April 24, 2008

What's really going on with the "luxury" seats for the airline coach class?

It's reported like this:
Behold Thompson Solution's Cozy Suite, a novel, staggered seating arrangement to debut on Delta Airlines that permits for comfortable sleeping during overnight flights. It offers 31 inches of leg room, which is two inches more than the best of any other economy arrangements, and an elevated seat back designed to enhance privacy and give a nice, cozy place to lay your weary head.
But look at it and think:

Is it not obviously a response to the problem of over-large passengers spilling into the space that belongs to another passenger? Look how the side panel extends upward. That's never been the way to make seats in first class — where there is plenty of room — more comfortable. Note how the armrest has no opening underneath it. This seat is designed as a container for overflowing body fat so that each passenger gets the (small) space he or she has paid for and nothing more.

Link via Instapundit, who seems to accept the "luxury" label slapped on this fat-compression box.

ADDED: Here's another aspect of the design that demonstrates my point. The staggered line claims "air" space in front of the seatmate who is set back a step. Picture yourself in the seat occupied by the snoozing youngster in that photograph and a very wide guy in the middle seat. That guy will be blocked on one side and diverted into the space open in front of you. He won't be touching you, so it will be harder for you to object, but he will be filling the area between you and the seat back in front of you. There's an extra 2 inches in that space, the press release says, but the fleshy arm that will extend into it will be much more than 2 inches thick.


vbspurs said...

At first blush, I would say your reading of the situation is rather good.

Obesity stats for the US reveal what our eyes seem to corroborate: working-class people tend to be fatter, though in the US, 2/3rds of all Americans are judged overweight.

(Which given the impossible-to-achieve BMI, I the tennis-a-holic is too, and so is President Bush, who is fanatic about daily exercise)

Since most people go coach, it behooves the carriers to expand the seats to fit the unfit.

However, I have to agree with Insty.

This is more about luxury, and offering incentives for passengers to return to flying since 2001, than about appealing to the chubettes.


Ron said...

You mean they finally have to match their actual product to their actual customer base and not their idealized weight and sized passsengers which would allow them to cram in more revenue? Someone tell the clothing industry about this revolutionary notion!

Ron said...

Victoria, aren't Michael Jordan and Brad Pitt, under the current BMI calculations also considered 'overweight'?

vbspurs said...

Don't talk to me about those fat pigs, Ron!


Ron said...

I've embraced my inner -- and outer -- Orson Welles.

I post no comments before their time!

matthew said...

As someone who is not 'overweight' those seats look comfy to me. I want them on all flights. I hate (hate hate) the isle seat where I don't have a wall to rest my head.

BMI determinations of 'overweight' break down when you exercise regularly, especially in a manner that would create muscle mass. Since most Americans do not work out regularly, it's valid measurement for the average person.

Palladian said...

And there's something wrong with accommodating larger passengers in a way that makes it more comfortable for other passengers as well?

The occasionally 'anti-fat' tone of this blog has not escaped my notice.

vbspurs said...

Since most Americans do not work out regularly, it's valid measurement for the average person.

Well, not to threadjack Ann's thread with this angle, but I once read Americans buy gym memberships, workout equipment and clothing etc. 300% more than any other nationality in the world.

It may be true that Americans are more overweight than other nationalities, certainly on average, but they also are fitness mad.

I can always pick out the male American tourist in a crowd in the UK.

Whereas British males affect a skeletal cool like Mick Jagger, American males look like entrants to the Steve Reeves Look-a-Like contest.


Chip Ahoy said...

Brilliant! Your own personal little bucket. But I doubt that'll stop fliers from hogging both armrests and opening up the NYT over your lap and sticking their legs where your legs belong. I used to rue that flying used to be so gracious and now it's not. Then I realized, it never was gracious, my body was small so everything seemed capacious. I'm 6 feet, 10 stone, which is exceedingly thin, and I really don't need anybody's hairy-ape arms touching me, nor their excess packages clustered around my expensive temporary rental space. The fuselage brings to the surface the very worst of my misanthropy. Sit in the back and take note of the sections and how they shift in flight and you'll swear you're in a flying mobile home barreling at speed and at high altitude.

Trains. For the distance, there's still a bit of charm in trains. But only just a bit.

Eli Blake said...

I never fly.

Cramped seating is part of it (and I'm not obese either-- but I have long legs, long arms and don't fit into those little compartments unless I basically squat my legs the whole flight.) It's a fact that they've adjusted the pitch downwards since the 1970's (when 36 inches was routine, even in coach).

