Have travelers lost the class war?

Whenever an airline introduces new lie-flat seats for its richest customers or makes its “elite” level more elusive by restructuring its loyalty program, as has been happening lately, it sparks a predictable debate about the growing rift between the “haves” and “have-nots” in travel.

Next month, American Airlines will begin flying a new Airbus A321T between New York and San Francisco. It comes with lie-flat seats in the front of the plane and an espresso machine only for first-class customers.

To give members of its Sky Club lounges a “more exclusive experience,” Delta Air Lines in May will start charging a $29 access fee for guests of regular members as a “benefit” of their eligible credit card. Previously, those visits were included in the hefty card price.

Meanwhile, ordinary passengers languish in crowded waiting areas and are wedged into airline seats that seem to shrink between flights. When they complain, they’re often angrily told by disgruntled airline employees that they get what they pay for.

The airline’s highest-spending customers are being lavished with more, while the rest give up their last shred of dignity, such as a humane amount of legroom and seat width or the ability to check a bag without paying extra. If it’s not bolted down in steerage class, there’s a charge for it these days. What’s more, this class conflict is playing itself out across the entire travel industry.

The divide between rich and poor has never been more obvious than in the air. And the airline industry has become quite comfortable with our collective deprivation.

Just ask Alireza Yaghoubi, the chief technology officer at AirGo Design, a company with a clever idea for creating civilized economy-class seats. The technology exists to offer everyone on the plane ample legroom and space to move in coach class. But it would require a significant investment, and he says airlines prefer to sink that money into first-class passengers, who are deemed more valuable.

“Airlines want us to either pay more or go through the same nightmarish experience every time,” says Yaghoubi. “That is a failed strategy which needs to be revised.”

As always, the airline industry is boldly leading the way when it comes to separating the well-heeled from the rest. But make no mistake: The travel industry is following, often enthusiastically. Remember, only a fraction of American travelers fly; the rest drive or use mass transit. Consumer advocate Edward Hasbrouck sees the class war unfolding on the ground in places such as San Francisco, where mass transit can be tedious and unreliable, unless you’re one of the privileged commuters with a ticket on a private express bus.

“There’s a dramatic contrast between waiting for slow, late, overcrowded public transit and the luxury buses, hiding their occupants behind spotless tinted glass, that pick up thousands of moneyed young geeks every day and whisk them off to the Silicon Valley campuses of Google, Facebook and Yahoo,” he says.

Hasbrouck fears a day might come when the class divide will resemble a scene from a dystopian novel. Something like it already exists. In São Paulo, laborers spend hours on overcrowded buses getting to and from work, while the affluent are carried by helicopter from the rooftops of their condo towers to the rooftops of their office towers.

“That,” he adds, “is the most extreme class divide in transportation.”

If you think this sounds like another debate in Washington, you’re not alone. There are several parallels between the discussion about income inequality and inequality for travelers, says Richard Reeves, the policy director for the Brookings Institution’s Center on Children and Families.

No matter the mode of transportation, most travelers understand and accept a class system, or the idea that you can enjoy more amenities, such as a larger room or a more spacious seat, if you pay more. But perhaps a line has been crossed, say experts such as Reeves.

To many travelers, it seems as if those sitting in the front of the plane, staying in the suites, riding the private buses don’t deserve the VIP treatment any more than the rest deserve their misery.

As with the current discussion on income inequality, people become disenchanted when they feel the system is basically unfair.

“That’s when people become much less tolerant,” Reeves says.

Maybe we’re at a tipping point in travel, just as we are with income inequality. The more stratified the travel industry becomes, the further we get from the dignified experience everyone deserves.

In that world, we’d be better off staying home. Let’s not go there.

Have travelers lost the class war?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook - LinkedIn - Google Plus

  • LFH0

    It is not the disparity in services offered. The affluent are able to buy “better” in just about anything; that’s what money does in a capitalistic society. What is important is that people can choose their priorities and how they spend their money, and that no one is being defrauded. Some people place a priority on leg room, and they travel by train. Others place a priority on speed, then travel by airplane. If one wants both leg room and speed, then it will cost more. But it is not for government to regulate what our priorities are to be.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The only real question is why.

