometer markers passing like kidney stones.

  2. #2
    Spicy Dumpling
    Reputation: VaughnA's Avatar
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    More Genius from the Mark Twain of the Loonge..

    BTDT many times over.
    If I were to beat you senseless with a tire iron, what color would you bleed?..The Missus

  3. #3
    10 Clix South of Ft Worth
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    Thanks for wasting my time. Seriously. Finding the best way to waste one's time... it's what life is really all about. I look at things from a different perspective but along the same lines... I make it a point to profit off types of people that I despise. There really is no end...

  4. #4
    Just Plain Bitter
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    Try that on a 15 hour Pacific rim flight with what looks like a Sumo wrestler sitting next to you! I feel your pain and am in total agreement with the solution for domestic travel. As for international, I don't hold out much hope for a simple solution such as yours.
    Quote Originally Posted by Catzilla;
    Like, if "troubling" were a level seven worry, "concerning" would be a six, with "frightening" being an eight and "unexplained genital rash" being a nine.

    2007 Pegoretti Duende Campy SR 11 Campagnolo Neutron
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  5. #5
    RoadBikeReview Member
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    My worst ever flight departed from O'hare. I approached my aisle seat to find a LARGE guy in it. He had the window, so being the nice guy I am I offered to trade. Just as I do, a guy in the row behind says "I'm in that row too, I'll take my seat." He, as the gentleman to which I offered my aisle seat was 300-ish lbs.

    Five hours from ORD->SMF with fat dude overlapping on to me. My wife was not impressed with my smell when she picked me up.

  6. #6
    Maximum Gluteus
    Reputation: Gregory Taylor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rward325 View Post
    Try that on a 15 hour Pacific rim flight with what looks like a Sumo wrestler sitting next to you! I feel your pain and am in total agreement with the solution for domestic travel. As for international, I don't hold out much hope for a simple solution such as yours.
    The other solution was to take a page out of the manual on how the airlines handle carry-on luggage.

    Advertise the dimensions that will fit in a seat when you buy a ticket ("If you are larger than at size 50 suit coat or size XXXL dress, you should purchase a first class ticket.") Then stick an economy class seat at the gate, and do a "test sit" for larger customers.

    This, of course, will never happen.
    Yet another cycling blog...updated whenever.
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    We inched our way up the mountain, kilometer markers passing like kidney stones.

  7. #7
    Burning Fists of Love
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    solution

    Had the same issue several years ago, but I took a more proactive stance.

    The flight was DC to San Fran. As luck would have it, months ago before this flight I had dislocated my shoulder and right knee. Thus I had a pile of unused pain meds at home. I chocked a Vicadin and chased it with with 2 shots of vodka. I awoke in San Fran. So very very refreshed.
    This old anvil has cracked alot of hammers

  8. #8
    Shirtcocker
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    Nice!

    My worst was sitting next to mother and baby. The baby bawled for the first half of the flight and then just as the "fasten seatbelts" sign went on due to turbulence the baby let loose with the most foul smelling turd known to man. I reached up and directed the air nozzle to blow away some of the smell, but it was inadequate for the job. About an hour or so later the turbulence stopped and she was able to go to the bathroom to change the little nipper.
    "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark." -S. Hawking

  9. #9
    Stumpcake!
    Reputation: tconrady's Avatar
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    I was about to complain about my flight back from Seattle to Atlanta where the guy on the aisle seat was so large he couldn't put down the armrest between he and I but rward pretty much beats me on this one. I ended up having to put up the armrest between Mrs Tcon and myself and basically cuddle up with her the whole way back so that "Tiny" wasn't rubbing up against me in my portion of MY seat.

    You know how they have those signs that you have to be "This tall" to ride the rides at amusement parks? Well, they ought to have one for width and if you can't fit then you have to purchase the seat beside you.
    "Indecision may or may not be my problem."

  10. #10
    RoadBikeReview Member
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    I flew from LA to DC next to a woman (me in the middle seat, her in the aisle) that needed the seat belt extender. Her gut was on the armrest, spilling into my seat. Very nice woman and apologetic/obviously embarrassed about the situation.

