Straphangers Take to the Air

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Will you stand for less room on flights?
Airbus floats idea of SRO 'seating' to Asian carriers


For a couple years, people have been saying there is no elegance in air travel. It's become more like taking a Greyhound.

They optimistic. It turns out it's more like taking the Q24 to Jamaica.

Because there are not enough seat in coach, Airbus is actually suggesting that airlines who choose to purchase the A380 behemoth add Standing seats, so they can take capacity form roughly 550 people to more than 850 people on the same plane.

Absurd and ludicrous. But then again, maybe it's more comfortable than sitting between two slightly larger than average individuals in a tiny row.

I'm both appalled and intrigued.

Airbus has been quietly pitching the standing-room-only option to Asian carriers, though none has 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.


With a typical configuration, the A380 will accommodate about 500 passengers. But standing-room-only seats would make it easier for the same plane to fit in 853 passengers, the maximum it would be permitted to carry.

"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. He said such a configuration would be used only on short-haul flights such as an island-hopping route in Japan.

Although an Airbus spokeswoman played down the idea that Airbus was trying to sell an aircraft that accommodated 853 passengers, the company would not specifically comment on the upright-seating proposal.

There is no legal barrier to installing standing-room seats on an American airliner. The Federal Aviation Administration does not mandate that a passenger be in a sitting position for takeoffs and landings; only that the passenger is secured. Seats must only comply with the agency's rules on the width of aisles and the ability to
evacuate quickly.

The Air Transport Association, the trade association for the airline industry in the United States, does not have any seat-comfort standards. Nor does it issue any recommendations on seating configurations.

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