    Why is coach so miserable?
    Why do “ordinary” passengers languish in crowded waiting areas?
    Why is public transit so miserable?

    Is it because someone else has better. Of course not. They are miserable because the price at which these services are delivered do not permit sufficient revenue to provide a better experience.

    At the end of the day, if we want more, bigger, better, the solution is straightforward, albeit difficult. We have to be prepared to pay for what we want.

    I don’t get this class war thing. How does what goes on in First affect me back in coach? Whether there are 30 regular seats, 20 lie flat seats, or 1 big four post bed in first, it’s not like the square footage in coach has been reduced.

    I’d be interested in getting some real data, someone who had economic or business sophistication to show analytically whether the largess lavished upon premium class passengers adversely affects coach travelers, or is this merely populism.

  • Richard

    So Chris, are you suggesting that people should receive what they need and pay what they are able? I’d totally subscribe to that – unfortunately, it has not yet appeared in a workable, sustainable, implementation. Until we figure out a way to work around greed and laziness it seems the free market based economy is what we have to live with.

    Of course, nobody calculates the cost of competition. A single carrier on a route would be able to guarantee full planes with higher efficiency and, therefore, a lower per passenger price. But,do we really want that?

    BTW LFH0, it is the free market that drives the availability and pricing of goods and services – capitalism is just one form of a free market system.

  • omgstfualready

    Is it safe to assume you have not a single stock in travel companies? Shareholders must also be satisfied to be able to continue to raise capital to run the company. Nothing is this black and white and it is naive to present it that way.

  • ctporter

    Should the airlines do away with ALL first class or business class, and make all seats on a plane equal, as in the exact same width and pitch as in coach? Would you have been complaining about seats on the old stage coaches, where some had to sit on top because they paid less than those inside?

  • backprop

    Four words: “More Room Throughout Coach.”

  • caruso81

    The comparison to private buses is specious. Those employees are ferried by their companies. If you want private bus or helicopter travel to work, then develop a skill set that causes a company to value your services enough to spend the money it takes to provide those services.

    And I can’t help but notice that most air travel reports, including those here, are always and only about the newest 1st class product (that the vast majority of us will never be able use) or how best to use those 500,000 miles (that most of us will never accrue). Beyond the occasional “I Never Got My Peanuts and I Want a Free Flight” post, let’s not pretend this or any other travel blog site is for the common traveler.

    Finally, are you suggesting that we are all entitled to first class air travel. Fabulous idea. Then EVERY ticket will cost $8000.

  • Timothy Woody

    The so-called class war has deeper economic roots. In the early 1980s I was able to fly to Hawaii from Sacramento for about $450. This flight included a connection in either Los Angeles or San Francisco, full meal, and two bags for my wife and myself. At the same time, a new car cost between $5,000-$10,000. Now that new car costs between $15,000 and $40,000 (or more if you want a luxury or specialty brand). Meanwhile I can still get that flight to Hawaii for a lot less than $1350. To be able to keep the prices low the airline industry HAS to find economies, like no or extra charge meals on long flights, less leg room and baggage charges. While I’m not apologizing for the airline industry, it is just a matter of reality – air fares have risen much slower than most of there rest of consumer goods. That’s because of greater competition and a flying public that, in many cases, can choose not to fly and spend their travel and vacation dollars elsewhere. The biggest loser is the business traveler whose company is unwilling to spring for a more comfortable seat, because he/she has no alternative.

  • Miami510

    This reminds me of a recent news article chronicling the move by many urban, upper class hotels to turn their top floor into super-luxury hotel, multi room suites, often with 3,000 square feet, and renting for one night at rates of $25,000. per night… the cost of a compact car ! !

    There is a political danger to what’s happening, where the power in numbers of the disenfranchised will exceed the financial power of “haves,” resulting in a revolution at the ballot box and the subsequent redistribution, not of wealth, but of poverty.

    Many of my neighbors here in Miami, who have fled Columbia and Venezuela will attest to this scenario.

  • Carver Clark Farrow


  • Cosmos Human

    It takes nearly two years to save up for a vacation so every dollar I spend on airfare matters. Coach, I mean cattle class seats to my dream destination; the UK fluctuate day by day and I haven’t grasp the knack yet to purchase a great fare. The seat pitch becomes smaller and the threat of DVT becomes greater.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Anybody remember this old ad for Southern Airlines?


