Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Standing room only

Ever since I first took an airplane at some young age, 9 or 10, I can't remember, I've loved flying. I took many trips from my home in Albuquerque to visit my grandmother in Maryland, and my parents would let me go by myself. It was magical, being on your own (with the kindly help of the flight attendants to lead me around) and traveling to new places. Ever since I have enjoyed flying and especially like hanging out in airports. I was sad when deregulation led to airlines reorganizing flights into the hub system to make flying more efficient. No longer would I wait for hours in a strange airport, getting to wander around for a while before my next flight. You're lucky these days if you don't have to run full speed to your connecting flight.
The actual flights were fun to. I loved maps (still do) and almost always got to have a window seat so that I could see the best map there was: the real thing. I read magazines, did logic puzzles.
Flying is a bit different now. No time to peruse airport concourses. Responsibilities at either end of the flight. And I'm a bit bigger now, so the seats are not my favorite place to be. I used to relish 4 hour legs, but now the shorter the better. I just get too cramped in those tiny rows. Jack Bogdanski complains:
Ever since Ronald Reagan ordered the application of the almighty Free Market Principles to the U.S. airline industry, the experience of flying on a commercial jet aircraft has steadily declined in quality. Now you go hours without food, are lucky to get served putrid water, rise at 4 a.m. to make your flight, and endure ticket pricing that defies all logic. "Why should you have to pay for something you don't want?" was the dominant mantra.
That may be, but the relative cost of flying is nothing like it was before Reagan. If you want to pay those prices, you can sure still get that comfort in something they call first class. Most of us are willing to put up with the lower amenities for the relative inexpense of flying great distances in a couple of hours.
Comes news now that Airbus is considering creating sections that are super economy. Persons would stand against a padded board, strapped to the board.
Airbus has been quietly pitching the standing-room-only option to Asian carriers, though none have agreed to it yet. Passengers in the standing section would be propped against a padded backboard, held in place with a harness, according to experts who have seen a proposal.
Holy leg cramps, Batman! My understanding from reading the article is that they are trying to get these on the short hops that Japanese airlines make from island to island. So you'd only be standing for a half an hour or so. That's as long as I stand on the train into work every morning. What a weird feeling that would be to take off and land standing up.
Would I be willing to do it? Maybe on short commuters to Seattle and Spokane. I'm already used to reading and snacking standing up. I would just be trading the cramped and stuffy seats for the leg cramps.

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