  11. #11
    Go Blue
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    One of the many reasons that I like Southwest is that I can size up my fellow passengers as I pick my seat.

    My daughter, who is not much bigger than Miss M, was on a Southwest flight a few years ago where the only remaining seat was between two beefy passengers. It was so bad that she spent most of the flight standing at the back of the plane by the rest room. The flight attendants told her that she should go to customer service when she landed and tell them what happened (and one flight attendant gave my daughter her name as a reference/witness). Southwest did not refund the full price of the flight, but gave my daughter a sunstantial voucher (I think it was $100) for use on a future flight because of the situation.
    I try to be perfectly civil, until someone really pisses me off.

  12. #12
    I'm interesting.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gregory Taylor View Post
    The other solution was to take a page out of the manual on how the airlines handle carry-on luggage.

    Advertise the dimensions that will fit in a seat when you buy a ticket ("If you are larger than at size 50 suit coat or size XXXL dress, you should purchase a first class ticket.") Then stick an economy class seat at the gate, and do a "test sit" for larger customers.

    This, of course, will never happen.
    Despite that it most definitely should happen.

    As a passenger, I would prefer if ticket prices were structured based on passenger weight rather than a ticket for a seat with additional baggage fees. My 130 lb body is significantly easier to get airborne then a 300 lb body. Lighter passengers mean less fuel costs.
    "This thread gives me hope that the human race will render itself extinct in my lifetime...." PlatyPius
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  13. #13
    waterproof*
    Reputation: Creakyknees's Avatar
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    why didn't you fly first class both legs?
    * posted by Creakybot 2013 all rights reserved.
    * not actually waterproof.

  14. #14
    Potatoes
    Reputation: majura's Avatar
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    This thread pertains to my interests - I'm having a look to flights from le kontinent to SF with British Airways... flight outbound are with BA... inbound are SF-Chicago Chicago-London are with AA, then BA for the last stretch to Berlin.

    Economy of course. Being of the 6'2" variety I'm guessing you're all probably thinking:


    ?
    Last edited by majura; 06-22-2011 at 11:29 AM.

  15. #15
    Call me a Fred
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    Next time take the train.
    Mike

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  16. #16
    Good news everyone!
    Reputation: Jim311's Avatar
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    I was once sitting in my chair trying not to vomit from air sickness and did not pay attention when the flight attendant announced the snack options and how much they cost. When she came by the cart, I asked what she had and was snapped at "I have what I announced over the intercom." I was so flabbergasted by the rudeness that I simply shot her a dirt glance while I purchased my 7 dollar bag of stale chips (with a credit card, they don't take your stinking cash anymore). It was about all I could do not to curse her out in front of everyone on the damn plane, rude bish.

  17. #17
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    I've flew Phoenix to London Heathrow next to the most god awful smelling person, he smelt like he had never in his life bathed, it was gagging when he raised his arms to stretch, which he seemed to do every couple of minutes for the entire 10 hour flight. I'm not sure if it was reported because on my return leg I was upgraded and sat next to a delightful lady who bent my ear all the way home.

  18. #18
    Schmuck
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    Dear Greg,

    Thanks to you and the rest of the cheap-o flying public putting so much downward pressure on prices and your complete lack of brand loyalty resulting in you bagging us to fly on JetRed or Southeast or whatever other cattle hauler that charges a whopping $5 less than we do, we are forced to nickle and dime you for all the stuff we used to give you for free just so we can stay in business past next Thursday.

    Its Cheap, Safe, Comfortable.....PICK TWO.

    Your friend,

    The major airline carriers.

  19. #19
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    yeah, I think the idea is novel, but it depends on the beefy to not be cheapskates and fly the small seated airlines

    and if you think being skinny and paying more to fly on a roomier airline will fix the issue, well you aint' seen just how beefy americans can get. no matter how big you make that seat, some fatass will spill over and into your seat.