  • Helio

    I was curious about the AirGo design and googled for. Well, the guy promissed the same confort level of 1st. class using 1/2 of space, or (better!) 16% more space than economy class.

    But the drawings do no follow it – 48 AirGo seats uses about the same space than 90 couch seats (http://www.jamesdysonaward.org/Projects/Project.aspx?ID=2634).
    Chris, will you pay the double for your ticket, even for “equivalent” 1st. class seating?

    And come on, these seats and bins seem to be very expensive to manufacture!

    (PS: I did the yellow marking in the economy class)

  • LonnieC

    Seems that there is a certain middle ground. Of course, people should be able to buy “better” if they wish, if it’s available, and if they can afford it. However, those paying for coach should still be entitled to a certain basic level of comfort. And that is where the airlines seem to have dropped the ball. There may be a place for mandated minimums for space and amenities (air quality, basic food, snacks, blankets, pillows, etc.?), just as there are standards for minimum comfort in dwelling spaces (eg., minimum heat, potable water, etc.) There should be a way to provide this and still make a profit (can you say Southwest?)

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I don’t disagree about the minimum standards for health and safety (heat, potable water, etc. are all health and safety issues). But I have two issues:

    1. The red herring about the class wars. It’s completely specious and populist.
    2. Big brother mandating non-essential extras. I can bring my own portable water bottle with filter ($9.00), pillow, blanket, food, etc. Why must we mandate that the airline provide these items and correspondingly raise prices.

  • DavidYoung2

    I think the biggest complaint is not how much the ‘Elites’ have, it’s that economy has become sooooo miserable. Airlines have indeed been taking from economy (ie, space and legroom) to give to FC.

    Really, who cares if FC has Dom champagne and lobster? Nobody, so long as economy can be reasonably comfortable. I think that kind of sums it up with the whole discussion about the 1% vs. 99%. Few people would begrudge the 1% their extravagant luxury so long as it wasn’t at the expense of the 99%. Sadly, we all know that’s not really the case.

  • Bob Curtis

    No problem with me if they soak people (voluntarily) to keep my ticket cheap! As long as I get to my destination in one piece, I am OK. I will save my dinero for things that matter to me, like beaches, skiing, and good beer! Also, a good fast is beneficial for the metabolism. I will admit that this is relatively easy for me to say, as I am a small-to-medium guy so seatroom is not an issue.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Do they really take space and legroom form economy to give to FC. Most planes that I’ve been in have a bulkhead that separates coach and first. I don’t recall ever reading that airlines are moving bulkheads.

  • OzJohnno

    My wife and I aren’t young anymore and cramped economy class travel was starting to hurt our bodies so if wanted to fly away on holidays we had to make decisions about the mode of travel we chose. On average it takes around 34 hours to travel to Europe from Australia and even in economy class it’s not cheap. We were able to save enough to travel overseas every 3 years in economy but as our bodies rebelled we added an extra year of saving and flew business class. Yes we get much better service and most of all we get a much higher level of comfort and Yes we pay for it. As long as there is choice there will always be different classes of travel but I don’t think it’s “unequal”. It’s just a choice.

  • Name

    So if I work hard to buy my new car, should I give it to you because you want it?

  • AH

    Carver, while maybe the total square footage in coach hasn’t really changed, what has changed is the amount of that square footage allotted to each individual passenger. In coach, more and more seats are being jammed into that same square footage, and more and more costs are being charged – for a reserved seat on top of your reservation – (that one still baffles me. buy a confirmed reservation, but you have to pay extra to get a confirmed seat?)
    But i also have to wonder how the first class area can now accommodate lie-back seats, when it didn’t used to.
    Admittedly, I’ve only flown 1st class a few times – the last time was in 1980 when I got bumped up due to a long delay, and a plane change on my connection from DEN to DFW – nice seat! but it sure didn’t have enough room to lie flat – I was just in front of the bulkhead separating first and coach. (Still don’t know what I did to get bumped up, maybe my polite attitude over the delay? – I flew regularly back then, and understood that things happen. And I definitely thanked them for the upgrade!)