But that's not all of it. I hate the delays, the airlines treating me like cargo to be delivered and the 'who cares' attitude I get if I have a concern (on one occasion a flight I was on was cancelled. I watched as my luggage was loaded onto another flight, not the one I was on or going there, and pointed it out to the attendant, and he brushed me off and said, 'it will get there.' It did, too-- two days later.

It ain't the friendly skies anymore.

rhhardin said...

I recommend Microsoft Flight Simulator. You can hit pause and go out in the kitchen anytime, and your kidneys don't freeze in the winter.

Comfy desk chair. Bed available in the upstairs.

chuck b. said...

It looks like they don't recline, either. Isn't reclining essential for luxury seating? Well, as a long-legged man, I appreciate the no-recline. My knees need all the room they can get when flying coach.

I manage to fly without ever relcining. Much better to have that neck pillow.

titusyoumustloveme said...

I think they look nice.

You can't do any jerky jerky though with a hot guy under the blankey in those seats.

I flew home on Midwest and the best thing about the airline is only two big seats on each side of the plane.

I hate being in a middle seat.

rcocean said...

Off-topic odd question:

Old planes used to have beds, like sleeper berths in trains.

Does any airline still have those?

titusyoumustloveme said...

Yes, Ocean. Virgin Atlantic and British Airways have beds. I am sure many more do.

Ann Althouse said...

Palladian: "The occasionally 'anti-fat' tone of this blog has not escaped my notice."

I consider it straight talk and calling things by name. Fat is a significant issue, and I won't talk PC.

vbspurs said...

Not like the railway beds on older aeroplanes, ROcean, but a few airlines DO have a fully reclining seat (in business class).

British Airways:




The United one wouldn't look amiss on an episode of I Love Lucy.


ricpic said...

Upside: the staggering of the seats results in much more privacy than the usual straight across arrangement.

The downside: harder to carry on a conversation in which all is revealed to the stranger you'll never see again because she's the stranger you'll never see again.

Patm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patm said...

I don't think one has to "talk PC" to restrain oneself from talking with a prejudicial sneer.

GM Roper said...

The delightful Ann: "I consider it straight talk and calling things by name. Fat is a significant issue, and I won't talk PC."

Yay Ann!!!!

When people ask how I am I reply "I'm alive and well, fat and sassy and not necessarily in that order."

PC is for the birds I'm overweight, old as dirt and damn proud to have reached my age!

GM Roper

Ann Althouse said...

"I don't think one has to "talk PC" to restrain oneself from talking with a prejudicial sneer."

That's PC enforcement.

Meade said...

Next to claustrophobia, my greatest fear is flying on an airline, looking up to see my seating companion is Erica Jong, and noticing she has no zipper because she has become unbelievably fat.

Freaks me.

Patm said...

Or it's just being kind because there but for the grace of God and who knows what in folks' background, goes everyone.

Ann Althouse said...

I've quoted Roseanne Barr on this before: "If you're fat, just be fat and shut up." Fat is a fact. If you're tall, you're tall. If you're short, you're short. If you're fat, you're fat. If you're old, you're old. It only makes it worse to whine or quibble about. Own up to it. Be fat and shut up. Or more aptly, be fat and move on to talk about something more interesting than what we can all see easily.

Ann Althouse said...

"Or it's just being kind because there but for the grace of God and who knows what in folks' background, goes everyone."

If you say we have to use euphemisms to be "kind," you're emphasizing what a horrible thing it is. It's a very mundane fact, and there's no point in playing games over it.

Patm said...

You may be right about the being "kind" remark, but as for Roseann Barr's remark, the thing is if those seats were adapted to tall, or short or old people, it is doubtful that our thoughts about it would have included jibes about "long legs sprawling" etc.

Just seems to me that it's too easy to fall into the "lets laugh (or sneer) at the fat people." If they're fat, they're fat. It's as comment-worthy as their being tall or short or old or whatever.

But I loves ya, Ann.

vbspurs said...

Own up to it. Be fat and shut up.

Didn't stop her from getting her stomach stapled, now did it.

Like Rosie O'Donnell, that woman always preaches one thing, and then when she thinks no one is looking, she promptly disregards her own advice.


Meade said...

"I'm sorry, Erica," I say. "Not to be unkind, but frankly, you have become excessively fat. Please, zip it and let me read my NY Times in peace."

Maguro said...

"Like Rosie O'Donnell, that woman always preaches one thing, and then when she thinks no one is looking, she promptly disregards her own advice."

I really can't blame her. What kind of idiot would take advice from Rosie O'Donnell?

Ann Althouse said...

