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 • www.amadeus.com