  • AH

    Can Delta explain why they’re now charging guest admission to their lounge, on top of what the member already pays? That seems crazy! Say a Sky Club member is traveling with family and they have a wait between flights – the member has to pay extra to bring his wife and kids into the club as “guests?”, or he’s traveling with a business associate and they have a long layover?
    Both my father and grandfather did a lot of traveling when I was young, and I spent time in “private airline clubs” – AA, TWA, United, whatever because of their membership – no extra charge.
    Now they want the member to pay extra for a guest? More nickel-and-dimeing.

  • LonnieC

    As for the so-called “class wars”, I agree with you. This looks more like an attempt to jump on the current bandwagon attacking the “1%” who are able to fly first/business class. I have no problem with them.
    I do, however, have a real problem with airlines claiming that grossly sub par accommodations are acceptable to coach class travelers. Such travelers are entitled to certain basic standards of comfort. My example was just to point out that the government may have a place here, in light of its role in basic housing standards. If the airlines continue as they have, the government may get involved, for better or worse.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I agree that the amount of space that each passenger has is increasing. I don’t think there is any question about that. However, I was challenging DavidYoung’s assertion that they are taking away space from coach to give to first class. I do not believe that is an accurate statement. That’s important in that such a misconception feeds into sensationalism such as “class warfare”. The notion that coach is miserable because those resources are being allocated to premium cabins. That’s demonstrably untrue.

    As far as the lie back seats, what they do is reduce the number of first class seats. One American’s 757 they reduced the seats from 22 to 16, if memory serves.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    To borrow a phrase, the Devil is in the Details. What basic standards of comfort (beyond health and safety) are we talking about that should have the force of law; that we take away the passengers choice?

  • LonnieC

    I would think that it shouldn’t be too difficult to establish minimum standards for comfortable seating in coach, nor for levels of air quality, availability of water, and even clear, up-front pricing, for example. I understand that there is a strong competitive force driving amenities down, but certain basics should be required, and not left to the airlines to determine. And if such standards were applied across the board, all airlines would be on the same footing. Rates could be adjusted as each airline saw fit, while they were all on a level playing field. Yes, prices might go up, but I expect that between competition and the relatively small cost of what I’m suggesting, the increases would be reasonably small. Wishful thinking? Perhaps.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    It sounds good when we speak in theory and give no details. But I”m still not hearing a specific area of comfort (aside from health and safety) that should be mandated by law instead of the agreement between the airline and passenger.

    For example, should an airline be legally required to provide a pillow? A blanket? reading material? playing cards? dinner?

    I’m suggesting that once you make it specific, something that can be analyzed, the allure of the argument fades.

  • Bill___A

    It is a way to reduce the number of people in the lounge. They obviously have more members than their capacity allows, and it is quite clearly a capacity controlling effort.
    They should charge people under 12 $75 and infants/babies/toddlers $500. It would solve a lot of problems. I am not “elitist” but at the same time, the “peace and tranquility” of the lounge is compromised when a couple brings their baby in and makes goo goo noises at it without stop. People pay for these memberships one way or another.

  • LonnieC

    Okay. How about this: “…Just ask Alireza Yaghoubi, the chief technology officer at AirGo Design, a company with a clever idea for creating civilized economy-class seats. The technology exists to offer everyone on the plane ample legroom and space to move in coach class. But it would require a significant investment, and he says airlines prefer to sink that money into first-class passengers, who are deemed more valuable….”
    It would seem that basic seating standards would be a good place to start. And if that cuts into profits, so be it. The airlines are finally doing well. Perhaps it’s time for a little pay back to passengers.

  • Helio

    In big planes, you can move bulkheads, within certain limits – you have to consider the location of intermediate lavatories and galleys.

    In small planes, like B737 and A320, it’s just a question where to put the intermediate bulkheads or, more usual, curtains.

  • Helio

    People, there is no AirGo Design company!!!!

    Alireza Yaghoubi is a Researcher at Malaysia University, and the received an award at James Dyson Foundation for the AirGo Concept.

  • LonnieC

    This is on LinkedIn: “… AirGo Design Pte Ltd is a privately funded Singapore based startup
    founded in 2013 by a team of enthusiastic entrepreneurs. The concept
    AirGo is a patent pending and award winning design which has been
    praised by media in over 10 different languages as “The Future of
    Airline Seating”….” Still, this is not the core issue.

