Falling Flight Standards

The new SkyRider seat seems uncomfortable and unsafe

Maybe it’s just me, but the idea of flying in a “saddle-like” airplane seat with only 23 inches of leg room seems a bit ridiculous. Unfortunately, some airlines disagree. Aviointeriors, an Italian design firm, recently introduced the SkyRider, the latest in airline trends and concepts designed to increase revenue for airlines at the expense and comfort of already-disgruntled passengers.

It is easy to see why the SkyRider, a seat that compresses passengers by angling them downward, appeals to airline companies. Airlines would be able to fit more of these seats on an airplane and create new class of seating that would be cheaper than coach fares. Although some in the industry are skeptical about the SkyRider’s market potential, many are confident that the low prices would appeal to certain customers who are presently priced out of flying. Ideally, the seats would only be used for short flights, though manufacturers claim that they would also work for flights up to four hours. According to Avioninteriors, several airlines, including a few in the U.S. have expressed interest in the new seat designs. Ryanair, the notoriously low-budget Irish airline that was the first to charge for in-flight meals and considered charging for restroom use, has also expressed an interest in SkyRider seats.

On one hand, “saddle” seats would provide passengers with cheaper alternatives to flying. Some passengers would willingly forsake the comfort of 31 to 35 inches of leg-room for reduced fares, and the rest would still have the option of first-class or coach seats.

On the other hand, there are still various safety concerns that need to be dealt with before such a seat can be approved. Seating passengers together in such a crammed way would be disastrous if an evacuation were necessary.

But perhaps just as saliently, this new class of seats would increase stress and tension in-flight, thus making the overall state of flying even more difficult. Current airplane seats aren’t the epitome of comfort unless one chooses to pay more for first-class or extra leg room. At only 31 to 35 inches of leg-room, these seats are nonetheless decent. After rushing through long and hectic lines at the airport, I would prefer to sit down somewhere relatively decent than cram myself into a tiny, claustrophobic-looking seat that’s somehow supposed to resemble a saddle-seat. Anyone who says otherwise is deceiving themselves; SkyRider passengers will very likely be extremely uncomfortable throughout their flight.

Airline travel has increasingly become more stressful with numerous fees for checked luggage (in some cases, even carry-on luggage), in-flight food, and entertainment and some airlines have even gotten rid of their complementary beverages. Airport lines to check-in and pass through security tend to be long and only aggravate the stressful experience. What airlines need to understand is that combined, these minor annoyances become more than just an issue of comfort. Flying is a hazardous procedure that requires teamwork on the part of the crew and passengers, and overly agitated passengers make a flight less safe.

I acknowledge that the industry is struggling, but that is not an excuse to disregard the safety and comfort of passengers—which are perhaps linked. Passengers are already paying excessive amounts for these extra fees; they should at least be able to pay decent prices for decent seats.

The airline industry is desperate. It is pushing its customers’ patience and will likely continue to do so with outrageous fees and ridiculous ideas. Even if the SkyRider is not adopted by most airlines, its mere creation only indicates that things in the airline industry can only get worse.

Fabiola Vega ’13, a Crimson editorial writer, is a history concentrator in Mather House.