Don't tell me that the issue of standing room airplane "seats" is rearing its ugly head again.
You may remember this front-page article in the New York Times back in April of 2006, written by freelancer Christopher Elliott, stating that Airbus had approached some Asian airlines about installing "standing seating" on its A380 aircraft.
Airbus immediately denied the story, calling it "idiotic," and the Times published a mea culpa correction and the paper's ombudsman wrote this damning article about the whole sad affair, although Mr. Elliott more or less stood by his story, as Consumerist.com reported.
So it was interesting to see last week's story that Airbus has in fact patented a design for such "seating" (actually, they look more like bicycle saddles than seats). Hugo Martin from the LA Times, who reported on the story, quotes Airbus spokeswoman Mary Anne Greczyn saying, “Many, if not most, of these concepts will never be developed, but in case the future of commercial aviation makes one of our patents relevant, our work is protected. Right now these patent filings are simply conceptual.”
So maybe Elliott wasn't so "idiotic" after all.
But what is pure idiocy is the whole concept of stand up air travel, even if it (presumably) led to lower airfares. While it would be fodder for stand up comedians, it's a crazy idea and if the story had appeared on April 1, I'd be laughing.
But there's nothing funny about Airbus' patent application.
First of all, airplanes are already packed to the max, and since the airlines could cram more stand-up passengers in their metal tubes they'd have a harder time complying with FAA regulations mandating that all passengers can be safely evacuated in an emergency in 90 seconds, even if not all doors are operable.
So that would mean more means of egress at a minimum (although presumably, since standing passengers are already standing, they could escape faster, and there'd be room for more exits with all the seats removed).
And what would the "brace position" look like? Would you rest your hands on the shoulders of the passenger in front of you? And how would the seat belts work? It's all pretty silly, but that's what they said at Kitty Hawk.
Oh, and not to be outdone, USA Today reported that Boeing recently announced that it is developing a "high-density" 737-MAX model that will cram an extra 11 passengers onboard, resulting in a 29-inch seat pitch vs. the typical 31 inches.
News reports suggest that the new model will be targeted to airlines that wish to cram as many passengers as possible in their planes. (Maybe that's why they call it the "MAX"). But these days, isn't that just about every airline?
George Hobica is a syndicated travel journalist and founder of the low-airfare listing site Airfarewatchdog.com.