  20. #20
    Fini les ecrase-"manets"!
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    Quote Originally Posted by RkFast View Post
    Its Cheap, Safe, Comfortable.....PICK TWO.
    ...and if you're lucky, you'll get ONE of the three.
    "jazz gives you large testicles"--aliensporebomb

  21. #21
    Maximum Gluteus
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    Quote Originally Posted by RkFast View Post
    Dear Greg,

    Thanks to you and the rest of the cheap-o flying public putting so much downward pressure on prices and your complete lack of brand loyalty resulting in you bagging us to fly on JetRed or Southeast or whatever other cattle hauler that charges a whopping $5 less than we do, we are forced to nickle and dime you for all the stuff we used to give you for free just so we can stay in business past next Thursday.

    Its Cheap, Safe, Comfortable.....PICK TWO.

    Your friend,

    The major airline carriers.
    Dear Airlines:

    Trust me, I too yearn for the days when flying was exciting and exclusive and the Great Unwashed simply hopped a freight or hitchhiked when travelling from place to place. Aviation was never meant to become a social experiment in egalitarian travel. I fly first class whenever I can, as a gentleman should. The industry let the side down very badly when they failed to take a firm stand with respect to this de-regulation nonsense back in the 1980's. It makes one lament the demise of the private rail car and Pullman porters. And don't get me started on the fact that good help is just so hard to get these days.

    Cordially,

    Greg
    Last edited by Gregory Taylor; 06-22-2011 at 12:32 PM.
    Yet another cycling blog...updated whenever.
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    We inched our way up the mountain, kilometer markers passing like kidney stones.

  22. #22
    Schmuck
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gregory Taylor View Post
    Dear Airlines:

    Trust me, I too yearn for the days when flying was exciting and exclusive and the Great Unwashed simply hopped a freight, or hitchhiked when travelling from place to place. Aviation. was never meant to be a social experiment in egalitarian travel. I fly first class whenever I can, as a gentleman should. The industry let the side down very badly when they failed to take a firm stand with respect to this de-regulation nonsense back in the 1980's. It makes one lament the demise of the private rail car and Pullman porters. And don't get me started on the fact that good help is just so hard to get these days.

    Cordially,

    Greg
    Well done.

    I wonder what true demand for a luxury airline would be. And by luxury I mean a decent meal, seat and a pillow!

  23. #23
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    I'm one of those fat, disgusting 300 pounders.

    I'd gladly pay more (not 1st class "more" though) for larger seats. One flight we took ("we" being a group of I.T. geeks doing server deployments all over the country and Canada) had seats so small that the smallest of our group had numb legs and grooves on both legs for a day afterwards. He had a waist of about 32, I'm guessing. I don't remember what the plane was, but it was old and the seats were miniature.
    Other countries need to stop hatin' or we'll unfriend them. - Christine

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  24. #24
    RoadBikeReview Member
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    Could be worse- you could be on AirTran.

    Did you know on AirTran that when a family with a small child books tickets, they don't automatically seat you near one another? And that you don't get your seat assignments until you get to the gate? Apparently, that's an extra fee they don't mention when you are buying your tickets online, the way most people buy their tickets these days.

    So you could end up with seat assignments that have your, say, two year old on her first flight in seat 15a, your wife in 22c and you in 17b... but the sky waitresses will try and help you out.
    Quote Originally Posted by JustTooBig View Post
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  25. #25
    Maximum Gluteus
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    Quote Originally Posted by RkFast View Post
    Well done.

    I wonder what true demand for a luxury airline would be. And by luxury I mean a decent meal, seat and a pillow!
    It would be interesting to see if there is a market. The "business class" on international travel does pretty well. You might have a decent domestic market if you put together a route map that connected money-center and tech cities. It would look more like a charter operation, is my guess.

    Of course, the real players lease their own airplanes. There are some time-share rent-a-jet deals that are well within reach of the aspiring plutocrat as well.
    Yet another cycling blog...updated whenever.
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    We inched our way up the mountain, kilometer markers passing like kidney stones.

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