According to a poll, most travellers would be against the introduction of bigger plane seats at the expense of regular seats becoming smaller. This follows Airbus revealing last month that it was considering this to make flying easier for overweight passengers.
Instead of having rows of three 18-inch wide seats, Airbus has proposed making two of the seats 1-inch smaller and the aisle seat two inches wider. This idea was proposed so that its popular A320 aircraft could continue carrying the same number of customers. The new configuration would also allow carriers to introduce extra charges for premium seats. Airbus estimates that a £6.50 fee would generate another £2 million for every plane in 15 years. This would help offset the extra cost of fuel required to transport overweight passengers.
This new design was Airbus’s response to requests from carriers who say the larger size of passengers has become a big headache. Airlines say the most frequent complaint from customers forced to sit beside an overweight person is that they are invading their space.
Airbus researcher Nicolas Tschechne says that the rising weight of air passengers is quite dramatic. This has emerged as a core issue that needs to be dealt with, and sitting beside an overweight passenger is the number one complaint, he added. Chief operating officer for customers John Leahy says that carriers are improving their margins by charging extra for food, bags and window seats. However, what most people want is space, which is something they can offer, he added.
A survey last month found that half of British air passengers said overweight travellers should be required to pay more for their fare. Even now it appears that British flyers aren’t willing to give up any of their space, no matter how it’s taken from them. A Skyscanner survey has suggested that 84% of passengers believe it’s unfair to slim down their seats to make bigger ones for overweight travellers.
However, carriers are nearly certain to use such a seating configuration to make more money. All flyers would probably have to pay extra for the 20-inch seats – whether they are overweight or not. Airbus says about 20 airlines have expressed interest in such a design, which is expected to be available at the end of the year.
Skyscanner spokesman Sam Poullain says that the issue of charging extra for larger seats is antagonistic, as it gives carriers a financial incentive to make standard seats smaller in size. Extra-wide seats are a smart way for airlines to generate more money, but it’s inevitable that some travellers will feel cheated since they will be losing an inch from the width of their seats, he added.
Airbus has noted that the 17-inch seats would match the average width on board rival manufacturer Boeing’s aircraft. Air Travel Advisory Bureau spokesman Curtis-Ward says he supposes some travellers would complain about having to sit in a smaller seat. Personally, he added, he wouldn’t have a problem with it, as it’s better than sitting beside an overweight person that’s invading his space.
The issue of overweight passengers taking up more space and costing airlines more in fuel has brought up the idea of a fat tax as well. Ryanair is one carrier that has discussed imposing such a tax to cover the extra cost of carrying obese customers. Some airlines have started requiring obese customers to buy two plane tickets, including Virgin Atlantic and easyJet.
Author's Google+ page