Wednesday, August 27, 2014

No, You Don't Get to Use 'Knee Defenders' When Seated in Coach!

If you think things are bad now, wait until they implement the "Skyrider" seats demonstrated 2 years ago at a trade show. If adopted by the FAA, and for long trips, passengers better be ready for blood clots and hemorrhoids. Recline? Forget about it!

The news that a United flight (# 1462)  from Newark to Denver had to be diverted to Chicago because of the eruption of bad behavior of two passengers in coach, ought to get every flier's attention. Evidently a tall male passenger in the seat behind the female - both in 'Economy Plus', mind you - placed a device called a 'knee defender' on the braces supporting the table thereby preventing the female from exercising the recline option. Upset, she stood up with a cold cup of water and splashed it into the offender's face.

Now, the knee defender has a more or less noble purpose: to protect the knees and legs of a tall, lanky person when the passenger in front reclines.  The problem is that the target is misplaced. That person in the front seat has every right on Earth to exercise her recline option especially if she paid extra moola to be seated in Economy Plus - for which airlines advertise more space between seats for about $40 more.  Hence, by using the knee defender, the offender has denied the front -seat passenger her own purchase of the Economy Plus seat!

Was her reaction over the top? Yes it was. What she ought to have done is to get the attention of a flight attendant.  Then the guy would have had to remove it because few airlines that I know of allow them, including United. Still, the FAA doesn't prohibit them, which is strange. (They want the airlines to decide the policy).

But let's be honest here: the real culprit is United for limiting the pitch of the seats - now to 31". This from an original 34" and a whopping 36" when I was flying in the 1960s. (When you had two seats across the plane, on each side of the aisle). In effect, airlines through their greed - which is all about packing more passengers in like sardines to grab more profit - have effectively denied the practical use of the recline option for many passengers. If they were honest, they'd do what two other value airlines (including 'Spirit') have done and prohibited any reclining!

This at least would serve notice to all passengers that though you might want to recline, it ain't in the cards. If you wanted that you ought to have gone business class or first. Given this official position known to all, the use of the knee defender would become redundant.

And don't think for a moment things will get any better going forward. Already on the planning boards is the the Skyrider’- but which is more accurately ‘the Sardine-maker’.  The approval of such torture chairs will enable the grubby-greedaholic airlines to pack fifty more people per flight (going up to 220) into their 737’s by reducing the spacing between front and back row seats by nearly 30% from 32” to 23”. Anyone who’s flown in economy recently knows this is a recipe for monstrous discomfort since as it is, you can barely recline to get a little sleep or sit up and read or have a drink without being disturbed by the passenger in front (especially if they suddenly jerk their seats backward)

According to Dominique Menoud, director general of Aviointeriors Group, manufacturer of these abominations:

"We feel extremely confident that this concept will ... have great appeal to airlines for economic purposes,"

How about for HUMAN purposes? Or is it that you just want to stir up more discontent? Hell, if economics is the governing purpose why not just  eliminate seats altogether and administer sleeping pills after strapping down and stacking  all the passengers like cordwood. I am certain this will  have "great economic appeal". But is that sufficient reason to DO it? I think not!

Yes, yes, I know, the current purveyors of flying box car sardine accommodations will assert flying is much safer now, with less fire prone seats, some better designs etc. that permits at least a decent chance of escape from a crash, such as we saw at San Francisco last year. That's a point, but I argue that had the regulation of airlines continued those improvements would still have been made and now, we'd have comfortable flights along with the new safety enhancements. I also am willing to believe most people are willing to pay more for comfort - as well as getting an honest airline fee when they plan a flight.

The main purpose of deregulation was for airlines to pile in more people and make more money. (And please don't tell me flights are cheaper now, because I can cite just as many examples showing how the prices of key flights are outrageous - depending on the cities involved: think $750 from COS to Atlanta!)

Yes, more people can travel today ....but what has that translated into? Well, I call it a "Greyhound of the skies". You're packed in just like you were in the old Greyhound buses of the past. Candy and nut wrappers strewn all about by the end of the flight, trying to squeeze out of your seat to use the loo, and then loads of cranky passengers not at all enthralled with their predicament- especially if a screaming tot is added to the mix.

Furthermore, the differences between first class and economy have reflected the general and growing inequality in our society. And as they stretch the first class seats to give them more room, at more expense, they shrink the economy class to piss regular fliers off even more. The new plan being considered is to remove two restrooms in the rear of each economy cabin and jam in four more seats.

Meanwhile, on one website called Flyertalk, we learned from a fellow blogger just how close we are to class warfare in the sky. Evidently disgusted by the grubby conditions on his flight, this Robespierre of the unfriendly skies invoked the French Revolution and warned: If you annoy “the salt of the earth enough, the rank and file and what have you, sometimes you wind up beheaded.”

Careful there, Bud. You don't want to be classified as a terrorist under the Patriot Act. But seriously, it's actually a wonder there aren't more incidents given how the traveling public's comfort and even basic humanity is being gutted by the yen for airline profits. But maybe people are no longer to be surprised given how this model is ubiquitous in our society.

As for knee defenders,  these are not what a true "Robespierre of the unfriendly skies" resorts  to. Rather he understands that the true culprit is the airline and either he boycotts it, takes a train, or......finds a seat where he can be more comfortable. (Hint: Behind the bulkheads in Economy).


Mike said...

'Skyrider' seats? Surely you jest. Granted, it's been 20-yrs since we've flown (coach) from West Palm Bch to Vegas (Delta), and we had 3 seats across and PLENTY Of room!

With what you describe how flying is now...there's NO WAY I would or could fly. With my disabilities (not to mention my claustrophobia), and my need to use the can often, as well as not being able to sit (or stand) longer than 20 minutes or so, they would have to sedate me - or else you'd be reading about ME going all batshit!

I agree with you on the corporate greed (one area where I do hold a libo position).

Anyway, great, informative post. Good info to have.

Copernicus said...

Thanks! Maybe it will stir up enough protest and the airlines will back off from their money grubbing insanity!