Being the only two airlines I have flown on- and I haven’t flown much- I can’t really address my letter to airlines in general… although I’m sure your economy class is a fair enough reflection on your competitors.
I would like to bring to your attention that flying cattle class (or economy class, as you call it) is far from a pleasant experience.
Simply fitting in the seats is all but impossible! I’m not small- but I’m pretty much an average size South African woman. The seats are a tight squeeze for me- and the fact that I cannot get into the aisle without major physical exertion- especially if the seat in front of me is reclined- simply demonstrates to me that you are squishing more people onto these planes than is actually comfortable. Could the seats not at least be the size of a car seat!!?
On the SAA flights, I was on small planes- with only one aisle- and on one of the flights I was lucky enough to have an empty seat next to me. We got pretty passable food on the plane, and the stewards were always polite and well turned out. The flights were smooth and the toilets were mostly vacant. Even so, the rows are unbelievably close together, and if you’re in a window seat- everyone has to get up and move if you want out.
On the Qantas flight, we were on a Boeing 747-400. This means 2 aisles and 10 seats in a row, three seats at each window and four seats in the middle of the plane. The plane holds 416 people (if it has 1st, business and economy class like ours did), and it has 8 toilets for the economy class passengers. Flying to Oz I had a window seat and my sweetheart was next to me. Luckily we had no one behind us as we were in front of the emergency door- but the plane was full. This meant my Glugs and the guy next to him had to get up and move into the aisle when I wanted to go to the loo. And while seated, I had to learn to do everything with my left hand since my other arm was under my Glugs’ left arm and his right hand would have been in his neighbour’s way. On a 12 hour flight- where your sleeping tablets don’t do shite for you- this gets more than a little irksome.
Coming home we again had no one behind us as we were right in front of the galley, but this time we were in the middle of the middle row. This may not have been the end of the world… BUT, I had gastro- and had to ask the guy next to me to wake up and move AND then climb over the seats to get to the aisle because the seats in front of me were reclined for pretty much the entire flight and I couldn’t simply get up and move sideways! Lemme tell you- when you have to do this every 30 minutes or so… you become acutely aware of how little space you actually have!
And I used every single one of the 8 toilets available to me on the plane during the 14 hour flight home.
Thankfully the young guy who drew the short straw in terms of seat allocation and ended up next to me coming home was infinitely patient, and I could bribe him with the unused milk on my meal trays and the sweets I’d brought on board with me!
And then Qantas’ built in individual entertainment system- which is supposed to have a selection of some 200 movies, over 100 TV programs, games, CDs and and and- didn’t work going to Oz or coming home!
The Qantas flights were smooth, the attendants polite and available and the food pretty good- and despite delays at OR Tambo pretty much on time- so I have got to congratulate them on those fronts.
But what am I getting at here? Well, my question to both these airlines is this.
Is it really necessary, for profit sake, to fit that many people on an airplane? Is it not remotely possible to remove a few rows of seats and give your passengers some space, and STILL make money off of them?
*I’m taking a leaf out of Ruby’s book here
…come play on my rollercoaster…