    Here’s my point. Whether or not the AirGo design delivers what it promises, it would seem that airlines could develop better seating so that there is greater comfort and less likelihood of DVT. In a recent trip, because my wife has a back problem, we were in business class, and had a very nice experience. A number of our travel group were in coach. None of them sought the cheapest seats, or tried to find a “deal”. They just expected a basic, decent level of comfort. However, when we returned to the states they all commented on how awful the trip had been (uncomfortable seating, stuffy cabin, appalling “food”, etc.). It just seems wrong for airlines to treat passengers as “self-boarding luggage”, and not deliver a basic comfortable, safe experience. No, I’m not interested in the government mandating what food, blankets, etc. must be provided, but gee, can’t a flight be something other than the worst part of a trip?

  • Bill___A

    This is how things in the USA work. Places like restaurants and fast food joints pay their employees sub-standard wages so that they can offer the “best deal”. Of course, these prices do not include proper wages for the employees so the customer is supposed to “top up” the wages of the employees (25% according to Elliott – which is insane). The “net cost” is therefore oftentimes more than if they built proper wages into their costs in the first place.

    Likewise, there is a never ending force to drive flight costs lower and lower because people are fickle and will choose another flight due to a 99 cent difference in fare, with little regard for the quality of the airline. There is complaining about every little thing and yet people won’t pay a proper fare.

    I don’t see these things fixing anytime soon.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Again, is that something that should be mandated by law or the market.

    But in either event, with all due respect to Ms. Yaghoubi, she is not a credible source. She has a product to sell and her words must be viewed in that light.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    but gee, can’t a flight be something other than the worst part of a trip?

    Absolutely. But customers have already shown that despite their complaints they buy the cheapest. Customers have spoken loud and clear and voted with their wallets. They will not pay more for better, but will choose the cheapest option, even if its the crappiest. Its not the choice I would make, but if that’s what the customers want, so be it. American Airlines tried to be provide a better coach experience, adding 2 inches of legroom and raising prices slightly. It failed miserably.

    That’s the problem, our mouths and our wallets aren’t in sync. Since the airlines can only listen to one, they listen to our wallets.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Sure. I get that they can be moved, its just that I don’t believe that that’s part of the reconfiguration. But I might be wrong.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Let me put it differently. Business can provide goods and service at different levels. They provide the level that customers are willing to pay for. We see that with coach seats with more legroom, business and first class. Some customers are willing to pay for the better service and the airlines are willing to provide it.

    The problem comes when customers are willing to pay for a very low level of service. Walmart comes to mind. In store customer service is low. But you get cheap prices and many people shop there. They chose cheap prices over service. There’s no point in complaining about how crappy Walmart is. Its providing exactly what its customers are willing to pay for.

  • Bro AJK

    I double the Amen!

  • Bro AJK

    I think the gov’t won’t be able to to much, as they’ve allowed the $85 pre-check program in the TSA. I appreciated that the line was the great equalizer of air travel. Now, it’s just a line for the unwashed masses.

  • Travelnut

    Hah, I love it! Of course, they’re no longer in business, so maybe that business model didn’t work out so well for them.

    A couple of weeks ago I flew Delta for the first time in several years. I was in a bulkhead seat and not sure if those seats are constructed differently than the others, but it was downright painful. I’m a little fluffy and I’ve been in seats that were pretty tight, but these seats had the channel changer in a place where it stuck me directly in the thigh. No matter how I changed position it still stuck me, for three hours. Ow. It was miserable.

    While I understand the argument that people will choose a flight on a very small price difference, I think sometimes people aren’t aware just how bad the seats could be. It’s only when you get on the plane, strap in and realize a channel changer is gouging your thigh, that you think, man, these seats kind of suck. (I wasn’t on Delta by choice, my United flight was cancelled and they put me on a Delta flight instead.) And if your choices are sucky seats, or nice seats at double or triple the price, that’s not a real choice. FC is nice, but not three times as nice. I’m fortunate enough that my finances will allow me to pay up occasionally for first/business, and if the flight is over three hours I will. But most people can’t afford that.

