A broader perspective

This first appeared as a Comment in Flight International 5 November issue

Airbus’s greatest opponent in the cabin war, on which the airframer has just opened a new front, isn’t old adversary Boeing but those in the cheap seats.

Even if you accept the results of a scientific study based on just six people in a simulated flight, it’s hardly an earth-shaking discovery that a larger seat is probably going to offer a bit more comfort.
Passengers have been saying this for years, usually directing their gripes at the seat pitch and the threat to their shin bones and reserving a special brand of silent, incandescent hatred for the traveller who insists on reclining into their personal space.

Unless you’re narcoleptic, attempting to sleep in economy class is a hit-and-miss endurance sport and, while better than nothing, an extra half-inch either side of your hip isn’t going to turn that gruelling red-eye flight into a sojourn in blissful unconsciousness.

And there’s the catch. Passengers expect economy-class travel to be, quite literally, a pain in the rear, regardless of the route, destination or the logo slapped on the side of the aircraft. Such low expectation simply fuels the attraction of reduced fares over domestic niceties, a mentality on which the entire low-cost carrier business is founded. Airbus’s call for a minimum comfort level for passengers is a demand which isn’t likely to have much effect until it comes not from the top but from the cramped and the restless at the bottom.

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