1. I'm not sneering. I'm just facing facts and talking straight.

2. I'm not saying fat people shouldn't try to lose weight if they can. Only that they don't need to talk about it one way or the other. In that view, Roseanne wasn't a hypocrite to do what she could to lose weight while also saying there's no need to talk about it.

Pogo said...

I will hold off on flying for the time being. It has become an ugly ritual, devoid of all dignity.

Grandmas in wheelchairs get frisked, and berated for carrying the water bottle they must keep with them for their 2 o'clock pills. Shoes are doffed even though surely no terrorist would consider that venue any longer, since they can simply be hired by the TSA.

PC concerns forbid closely scrutinizing the rabbity Pakistani with a one way ticket (which I am not supposed to even notice), so the stewardess is delayed by the near-pelvic exam confirmation of her innocence as a sort of penance for even considering the Muslim guy (may the gods of diversity forgive me my transgression).

Planes sit on tarmacs for half hours then hours. No food; no water; no explanation. Then you deplane again. Or you don't. It's random, you think; and it may very well be.

Surly stewards glare at you because you stick your leg into the aisle when it cramps from the assigned space, apparently designed for a malnourished second-grader or perhaps an amputee. The cabin crew is no longer impossibly handsome/pretty as in years before, tipping you off that the plane has become a Greyhound, no longer the playground of the rich, and this is not pleasure any longer, but endurance, and you have become not a passenger but cattle.

You discover that driving to Chicago can be had in the exact same time -door to door- as flying. Plus you can stop. Wherever. You. Damn. Well. Please.

No thanks, Northwest/Delta/American.

Patm said...

The whole point of this piece was that fat people were being served by those seats (as are, I guess, thin people who don't have to suffer the "overflowing body fat").

My point was simply that if you really subscribe to what Barr said, and equate being fat as being as self-evident as "being tall, short or old" (and as pointless to talk about) then there would have been no point in discussing the "overflowing body fat" anymore than there would be discussing "sprawling legs" were the chairs designed for tall people.

I've thought about this a lot. I've heard people say that "no one chooses to be gay." And I've heard others say "no one chooses to be fat." I think I probably disagree with the second sentiment; I think sometimes people, especially if they've been abused sexually, do choose to be fat because it insulates them or perhaps makes them feel immune to sexual abuse, since they are unattractive.

But if that's the case, then it's a very sad thing. I don't think anyone is fat because they love that propensity within themselves.

Maybe one of the reasons it is so easy to hate the fat is because so often they hate themselves. But that doesn't say much good about any of us.

vbspurs said...

2. I'm not saying fat people shouldn't try to lose weight if they can.

Let them stay fat, Ann! Fat people are AWESOME!

Who amongst us doesn't miss this show, which celebrated putting a pound of whole butter on everything?


We miss you Jennifer!


rcocean said...

Thanks for the responses. I'd love to fly Virgin and just stretch out on a long flight and sleep.

Christy said...

How do those seats accomodate the really fat person who usually buy 2 tickets?

Egress from the window seats during an emergency looks more difficult.

Palladian said...

"We miss you Jennifer!"

Indeed, Victoria. One of the best cookery shows of all time.

Jennifer Paterson's cook books are wonderful, including one that collects her UK 'Spectator' food columns from the 80s and pairs recipes with dates from the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar.

Clarissa Dickson-Wright's work both for the show and afterwards is also formidable. She seems one of the last sane people left in the United Kingdom

JohnAnnArbor said...

Is this a done deal? Or is this just an idea? Because I wonder as well how the FAA will look at the seats safety-wise.

Ralph said...

I imagine most airlines that fly between Europe and the Far East have the stretch-out seats. Fixed seatbacks are probably lighter and safer in an accident, but I wouldn't like sitting on vinyl or leather for more than a few minutes.

Thanks to weightlifting and protein supplements, I've finally got my BMI up to 20. Twenty years ago, when I weighted 20 lbs less, I had to sit on two pillows to keep my butt and legs from going numb on those hard seats. Thinness isn't all it's cracked up to be.

bobby said...

Frequent flier here, one of mid-normal proportions (5'9", 175lbs).

I've reached the point where I cringe when I see a Person Of Largidity walking up the aisle as we board, because I just KNOW they're going to sit down next to me.

And then they're going to start overlapping me, and shoving me, and they'll look at the armrest and at me and at the armrest and eventually they'll lightly quip "you won't mind if I put this up, then, will you?" as they start to lift the armrest (but stop, please, yes, I do mind, that's the last objective barrier delineating where I'm supposed to be able to store parts of my body as we fly for four or five hours together) and by the time we get off, the entire side of my body that they've progressively grown around as they work to expand their own seating area is sweaty and smelly and . . . did I mention smelly, and . . .