  • LonnieC

    So you’re saying that this is just another example of our collective race to the bottom. I expect you’re correct. How sad….

  • MarkKelling

    If the tray table was in the arm instead of in front of you, then yes those seats are build different that the others. You end up with a narrower seat area.

  • Carver Clark Farrow


  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Good catch. I totally missed that. I can’t speak for the seats but the advertisement is a con. Sure, if you removed half the seats from coach, there would be much more space. No great innovation there.

  • Travelnut

    Yes, tray table was in the arm. Good point!

  • bodega3

    Oh yeah, please stay home! You don’t like cruises, you don’t like kids. I can’t wait to take our 4 year old, 3 year old and 2 year old kids into the lounge with us on the next trip. They will love it before they board to fly in first class!

  • Bill___A

    Have fun. I’m pretty sure I won’t be going the same places you are.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I have no interest in cruising, but I have to object to the
    “peace and tranquility” of the lounge. The lounge is not for you alone. The only place to discriminate is your personal space, i.e. your own room. If you want a public space that is kid-free, those are called bars.

  • Bill___A

    Mr. Farrow: I expect the airline lounges to be “as advertised”. If they advertise it as a more peaceful place, then it should be. If it is just going to be another room in the travel zoo, then don’t advertise it as something different. I would expect you would understand the importance of the expectation of something to be “as advertised”.
    Everyone should have their freedoms, but should not be conducting activities which disturb others to an extent in the extreme. This does not happen all that often, but when it does, it should be addressed. As an example, I would not expect to turn on computer speakers and loudly watch videos in a lounge, for example, I would expect to use headphones.

  • Carver Clark Farrow


    I’m calling BS. I have been in lounges all over the US and in Western Europe. I have yet to enter one which is “another room in the travel zoo”

    I agree that anyone causing a disturbance in the lounge should be addressed by the appropriate officials. It doesn’t matter whether it is an unruly child or an entitled business person talking loudly on his/her cell phone.

    I do object strongly though to the prejudging of a class of people. The rule should be fairly simply. Anyone unable to abide by the rules of the lounge must leave until they are able and willing to do so.

    And of course, the “goo goo” noises that parents make are no more disruptive than any other chatter. If you are particularly sensitive, that’s not the parents concern.

  • Bill___A

    Parents stood right in the middle of the lounge where there was a sofa, very loudly interacting with their toddler. Louder than anyone and everyone else in the lounge, and it immediately became the only thing anyone heard in the whole place. Admittedly it was not all that big of a lounge, and not all that full, but it did happen and I don’t really understand what the parents gained by coming into the area and doing that.
    I’m not saying it happens all the time, but what I am saying is that when it does happen, nobody does anything about it.
    I don’t make a bunch of noise in the lounge and, within reason, I don’t expect others to either. And yes, there are loud “business people” who talk on their cell phones too, which is not great. The point is that EVERYONE, regardless of who they are, should not be disrupting a significant number of other people in the lounges, by any method at all. There is normal noise, which is fine, and there is inappropriate disruption, which is not fine. I was there. You weren’t. It was loud and stupid.

    You won’t find me taking a toddler into the middle of the lounge and yelling “goo goo” at them for a half an hour. There are a lot of very nice people on the road, and there are also a large number of boorish inconsiderate people.

  • AH

    obviously i’m from a different generation. by the time i was 3 or 4, i had learned to be quiet and respectful in public situations – including restaurants, airplanes and airline lounges. i knew how to order a “shirley temple” with a please and thank you, then sit quietly and sip it as i talked quietly with my parents in an airline lounge.
    a lot better behavior than some adults these days who insist on carrying on loud cell phone conversations no matter where they are.

  • Bill___A

    Then there are the adults who are loud and claim it is because they have a 3 year old when the 3 year old is behaving perfectly well and it is the adults playing loud videos. Lots of poorly raised children and nasty adults these days.

  • Helio

    Ok, my fault. I didn’t check at Linkedin. But come on again – a company, even being a startup, without a website?!?

