Expat Life, Travel

When did economy air travel become a form of torture?

Airplane with animals travelling cattle class.

Once upon a time air travel was glamorous and even now, at the front or top of the plane you have private cubicles resembling bijou studio flats in London. There you will be offered a wine list, linen napkins, flat screen TVs, a bar, perhaps a massage and maybe even a dry-cleaning service.

However, at the back of the plane, affectionately known as Cattle Class, travel becomes more and more like the game of sardines.  You have the pleasure of being uncomfortably squished in a tin can for hours, with total strangers and all their bodily habits.  You will have every opportunity to get acquainted with Knee Bashers, Chair Kickers, Arm rest Hogs and Aisle Loiterers. Indeed, it has become a form of both social and spacial torture.

I know that airlines are businesses and they need to manage costs, turn profits and part of that involves cramming as many of us into the smallest space possible. You can see several bizarre aircraft seating plan suggestions here. For your entertainment, I’ve recreated the one that the article calls the ‘Hexagon from Hell’ using Lego Duplo figures.

Buzz Lightyear might look like he’s smiling on the outside. On the inside he’s crying because he’s lost his jet pack and instead of holding hands with cowgirl Jessie he’s stuck playing involuntary footsie with a stern policeman and a burly fireman.

Economy class airline seating plan demonstrated with Lego Duplo figurinesIMG_1936 IMG_1933

If this seating plan were to go ahead, future economy travel would treat you (i.e. force you) to rub shoulders, shins and hey, why not even hold hands, with complete strangers. And just think, if you are one of the lucky rear facing passengers take off and landing will feel even more like a roller coaster.  Pass the sick-bag.

An alternative ‘genius’ suggestion I came across while writing this little piece, involves adjustable seating. More leg room for taller passengers and less room for shorter ones. I can only imagine that when the passenger in front of the shorter passenger decides to recline their seat that the shorter passenger will end up with their nose pressed against their tv screen and their meal tucked under their chin.

Getting to the bathroom could be interesting with either of the above proposals.

I’m wondering how long it is until someone suggests standing room only as a serious option. That way, airlines could fit double the passengers in Economy and add en-suite showers for their premium customers.

I realise that cargo is more profitable and less demanding than live passenger cargo – “Could I get an extra pillow?” “My headset’s not working.” “I think my child is going to be sick.”  I’m curious though, are there any human rights directives that apply to a minimal personal space quota on an airplane?

…and if there are, how minimal is that space?

I quite easily found information about transporting livestock (live cows, pig, chickens etc), and their welfare in transit, but couldn’t find any similar enlightenment regarding human airline passengers.

I’m sure there must be a rule or law somewhere, feel free to point me in the right direction.

In the meantime in the ongoing battle for personal in flight space, anti-seat-reclining devices known as knee defenders have been causing controversy (and an actual plane diversion) up in the skies.

Do you have any ‘Invasion of Personal Space on a Plane’ stories you’d like to share?

9 thoughts on “When did economy air travel become a form of torture?”

  1. My mum is coming to see us in december – and going home by container ship! She is doing it for ecological reasons (and because she’s always wanted to!) – but there are options! I LOVE your little toy depictions of what the seats will be like. Buzz Lightyear – crying on the inside! Brilliant.


    1. I only recently discovered you could travel by container ship. In theory it sounds very romantic, but it looks quite utilitarian and you’d probably need a good supply of books and board games. Sounds quite nice actually.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I once sat between two large women who had the armrests up. Bad sign. They looked at me and said, “Good thing you’re small!” No! I had to sit flesh-to-flesh with these women. Every part of my body from shoulder to knee was squished on both sides. Ugh.


    1. How horrid! I also have plenty of experiences sitting next to unsavoury/unsatisfactory seat neighbours, but once, just once, the tables were mortifyingly turned. One of my children sneezed explosively in their sleep all over the sleeve of a complete stranger. That was pretty dreadful.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.