And the absolute worst thing about the experience?

That the airlines have been allowed to make seats so niggardly in width that I leave flights thinking dark, murderous thoughts about anyone bigger than "average."

That I can be so miserable and uncomfortable and PO'ed and cheated and then, in the end, I, an otherwise rational, intelligent, fairminded person of Scandinavian reserve and tact and discretion, can find myself ranting about overweight or just plain big people AS IF THEY CAUSED THIS PROBLEM!

I just KNOW that no one hated that experience more than the fat guy. In a country where government officials can lose employment for using words like "niggardly", where do the airlines get off selling 26" seats for extended flights? Can you think of anything more embarrassing and humiliating to live through?

vbspurs said...

Jennifer Paterson's cook books are wonderful, including one that collects her UK 'Spectator' food columns from the 80s and pairs recipes with dates from the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar.

Oh my dear, Palladian, thank you SO MUCH! What book costs $2.12 these days, save in a garage sale?!

Shortly before posting on the Two Fat Ladies, I had lazily open my Amazon packages expecting some tome or two -- but what do I see? The Complete Two Fat Ladies DVD collection! I had ordered it in Region 2 from Amazon UK and it arrived within the week.

I've already watched the first two episodes, and OMG, not only are they fatter than I had remembered, but the episodes put such a smile on my face. They're so un-PC, it hurts.

Clarissa Dickson-Wright's work both for the show and afterwards is also formidable. She seems one of the last sane people left in the United Kingdom.

Well, in regards to hunting yes, but she has said she's in favour of devolution.

Though she was born in London, her family are Scottish, and I do believe she votes SNP.

I once saw her lumbering along an Edinburgh side street, as she is simply pachydermal. Words fail.

Her gruff manner reminds me of my old Headmistress...who scared me to death, so I put my head down, and let her be.

If she wanted to, I have no doubt she could eat me for lunch.


Chip Ahoy said...

↑ + What Bobby said.

Fletch said...


Can you think of anything more embarrassing and humiliating to live through?

I don't know-- I still can't imagine needing a "sponge on a stick"- just to wash my own fat ass.

(from the linked article)-
Lynn McAfee, director of medical advocacy for the Council on Size and Weight Discrimination disagrees- "The idea of making us go without these sorts of things is cruel," says McAfee, who weighs around 400 pounds.

Freeman Hunt said...

Why does any conversation about fat have to include some reference to fat not beings a person's fault either due to biological or emotional issues? For some (I'd argue somewhat rare) people, sure, absolutely.

But let's be real, most people get fat because food tastes great and people eat too much of it. I'm not saying that fat people are bad; I am saying that they're generally not biologically defective emotional wrecks. I reject the uniform pathologizing of being fat.

As for the airline seats, I like them. They look very sleep-able.

Dennis said...

I'm a fat man, and the prospect of intruding on another passenger's space mortifies me. Because of that, I've gotten into the habit of just purchasing two seats. I don't need all that space, but I'm a little too big for one and buying the extra space removes the issue. I'm comfortable, and the other person in my aisle is comfortable, too.

The problem with these "luxury" seats is that the staggered layout won't give me the extra space even if I buy the second seat. That's really disappointing.

Robert said...

These Luxury Seats, so called, are also going to be murder on anyone with either broad shoulders or a bad back (I've both). My BMI is 21, but I'm going to be in excruciating pain after having my shoulders forced into an inverted U for 10 hours from Berlin to JFK (My normal route).

Yuck...quarter of a million miles with delta...but no more with those seats.

jen said...

On the one hand, that shape looks . . . less than ergonomic. On the other hand, the person in front of me would apparently be unable to put that seat back, which is a definite plus for my knees.

MadisonMan said...

I have a 35+" inseam, so I'm the person who has knees that you hit when you recline. I fly twice or three times a year. Not enough to hate it, not rare enough for it to be a novelty. I treat each flight as an opportunity to watch interactions, and that makes them interesting. I've never had a fat person sit next to me. I've never had flight problems at O'Hare.

My next flight is to the west coast, coming back on a red-eye, in June. Those last 2 sentences of the first paragraph have doomed me. The seats Ann writes about look comfortable, but I can sleep anywhere. They don't look safe. That bothers me.

Eva said...

