Cattle Call: Airbus and Southwest Moves To Add Even More Seats To Coach

220px-Economy_Seat220px-Boeing_737-2A1_N25SW_Southwest_SAT_17.10.75_edited-2I have previously authored columns and blog entries criticizing the airline industry for its nosedive in customer services and accommodations. (here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). The includes the planned switch to “bench seating” where passengers are expected to start bringing their own cushions. Despite the rising criticism of airlines making record profits while continuing to strip away every comfort, there is a new report that Southwest is now turning its back on passengers. The airline and Airbus are going to stuff another seat into coach class with new A380 superjumbo carriers.

The Airbus A380 currently seats 10 passengers in an economy row with a 3-4-3 configuration. The new layout would add an extra seat to the middle row, squeezing people into a 3-5-3 configuration. While the seats are expected to remain in the same width of 18 inches, those seats are already too small and the move will pump up the number of passengers from 525 passengers to 544 passengers. Once critic posted this picture:

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This is truly becoming absurd when you look at such pictures. What is clear is that the airlines have succeeded in changing the expectations of passengers where any comfort is extra as well as adding charges for basic elements of travel. I am in San Francisco this week and paid extra to get a couple inches more of legroom in coach so that my knees were not pressed against the seat in front of me and I could actually open my computer on an over five hour flight. I also sat through a United Airlines commercial on the flight that advertised how its credit card will save you money . . . by waiving the outrageous baggage charges that the airline has tacked on to your ticket. So, just to keep up, United imposes a huge baggage fee due to fuel costs. Yet, after fuel costs fell, they kept the charge and now use the threat of the charge to get you to use their credit card.

A recent report shows airlines plunging in passenger satisfaction and accommodations. However, it does not matter. There is clear coordination among the airlines in a rush to the bottom to reduce the expectations of passengers. Yet, while these companies get a host of legislative benefits and support, it remains a one way street. Industry lobbyists remain extremely powerful in Congress and have been adept at cutting off any serious effort to address the abusive treatment of passengers. I am not a fan of adding regulations but it would be good to see more aggressive investigation into coordination behavior and inflated price allegations.

Clearly, there will remain a growth in the cattle-car model of low-cost flying. However, there has to be more coverage and support for those airlines acting responsibly as we did recently on the difference in space and charges.

88 thoughts on “Cattle Call: Airbus and Southwest Moves To Add Even More Seats To Coach”

  1. I just want to know what the additional surcharge will be for screaming babies? If people, who are overweight, are going to be charged extra, since their weight is an inconvenience to others around them, I say charge those bringing infants on the plane a surcharge as well if we are charging for inconvenience. Better yet, give a discount to those who leave them at home.

  2. Isaac’s concept of paying for your plane ride by weight has a lot of merit. People can pay for the extra space by getting first class type of seating. But those who are not able to pay that extra amount are stuck with an obese or very large person who is taking up some of the space that they had paid for. To be equitable for the cattle call class, the by weight or size distinction seems to be a fair solution.

    As Spinelli stated, in the puddle jumper type of commercial flights you are weighed personally as well as your luggage and then assigned seating so that the little plane will be “balanced”. Not having all the heavy people on one side or the other.

    Why can’t this concept be applied to larger commercial flights?

  3. Bam bam

    How unAmerican to ask for the government’s involvement in regulating this. Next you will be asking for the government to make sure crazies and criminals aren’t afforded their 2nd amendment rights. You better be careful, Wayne LaPeter knows how to get to your sort.

    Having had my fun, yes the government does have a responsibility here. The airways are the domain of the people, just as is the highway system. The greater good should prevail. Private enterprise will always find a way to make profits. Pay at the pump concepts should be the domain of ‘extras’ like meals, drinks, etc. A standard size place while flying friendly skies should be set by the FAA. People under that size luck out. People over that size should pay extra for over size seats.

    1. isaac

      You do mean Wayne LaPierre, not Wayne LaPeter, don’t you? I think that Wayne LaPeter may be a porn star. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. As long as people are going to be submitting themselves to this “Cattle Call” type of environment, perhaps the airline should play this song on the plane. It might calm all the lowing beasts..

    I know that his always calms me.

    ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. If they charge by weight, Wisconsin flights will be the most expensive in the country.

