In journalism it is called a beat-up. In some circles a furphy. In others an urban myth. And, amongst older survivors, a load of damn poppycock.
Spring Airlines, the private Chinese airline, will not be offering bar-stool type seating to pack more people onto aircraft. Ryanair leaping on the bandwagon and shouting ‘me too’ shows that its chairman Michael O’Leary is still as publicity crazed — crazy like a fox — as he always has been. And the illustration on the right is a load of old cobblers.
This urban myth has been around a long time. The New York Times in 2006 reported that Airbus was considering offering standing-room ‘seating’ to pack more passengers on jets. The story was retracted and someone probably had a word in that section editor’s ear.
Forget the attractions and forget that it is a splendid story that would delight the heart of many journalists of the old school. Think of the physics. Aircraft seats – whatever shape they may be – and the passengers in them have to withstand significant forces to be certified as airworthy. That means they must stay intact against 16 g’s of force, so that the people strapped in have a chance to survive a crash.
If you try doing that with a bar stool you are asking for trouble. Airbus, a few years back, said officially it was totally impossible. An aircraft engineer consulted on this for CER laughed so hard he nearly hurt himself. It would need a seriously strong harness bolted to a bar stool which would have to have a leg of very serious diameter to be strong enough. And even there it would not get certification.
There is more. Aircrafts are certified for a maximum number of passengers, based largely on the ability to get everyone out quickly through emergency exits. You can’t significantly change the seating density without adding more emergency exits.
So, no, Spring will not be offering standing room only flights. Honest. Not.
Wall Street Journal Blog, with a cynicism that is sad to see in such a young publication, suggests the story is created by cheap airlines who seem to be falling over themselves trying to get free coverage that reinforces the notion of their cheapness.
Why bother buying advertising when you can just get newspapers and television stations to spread your brand message for free?
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