Armrests Down

By now you’ve all heard about Kevin Smith.People inspace have heard about Kevin Smith. Hopefully my friend R who works in crisis communications is e-mailing this story around the office and laughing his ass off because YOU DONE STEPPED IN IT NOW, BOYS.

And look, before we get a thousand comments about how this one time somebody flopped their lard into your side: Everybody’s gotten jammed into an airplane seat and not had enough room to breathe.That’s the point. Not whether fat people weigh down the plane or block the aisle or infringe on other people’s space that THEY PAID FOR GODDAMMIT or some other justification for being assholes to customers, but thateverybody in coach is uncomfortable. All the time. Kicking one dude off the flight because he’s too large and in charge does not change the fact that even if you fit in the seat the seat fucking SUCKS.

The worst flight I ever had was on my way back from New York two years ago, I was in the middle seat in the very back row of the plane. The people next to me were fine in their seats. I’m no little lamb but we all fit by the airlines’ definition of “fit.” What I am is severely claustrophobic and planes on a good day when I’m sitting on the aisle make me feel like a rat sealed in a paint can. I would have just drunk myself unconscious on 12-dollar vodka tonics but I already had a hangover and was muttering the rosary to keep from hurling. Mr. A was about 26 rows ahead of me next to some hot little blonde because we’d jumped at the chance to fly home earlier than planned and this was what we got. Longest three hours of my life.

Airplane seats right now are good for nobody. Hell, between paying for your food, paying to check your bags, trying to jam your carry-on into those stupid compartments, and the way the planes SMELL, airlines in general are good for nobody. Everybody wearing sizes with just one letter still feels mashed up against each other, grossed out, and wishes like hell that the legal definition of self-defense for homicide included putting one’s seat back all the way down. Until airlines start to
deal with the fact that giving people a progressively shittier
experience ain’t gonna make them fly more often, it’s a particular brand of pointlessly rude to chuck certain people over X pounds
off the plane.


10 thoughts on “Armrests Down

  1. And this speaks completely to the point, A. Southwest (and others) in NO WAY want to lose their oversize customers, or any customers. Nor are oversize customers a tiny (no puns!) minority. Like you said, very few people are 28 inches wide.
    Not only do they not publicize their policy, they don’t even enforce it consistently. It is left entirely up to each crew. A passenger who’s flown southwest dozens of times and has never been tossed might get tossed on their next flight. People are also tossed off even if the flight isn’t full. Kevin Smith’s flight was not full, yet he was taken off of it. Probably because the person next to him complained, which is the usual reason. Airlines want to appear responsive, so they pull out the policy, toss the fat passenger, and put them on the very next plane without making the pay the extra fare. It’s never happened to me on Southwest but it did once on another airline on a flight home from Las Vegas. The flight I was put on-at no extra cost- was even more crowded than the previous one. The noisy drunk who’d complained about me was given a discount for a future flight. It’s about the perception of customer service without actually having to pay to do anything differently.
    If you have a policy, fine. Sac up and let folks know what it is and that it will be enforced identically every single time: big folks will pay for 2 seats or leave. Always. Period. What’s that? It would be bad for business? You might lose customers? Well then take a few seats out and make the damn things larger. YEah, that costs you money too, huh? So you’ll continue to do things one way one day and another way the next day so you can keep the profit margin up.

  2. On one hand, I’ve had the experience of sitting next to someone buldging into the seats on either side of them (and BTW – I’m overweight so it isn’t personal but a matter of the discomfort of being pushed through the armrest on the other side).
    But I couldn’t agree more more with you. Overweight as applied by the airlines is highly subjective.
    As people in the USA have gotten, on the average, bigger – seats have gotten smaller and closer together.
    Airlines commplain that people aren’t riding them as much – but it used to be pleasurable to ride a plane. (not to mention the good will the airlines have (admittedly with security concerns) lost the opportunity to build up by letting kids go into the terminal, watch planes take off, and say goodbye to mom or dad in the terminal.
    In addition to the outrages you mention, may I add talk of charging for using the restroom, and the 2 hour indignity of a cattle drive through security including Full Body Scans. What is next, a Body Cavity Search?

  3. Sorry, airlines don’t try to keep their profit margin up. Almost no airline even has a profit margin. They all lose money, with the possible exception of Southwest, which I believe joined the money losing crowd a few months ago.
    Air travel is a ruthless business. The lowest fare airline gets the business. The higher fair airlines go bankrupt. Reducing the number of seats on the aircraft is a sure way to be first in line in bankruptcy.
    Air travel is one place where you really do get what you pay for. You want more space, pay more and you get it. You want more service, pay more and you get it.
    Continue to push the airlines to cut fares and before long we will have one or two airlines left, and the fares with then go up considerably so those survivors continue to survive.
    Yes, I used to work in that industry.

  4. I don’t doubt you’re telling the truth hoppy but I don’t agree that it excuses the airlines for deliberately being inconsistent from flight to flight.

  5. Hop, but people do make choices based on things like customer service and general efficiency of operations, and Southwest’s planes are — I will say — more comfortable than some planes. I won’t fly United ever because of the way they treat their workers in this city. Every American Airlines flight I’ve ever been on has been a clusterfuck of delays and nonsense so I avoid them if I can.
    Isn’t there a way to keep fares low (because I do agree with you, since the suck is so universal it does come down to price, and Internet booking has made price comparison easier than ever) that doesn’t involve fucking over customers by taking away an inch a year until some 90-pound supermodel feels crowded?

  6. Theyreally have to redo that fuel calculation average, especially since I know what their average is for women, and I don’t actually know any adult women who weigh as little as that. (Granted, we’re all either tall, muscular, or fat, or some combination of the three, but still…)

  7. i only just heard of this guy THIS AM. sadly, i can’t say WHO?
    i can fit in an airplane seat. tho. my legs could use more room. airplanes just need to have american size seats. EXTRA WIDE. i am so glad i do NOT fly much tho.

  8. When the 757 first came into service with the airline I worked for, the seats were by far the smallest I have ever seen. Flying one of those planes across country was worse than the indignities foisted on “terrorists” at GITMO. That airline soon noticed that passengers were not coming back, so the seat arrangement was totally redone. This should tell us that airlines do know what the effect of tiny seat and seating spaces do to people.
    Shortly after that, the airline I worked for was in deep financial trouble, and eventually declared bankruptcy. I don’t blame that problem on the decision to haul fewer people on 757’s, but it does show just how tenuous the business future of any airline is today.
    As far as consistency in enforcing “rules” is, if an airline were to charge everyone weighing more than X pounds for two seats, those people would all just fly with another airline, and their friends, who weigh less, would join them. No one would celebrate not having to be squeezed between two NFL linemen. Airline customers were treated so well for so many years, before the days of Southwest and other low fare airlines, that now they expect to be treated that well all the time, caring not one bit if that means their favorite airline goes out of business. I don’t see a good future for that business, and I don’t see a solution to their problems.
    One largely unknown fact is that no airline made money flying mom and pop to visit the grandkids. All of the profit was in businessmen traveling at full fares. But, business travel is way down now, in part thanks to better communications options, but largely because of the bad business climate for several years now. It really isn’t possible for an airline to be profitable without lots of business travelers, without making drastic changes in service or fares or both.

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