As I am sitting on some version of a 737, hurtling through the air from Nashville to Dallas, I can’t help but think that you could do better—that you must do better for your customers.
It’s not the service, the flight attendants are friendly, smiley and jovial; it’s not the safety, so far, so good; and it’s not even the price (although I paid around $500 for this experience), but if I plan, I can find a decent fare.
It’s about basic comfort—or lack of it; the way in which passengers (customers!) are forced to sit in these ridiculously small seats. My seat mates always seem to be people whose bodies do not fit neatly, or at all, within the space you provide. Some of these folks should have probably purchased two seats, but who can afford that? I don’t fault anyone for living in a particular form or shape, but something’s gotta give.
People have gotten bigger and airline seat sizes have shrunk. Years ago, seat pitch—the space between your seat and the one in front of you—ranged from 31 to 35 inches. Today, some planes have as little as 28 inches of pitch, according to FlyersRights.org. Additionally, since the 1990s, seat width has shrunk from 19” to 17”. None of this make sense as the average American has gained approximately 30 pounds since the 1960s. Airlines are intentionally not meeting customer needs.
The way I’m sitting right now looks like I’m in a lopsided, seated version of eagle pose—and I’ll be like this for almost two hours. Not familiar with yoga?
Picture this: I’m in an aisle seat. I’m rolled onto my right buttock, with my left leg crossed over my right, twisted, and wrapped under my right leg. My arms follow suit. Periodically, I run out of strength and unravel, violently, like an old rubber band that’s snapped. My left foot pops out from under my right leg, landing in the aisle. I accidentally kick a cherub-cheeked toddler who is shocked that a grown woman would kick him so violently. I’m sorry, I mouth to the understandably upset parent, whose once happy baby has dissolved into a full-blown meltdown.
It’s difficult to maintain this seated eagle pose thing, but if I don’t, I will be uncomfortably forced to touch my seat mate’s right buttock, midsection, thigh, knee and elbow, which have squeezed into my personal space, over and under the arm rest. For two hours. With each passing flight attendant or passenger, I have to reel in my foot and untwist (hello again, stranger’s body, pressed into mine), allowing them safe passage. Once clear, I roll back to my right, somehow pick up my left leg, throw it over my right leg, twist, tuck, and hang over the arm rest into the aisle.
I’m so far into the aisle that I’m almost cheek-to-cheek with the guy across from me. Hello, you. Oh, you look like an alligator with little arms trying to work on your laptop, as the lady in front of you has reclined into your lap. Oof, here comes another passenger, unfurl, furl and repeat. I’m going to be sore after this flight. Passengers are customers, but it doesn’t feel like it.
I don’t judge or fault anyone who lives in their intended or unintended form. I’m no petite fleur. We all, regardless of size, deserve to fly comfortably, untouched by strangers’ flesh. I do judge the airlines for ignoring the metamorphosis of their customers’ needs. That’s what good brands do, anticipate and answer needs—solve problems. Airlines are not meeting this need. The first one that does will win.
It’s not lost on me that this metal cylinder can fly me safely to see my mother so quickly that it’s mind-boggling. For that, I’m grateful. And I understand about the need for you to operate cost efficiently, but what I don’t understand is why you aren’t shifting your focus to the basic comfort your customers, who come in all shapes, sizes, and economic backgrounds, so we can purchase one seat, with one extendable seatbelt, sit comfortably and safely and not have to snuggle with a stranger while working on laptops with alligator arms.