    And I really want to know how they intend to fit that overhead bins at the windows seats…


    I have been traveling internationally since 1974. Space in coach has been reduced and space increased in first/business. But there has always been a difference between the classes–a substantial difference. I remember my first trip in business (one of about 8 I have made in my rather lengthy traveling life). I was awed at the room and hated going back to coach on my next trip. But there was not a lot of complaining then.
    The airlines should be giving us more room in coach. That is a given. Maybe the government needs to step in and mandate a certain amount of space deemed to be healthy. But I do not get all the constant whining about those in first or business getting so much more. Why do we not complain that someone has a bigger house, more land, a better car, a suite at the hotel rather than a room with no view, and so on. Sometimes the complaining seems like a bunch of school children complaining that someone got more ice cream than anyone else.
    I do not work for an airline and think they are some of the most poorly run companies today. But calling it a class war is simply over the top. I fly in coach. Occasionally I get an upgrade but usually not. I suck it up, I do not worry that someone up front is getting something that I am not. Maybe that makes me a sucker and maybe not.

  • Lindabator

    Unfortunately, passengers won’t PAY for it! American did that, and lost people over $20 to other carriers – so moved back to original configuration.

  • LonnieC

    I agree with you about this company. I just wanted to use it as an example of what might be done, if the airlines wanted to do the research and incur the expense to provide a little greater comfort in coach. There simply has to be a better way than what we have now. And I’d love to know if there has been any survey on what the “breaking point” would be (as a percentage of cost, perhaps), where passengers would pay more for measurably better coach seating. Ah, well….

  • Helio

    There is no need for more research. The solution is simple – just rearrange the space. If the airlines remove a couple of rows, all the remain seats will have a very decent legroom. And if they reduce the amount of seats per row, everybody will have a plenty of space for their elbows.

    But… there is a slight problem with this solution – because will be less seats, the company will need to charge more per seat. And the majority of the passengers will choose the competition…

  • flutiefan

    i had some passengers today who wanted to get on a direct, nonstop flight (which was sold out). they admitted to me that it was available when they booked, and they’d wanted it, but it was more expensive than the crazy-out-of-the-way connection routing that took more than 3x as long.

    it is clear to me, every single day, that people buy based on PRICE only… and then like to complain when it’s not the most convenient product for them. it’s not about class warfare at all.

  • bodega3

    I have a client who travels east to visit family. Connecting flights have been less expensive, so she has me book them. She flies into an airport with no nonstop flights from SFO, but returns from another airport that does have nonstop. On the return she always gets rebooked by the airline at the airport for free to a nonstop. Every time!

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Your post completely missed (sidestepped?) the point.

    Consider, you acknowledge:

    1. [T]here are loud “business people” who talk on their cell phones too, which is not great;

    2. EVERYONE, regardless of who they are, should not be disrupting a
    significant number of other people in the lounges, by any method at all;

    But it’s only the toddlers and under 12 that you single out for punitive action, i.e. additional charges. That’s my objection.

    Curiously, #2 is merely a restatement of my point that Anyone unable to abide by the rules of the lounge must leave until they are able and willing to do so which presumably includes not being disruptive to other guests.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Kick them both out. Kick out both the loud children and the nasty adults. It confuses me why you would single out the children and not the adults.

  • Bill___A

    Let me clarify:
    I think that everyone who is unruly – regardless of age, status, etc. should be asked to leave immediately. Not asked to be quiet, asked to leave.
    I’m sure you have been around the boards enough to see the extensive discussions and arguments about children on planes. Some parents are defensive (when their kids are actually pretty good).
    The high rates mentioned were merely stated as a deterrent. What I actually would like to see is no one under 16 allowed in the lounges.
    There are, in fact, many lounges that have age restrictions such as this and it works very well. I am sure that there will be some retorts about how one should fly to those places, but in reality, one does not choose a destination based upon the lounge rules. This is my opinion and I would like to see it done.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Thank you for the clarification. Let me make my point equally clear. As I previously stated, the lounge is not your personal space. Anyone who is willing and able to be well behaved should be allowed to purchase entry into a lounge. If you do not like children into the lounge, that is your issue. You resolve that as you wish. I would not presume to tell you how to deal with that.

    I am very happy that American airport lounges generally do not practice the sort of discrimination that you are espousing. And no, I am not a parent.