As a very frequent flyer, I don't think it's just about the fat people. It's about the MEN! It's well known among women travelers that you should dread the man in the middle seat. His NYT will be spread open, dangling the front page directly in front of your nose. He will hog the arm rests. His thighs will be spread wide, oblivious to the fact that his feet are now under the seat in front of you. Men take up more personal space. It's just the way it is. I would love a nice little egg to sit in. Goes well with the noise-cancelling headphones everyone is wearing on planes now.

rhhardin said...

I don't see any room for your cello.

Sir Archy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sir Archy said...

To Professor Althouse.


As the Ghost of a Gentleman, dead these 250 Years and more, I have seen many a Marvel, but Flying Machines, carrying Passengers hurtling through the Air at 500 Miles an Hour and more, are indeed one of the Wonders of the Age.  That a Passenger in one of these fantastick Conveyances should be subject to every Inconvenience & Indignity, giv'n an uncomfortable & incommodious Seat, perhaps press'd on one Side by Someone fat & gross, and on t’other by an odd Stranger who importunes our poor Traveler by uttering Follies, would not surprise Anyone who had been upon an Highway in my Day; for such were ever the Risks of setting Foot in a Stage-Coach.

Not only would you have the Inconveniences mention'd, but if your Journey was of any Length, 'twas all too likely you would have dirty Rooms, Beds crawling with Vermin, foul Food, and surly Innkeepers in the Bargain; and unless you paid an outrageous Fare, you were likely to share the Bed with the same gross & fat Passenger, from whom you had just spent your jostl'd Day shrinking.

There was, in addition, the Hazard of Robbery, especially on Country Highways.  I myself lost a Watch and nine Guineas once to a Gang of Ruffians.  Nay, Madam, Travel in the Modern World is like so many other Performances these Days: short & smart. You may, by comparison with Travel in my Age, consider it as getting hang'd at Tyburn by a quick Drop, against expiring in the Pillory by repeat'd Knocks & Blows.

It may be that the new Seats for Air-Liners are meant to contain fat Passengers; but what of it?  Fat Passengers have always needed Containment, a Thing very much wanting in Coach Benches in my Day.  The new Seats appear to be a sort of Wing-Chair, upholster’d perhaps in Pig Skin, but commodious enough for that.  If they have the added Benefit of quieting your noisy Neighbour, I say all the better.

In the wise of noisy fellow-Passengers, I recall a Stage-Coach Journey from Leeds to London.  We all settled in with the usual Dislike towards one other Strangers feel upon first meeting.  There were, however, among the Company two charming young Women, twin Sisters by appearance, together with their Father, a grave Quaker.

After we had been on the Road a short while, the Gentleman next to me began to play the Part of a mad Coxcomb, importuning the Ladies with all manner of Stories & impertinent Questions, until at last their Father says to him that his Head were like unto a Drum:  The emptier ‘twas, the more it made Noise.  This quieted the Coxcomb for a while, until I felt his gaze turn upon me.  I had until this time been looking out the Window, but I immediately took up my Book (for I always travell’d with such), and snapt it open.  I had done so in haste, for the Gentleman says to me, “Excuse me, Sir, but your Book appears to be upside-down.”  I replied, “So it may be.  ‘Twere more of a Challenge this way, don’t ye think?”   The Coxcomb, thinking perhaps he was seat’d next to a Man more mad than Himself, made no reply; but the young Ladies exchang’d grinning Looks, and they and I made shy Smiles at each other.  We continued to exchange smiling Glances, I half behind my Book, until we arriv’d at the first Stop, from whence they depart’d the Coach, but not before one of the Ladies had slipt me her Calling Card.

That she dwelt in Leeds, a City inconvenient to me, plac’d an Obstacle to Gallantry; but for all that, we exchang’d some very pleasant Correspondance for a twelvemonth or so, until she inform’d me that she should be married that Week, and so thought it improper to write any more.

As inconclusive as the Affair proov'd in the end, you may see that a noisome fellow-Passenger may sometimes still have his Uses.

Wishing You bon voyage upon any Journey you may undertake, I am,


Your humble & obt. Servant,

Sir Archy

Nichevo said...

Ah, Sir Archy, 'tis you again. Bwaahahahaha! If you were only a hot chick who was also wealthy and, oh yes, alive, I'd marry you.

Speaking of which, I think we are entitled at this point to ask the divine Ms. Althouse for her height, weight, and measurements.

Nicole said...

i think the seats look comfortable, but i do think they would pose a problem for the severely overweight who need 2 seats...

Kevin said...

These seats do recline, but they do it by pushing your butt forward. That way the onus is on you when it comes to knee comfort.

I wonder how they'll configure these for the center row on wide-body jets.