“This was apparently a 21st century torture device”

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If humor is the good-natured side of a truth, then the Mexican avocado commercial that aired during last night’s Super Bowl delivered a double dose of both — with a side of spicy guacamole.

I’ll set the scene: A group of aliens (one, notable, with a fish-like head) are touring an exhibit of 21st century Earth artifacts.

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 6.54.00 AMThey pass by a display of passengers crammed in an airline seat.

Alien docent: “Now this, apparently, was a 21st century torture device.”

Green alien museum guest: “How long would they keep them strapped in there?”

Alien docent: “Sometimes hours at a time.”

Fish alien visitor [in background] VOMITS.

Alien docent: “Pretty gruesome.”

The fish alien losing his lunch. Get it? Even the sardine can’t handle the seats.

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Here’s the entire ad, which contains a few more zingers.

Interestingly, there’s no mention of the glories of the free market that made these coach class seats possible. Perhaps there wasn’t time for it. Or maybe there is no unfettered, laissez-faire capitalism in the future imagined by the ad agency. Who knows?

Here’s the interesting thing: When the size of coach class seats — or, to be more specific, the lack of size — has worked its way into our popular culture, alongside the Rubik’s Cube and Scott Baio, then, Houston, we have a problem.

I pondered the extent of the issue as I studied the display. It looks like a 31-inch pitch on an older airline seat. The woman in the first row is leaning back slightly, removing the tall guy’s leg room. He’s sitting ramrod straight, but wearing a headset to block the screaming baby behind him. Why doesn’t he lean back? He would crush the infant if he did.

Torture, indeed.

Some of you look at this and you see the greatness of air travel. You see passengers who otherwise couldn’t afford to fly being given a ticket in the sky, thanks to a deregulated airline industry.

Others will see it differently. To you, this is a greedy industry raking in record profits at the cost of our personal comfort. To you, this is legalized waterboarding.

What do I think? It doesn’t matter. The problem of substandard economy class seats has crossed a line, from an industry problem to a cultural phenomenon. The avocado commercial is the first of what will surely be many more jokes being made at he expense of the airline industry.

Maybe it will be enough to persuade airlines to do the right thing and to give us some of our room back.

But what do I know? I’m just a consumer advocado.

Economy class seats are ...

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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 our help forum.

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  • MarkKelling

    Yes, the commercial was funny. One of the better ones this year.

  • fairmont1955

    The “free market” can often take a great concept people are responsive to and find a way to destroy it. See: airline travel, cable.

  • Altosk

    Torture device.

  • JenniferFinger

    When I saw that commercial I thought of you!

  • judyserienagy

    What were they selling? I’m having fun thinking of what could be marketed successfully by highlighting a coach section on an airplane.

  • polexia_rogue

    I like Virgin, I fly Virgin.- it is cheap? no. but the seats are awesome.

    sprint, ryanair, etc are the fast food of the air, but they will never go out of buisness because people need fact food. People need 1.00 hamburgers when they are hungury and broke. People need $50 flights when they are broke but need to get to a funeral.

  • Fishplate

    It’s a Super Bowl ad, shown during an event run by an industry that could be said to be one of the greediest of all time. And no matter what people may think, you have no more need to a football game than you do to travel by air.

  • Fishplate

    In my area, cable TV is not a free market.

  • Kairho

    Free market has nothing to do with products having to be paid for…. !

  • Patrica

    I wanted to answer “BOTH!”

  • Carchar

    I don’t need a football game, so I didn’t see the commercial, but I do need to see my grandchildren, and that requires flying.

  • JenniferFinger

    That was a commercial for Mexican avocados.