  • Bill___A

    No one is disturbed by well behaved children, but the problem is that people do not deal well with the badly behaved ones, hence my stance.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    How is that different from badly behaved adults? The jerk speaking loudly on the phone using curse words gets dirty looks but no one does anything about that either.

  • backprop

    Yes, that is the point :)

  • Bill___A

    Well if there is one thing I expect we can agree upon, it is that they are doing nothing about any of this right now, so it would be a welcome change.
    At a Lounge in Las Vegas Airport, there was a guy speaking very loudly on his mobile phone (as there often is in many lounges). I was in a good mood, but did an experiment to see how far I could go away from him and still hear the conversation clearly. It was about half to 2/3 of the lounge.
    Even louder was the female employee who was telling her life story to the male employee for about a half hour. She was too busy to wipe tables, but had lots of time to carry on a loud discussion with her co-worker.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Funny story. About 5 years ago, I was that guy. I was at DFW and they had a special section for no cell phones. I was on the phone with a client and I wandered into the quiet section. No one said anything until after I finished my call, one gentlemen pointed out the no cell phone sign. I was mortified and apologized profusely.

    I think that in general people don’t realize just how loud and disruptive they are. My experience is that good people will immediately remedy the situation, while jerks don’t care.

  • Bill___A

    Thank you for sharing that. I think you are right. I have not been perfect, but I do make a concerted effort not to be “that guy” as you do too.

  • http://www.thenetexpert.net/ Joseph Chin

    @LFHO I agree completely. Those who pay less do not have same right of entitlement to the same level of treatment as those who have clearly demonstrated commitment to the vendor in question or are wiling to invest more in the well-being of their travel experience. The airlines are well within their business interest to provide better treatment to more loyal and/or customers who are willing to pay more for a better experience.

  • bodega3

    Yes and no. If paying more for something like a first class ticket, you get a meal, a blanket, a pillow, alcohol as part of the fare you paid. But well trained flight attendants, a clean seat, functioning tray table, window shade, things that are basic, shouldn’t depend on what you paid. I based my business practice and that of our family business, on the policy that you treat all customers with respect and provide good service. You might exceed what you provide in service to those who are repeats but your $99 sale is treated with the same respect as your $9900 sale.

  • Carver Clark Farrow


  • http://www.thenetexpert.net/ Joseph Chin

    @bodega3 I agree that all customers, regardless of how much they pay, must be treated with respect, receive good service from all staff, and the service level guaranteed in the contract of carriage. However, premium customers typically pay 3-4x more for premium services, priority access, and more amenities (e.g. flat bed, upscale drinks and food, etc.), and there should be nothing wrong with that either. Customers choose and pay for what they can afford, and what they deem to be good value for their money. Air travel is less expensive now for the masses than any other time in history, and airlines are struggling to maintain sufficient load-factor to ensure profitability in the ultra-competitive economy travel class. So the seats sold in the premium classes can often tip the balance in terms of the profitability of a flight and the sustainability of flights enjoyed by everyone. I personally wouldn’t fly in long-haul economy class if I can help it, so I save money and plan to maximise points to get the desired outcome for myself and my family. It is a conscious decision and effort, that is available to everyone who is driven to do the same, regardless of your social standing or economic class.

  • bodega3

    Service vs amenities are like apples to oranges. Regardless of price, you should received good service. Now if you pay more for the product, you usually are getting more in amenities. I, too, only fly business or first on long haul flights. Economy isn’t worth the savings IMHO for those. Domestic flights under 3 hours I fly coach. Over 3 hours, then we try and use miles for upgrading.

  • justmeeeee

    Economy seat pitch has shrunk over the years and upper classes have increased in space and luxury. As others have commented, we don’t really care if they want to pay for luxury–have at it!–but don’t make the economy spaces and service unreasonable and dehumanizing. Quite a few people of 6′ in height or taller just don’t fit in those itty bitty economy seats.

    When the air-rage gets to the point that jets have to turn back or make emergency landings on a daily basis, at a cost of many dollars, then things might change. Airlines aren’t interested in delivering decent products for decent prices–they are interested in profit only. So not until their pocketbooks take a hit will things change, but that day is coming, I predict.

  • justmeeeee

    Carver, meet Kool-Aid. Kool-Aid, meet Carver.