If you think your plane seats are much tighter on your domestic flights than they used to be, you’re right. But if Airbus and Boeing have their way, there is much worse to come.
After Boeing earlier this week
revealed its 200-seat arrangements for a model of the widely used 737 that seldom featured more than 156 seats 10 years ago, diagrams from an Airbus US patent application for "crotch crusher" fold-down bike-type seats have been circulated.
What is going on? The short answer is that Boeing and Airbus make sales these days on metrics that seek to show they have the lowest operating costs per seat per unit of distance flown.
This means that dividing the fixed costs of flying an airliner of any size and range capability by the highest possible number of seats produces the lowest figures on that per seat basis for fuel burn (and emissions) as well as maintenance, labour, navigation and airport fees.
The old-fashioned days of selling jets on claims that they have bigger, more comfortable seats and a more pleasant ride have gone the way of widespread use of premium fares by managed business accounts that increasingly forbid such extravagance.
Airbus and Boeing have worked out that accountants drive airline choices of airliners, not flyers.