Wednesday, April 26, 2006

If Business Class becomes more business-like, what about Cattle Class?

For years we've been drooling now over proposals from aircraft builders and their interior design suppliers, promising us dramatic improvements in on-board space and luxury. (See Goodbye to Red-eyes, say hello to Dreamers and Beemers and As we're expecting turbulence, may we request passengers to leave the bar, restaurant, sauna and fitness club and return to their seats?)

But this one seems to go the other way: a NY Times article about standing-room-only "economy class seats" (free registration required). Looks like Cattle Class is becoming an increasingly apt descriptor.

Of course we should've known: all that extra space in Business and First in the future has to come from somewhere. And there's no such thing as a free lunch. At least, not in the Economy Class of the future.

Airbus, the NY Times reports, is working on a proposal in which passengers in the standing section would be propped against a padded backboard, held in place with a harness. "To call it a seat would be misleading," said Volker Mellert, a physics professor at Oldenburg University in Germany, who has done research on airline seat comfort and has seen the design. No kidding.

Fortunately all of this is still on the drawing boards. But even current cattle class is getting more cramped as we blog, as new materials allow thinner seat backs that still fulfil strict safety regulations. Originally these seats were introduced under the motto "More Room Throughout Coach", but cost cutting measures put an end to that. Seats have been slid together and the campaign has quietly been withdrawn.

Anyway, let's hope it won't come to The Onion's take on Air India's Untouchable Coach Class, 'which is towed behind Air India jetliners in a giant burlap sack.'

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