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A Little Lag

Got back a week ago.  Mostly been catching up from the vacation, what with housework, unpacking, and work.  Been very tired since our return – jet lag.  Should be caught up with the time zone by now, but still catch myself falling asleep in front of the TV – more so than usual – then waking up earlier than I should.

So, I remember when presidents would come back from their round-the-world trips and how they were always sure to mention how tired they were, just from the traveling.  Sure.  They got to travel very-first class.  They and their party could get up, walk from cabin to cabin, sit back and relax, make use of the sleep sofa, and all that.  They did not, like most travelers today, sit perforce in the exact same position for eight hours, in seats with little cushion, designed apparently for large children or small adults.

It was Hell.  No, not Conestoga-across-the-Mojave Hell, but Hell nonetheless.  First off, if you have ever wanted to sit in the exit row because of the extra leg room, please be aware that what you gain in length, you lose in width – the tray-tables are in the solid arm rests.  Second, as stated earlier, some pilots are loathe to turn off the seat belt sign, to the point that passengers just begin to ignore it entirely.

I read an article somewhere in the last month about how people, given the choice, always choose cheaper over comfort, that the cattle-car conditions of modern airlines are exactly thus because that is what consumers are voting for.  I truly wonder if this is true.  Yes, I did make my final choice based on price.  Price was right there, prominently listed.  Comfort, however, was not.  Not being a regular flyer, I have no idea of the comfort-level of various airlines or various aircraft.  So, my choice was made on the assumption that “all things were equal” and that the price difference was from natural competition.

I did look at First Class prices, just out of curiosity.  I had thought they used to cost twice as much.  Turns out I was wrong.  First Class is closer to ten times as much.  Must be nice to have that kind of money to throw away.  For me, it was a non-starter.

But I would certainly be willing to pay an extra hundred or more for more comfort on a long flight.  So far as I know, that option was not offered to me.  There was no time that I saw an advertisement telling us that we could arrive in Dublin without swollen ankles, blood clots, numb bum, and serious neck trauma for a mere twenty percent more in fare.  I would have jumped at it.  So would many others on the north side of two hundred pounds.

Drop two rows – twelve passengers – distribute those inches evenly over the rest of the cabin, raising the fare accordingly.  Probably would add two and a half inches for about $40 per remaining passenger.  Sounds good to me.

Drop a column, seating two and three instead of three and three, giving remaining passengers about an extra four inches in width, for a cost of $120 per remaining passenger.  All this is based on thirty rows of six in the main cabin and a six hundred dollar round trip fare.

Do both for $160 or so, giving each passenger an extra ten square inches.  I would pay $200 for that, I’m sure.  It might be enough to allow the airline to save money by dropping one whole waitress – um, flight attendant.

I am quite sure there would be a market for this.  That it doesn’t happen is probably a lack of imagination on the part of airline executives, who are probably convinced that there is no way to sell it, who always fly first class themselves as a corporate perquisite, and who seemingly spend most of their time trying to figure out how to squeeze yet more people into their airplanes, in an ever-failing attempt to staunch the red ink.

But there has to be a way to sell this – a marketing plan that can educate the public and take advantage of the internet to make such trade-offs clear.  With all of the old airlines trying to survive, engaging each other in a seeming race to the quality basement, there could well be a reward to the company that decides to zig instead of zag.  There has to be somewhere they can go between business class and tourist class, some market just waiting for someone to cater to their needs.

Meanwhile, my wife and I could do a round trip on the QM2 for a little more than one round trip flying first class.  Maybe we will, next time we go to Europe.


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