  6. I’ve had to fly little puddle jumpers for work and pleasure. They always ask your weight for capacity reasons. You’re not charged by your weight, however. There was a time in my life I would have paid the morbidly obese rate. Now, the plump rate. Should anorexics be rewarded w/ the lowest rates? Isn’t that rewarding negative behavior?

  7. Issac said…

    There is another option, pay by weight. If I weigh 180lbs, (and I will someday) and have a narrow waist, why should I pay the same as a porker that weights 300 lbs and has a waist that flows over onto my space? If you sent yourself by freight, you would pay by size and weight. At the check in desk there is a scale. Use it.

    Hey, that’s good idea…and economically sound as well. I’m 6 foot tall and 195 lbs…I should pay less than the 300+ lb porker who uses 2/3’s of the space in a 3 seat row. If you’re over weight, so be it, but pay your freight as Issac says ๐Ÿ™‚

    That said, sounds like Southwest is adapting to Spirit Airlines methodology. Cattle car set up even cattle would avoid. My worst trip on Spirit was to Atlantic City with my kid who insisted I’d like the casino experience. Wrong on two points…I hate casinos (but love my kid) and Spirit Airlines used a literal cattle chute method for loading the aircraft (a funnel of barriers to force feed the passengers on to the plane) ….about as dehumanizing as it can get. Reminds of the old “festival seating” entrance systems for old timey rock concerts….funnel the ticket holders through dumpsters, etc. …. eliminated most places after the 11 folks died in a stampede in Cincinnati at a “Who” concert. Sounds like some airlines are still using it. ๐Ÿ™

  8. Hey.. the airlines just learned that they could stick humans in the baggage compartment and not kill them…

    Coming soon: ECONOMY STEERAGE CLASS
    5% discount if you load your own luggage.

  9. I read a piece in the local San Diego paper showing these cramping seats are a safety hazard, making it more difficult to evacuate a plane quickly in a life/death situation like the famous Hudson River miracle. Safety might be the way to end this madness.

  10. Sorry Prof, Southwest does NOT fly any Airbus products. They ONLY fly Boeing 737. They have put in the slimline seats, but it will be a cold day in HELL before they fly Airbus trash.

  11. I saw a report on the news last night that a woman, on a Southwest flight, was so disturbed with the snoring gentleman sitting next to her, that she proceeded to poke his arm, on the armrest, with her pen. The news showed a photo of the man’s sleeve, which had ink all over it. Crazy. He’s lucky that the nutjob, sitting next to him, didn’t break the skin through his sleeve. It reminds me of the studies performed on rats, confined with other rats, in tight, enclosed spaces. They will eventually become violent and aggressive. Now the airlines are going to cram even more people into these tight spaces. A recipe for disaster. A standard amount of room, for each passenger, must be mandated by the government. The airlines can’t police themselves on this because they’ve proven that they can’t or won’t.

  12. With present day technology, it has been proven so this is not groundless, the latest generation of larger planes, that can carry more passengers, can fly using less fuel, than other planes of earlier generations still in service. This means that the potential for profits is in the overall volume/fuel use area. Still airlines are taking planes that were designed to fly with the weight of X number of passengers and inflating the number of passengers and weight.

    There are many inches to be saved by using sprung seats as does Bombardier. This should equate into more room but the greed of the airlines foregoes the comfort of the passenger and adds more seats.

    There is another option, pay by weight. If I weigh 180lbs, (and I will someday) and have a narrow waist, why should I pay the same as a porker that weights 300 lbs and has a waist that flows over onto my space? If you sent yourself by freight, you would pay by size and weight. At the check in desk there is a scale. Use it.

  13. I have heard good things about Korean Airlines. This saddens me about Southwest. It is like hearing your favorite aunt is a serial killer.

  14. Between the cattle car treatment by airlines and the indignities of TSA screening, air travel has become uglier than ever.

    I tallied up airline miles traveled and find that my air travel has diminished every year for the past three years.

    My world has gotten smaller, but I avoid unpleasant experiences – a fair tradeoff.

    One exception – international travel. I still have to deal with the unpleasantness of TSA, but I cut U.S. airlines out of the equations (every smart traveler gladly pays extra to fly with a foreign airline).

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