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Back in the Saddle Again


It is with no small amount of glee with which I report, dear readers, that I did not say it first. In fact, Wired magazine's "World's Most Cramped Airline Seat to Launch Next Week" article said what we were all thinking: RyanAir cannot wait to implement these things.

Conversely, it is with a heavy heart that I think the makers of Aviointerior SkyRider seats are on the right track. My first reaction to the promotional photo was: "Oh, come on now. Just raise the fares back to a sustainable level, already." But then I realized that in much the same way humans will either learn to breathe CO2 or devolve into extinction, airlines must learn to cater to a new breed of passengers. Meaning that in contrast to the gleaming, futuristic hubs of excitement that airports used to be, they too will follow the trail blazed by the butt-breaking stand-up saddle seat and devolve into smelly, dilapidated bus stations on the outskirts of town.

The company that manufactures this seat will probably find a market and even make a profit at it. I don't see that there is any "right" or "wrong" in that. The only question really is whether or not it the seat is a harbinger of the future. Even though it brings to mind a certain Gene Autry sagebrush oldie, I'd hesitate to say we should view this as our nadir as a culture. Wouldn't that be ridiculous?

Let's step back for a minute and see the airline seat as a discrete piece of technology. Remember when flatscreen plasma televisions came out? They were $10,000. Now look at them—they give them away with rehabbed condos, along with DVD players. BlackBerrys—you name it. But remember, there's a high-margin buck to be made by the Sonys, Pioneers, Vertus, Rolexes, Singapore Airs, and Etihads of the world. Are the customers the same? Of course not.

Airlines have been begging at the altar of product differentiation, rather publicly, for years. The nature of capitalism, cruel mistress that she is, has granted their wish in the shape of this saddlesore-inducing ... uh, thing, which will make even the most parsimonious traveler part with some extra cash for a real seat upgrade.

The rest of us had better memorize that saddle ditty.



Road Warrior • Miami • Madrid •