What if all these terrible airline seating plans are all just viral marketing?

It happens every year or two. Some horrifying diagram will come out that displays what appears to be a sadistic despot’s plan to destroy the will of his subservient subjects in some sort of medieval torture device, with the intention of strapping them in for 18 hours at a time with no possibility of relief, and the internet masses collectively freak out and start threatening to wield their metaphorical pitchforks and shouting as loudly as they possibly can (because in reality, that’s all they can do), telling the airlines they’d better not, or else.

Just take a look at this, and imagine the endurance challenge it would be for even a few hours, then extrapolate to intercontinental duration:

Standing Seating Arrangement

Yes, that seems horrifying. It’s like a weird amusement park ride, with that piece of hardware that goes over your chest, but with no part of it seeming to be amusing.

And take a look at this even-more-horrifying stool strategy, which would have you perched on a bicycle seat, the next obvious step of which is that you’d have to pedal to power your own overhead reading light, due to continuing budget cuts.

Stool Seating Arrangement
If you’re not already picturing a slave driver with a whip, it’s because he’s in a separate diagram.

“But wait,” you might be thinking. “This makes absolutely no sense. If you’re strapped into this stool system, wouldn’t you bash each other in the head every time the plane jostles around, even just a little?”

Yes, you totally would. “So why would they ever do that?” They wouldn’t.

Take a look at those two diagrams shown above. Is there even any space savings in the design? Because it looks to me like they didn’t even reduce the space around each passenger; they just swapped out the seat for a stupider one. But without reducing legroom.

This makes no sense at all.

Take a look at this one, which is even weirder:

Backwards Seating Arrangement
This design is a little…ahem, backward.

The design allegedly allows more people to fit into the same space, because some people are backward. But take a look at those red people, and just…imagine them sitting the opposite way. Is there any space whatsoever that’s impacted by rotating them back and forth? Any at all?

I remain highly suspicious.

But you know what happens whenever anyone sees this pictures? They say oh no and this is horrible and life is no longer worth living and so on and so forth. And then they board a regular plane, and whenever anyone complains about how they’re packed in with no room to breathe, they’ll say “Oh, but did you hear about what they wanted to do?! Thank goodness we don’t have to deal with that!”

And therein lies the genius of these seat designs. No, they’re not to save space. Not even a tiny little bit. You can see from every diagram that they would accomplish nothing at all. But they save on complaints. Because for every passenger that contemplates just how much worse things could be, they’ll be thankful and cooperative when having to deal with the regular problems that drive everyone insane.

These seat designs aren’t seat designs at all. They’re passenger-compliance strategies. They are a viral marketing tactic, a display of social engineering brilliance; propaganda at its finest. The genius is not in their seat design space advantage, but in their ability to make passengers complacent and content, redirecting their anger toward an imaginary dystopia, like an Orwellian dictatorship constantly proclaiming on the airwaves “let us give thanks for our good fortune, for life is even worse, everywhere else.”

Hang onto that pitchfork. You might just need it.

About SnarkyNomad

Eytan is a pretentious English major whose rant-laden sarcastic tirades occasionally include budget travel tips and other international nonsense. You can follow his every narcissistic word on Facebook or Twitter.

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6 Comments on “What if all these terrible airline seating plans are all just viral marketing?”

  1. That’s hilarious if it wasn’t so sad and true. I’m also not sure why the seats on short haul domestic flights (and I’m talking 45 minutes here) provide more leg room than the ones you have to squeeze yourself into for 12 hour intercontinental flights. But wonder out loud and they may just propose to replace the seats with ceiling mounted tram loops.

  2. In fairness, the one with the blue and red people could actually save “space” but it wouldn’t allow them to put any more passengers on the same plane. You see, by turning the middle (red) person backwards you can fit three passengers in less “width”. This doesn’t really do anything other than give you a little more shoulder room.

    As you describe, the middle person could just as easily face forward as we do now but then you need space for three people to fit shoulder to shoulder. Take three large gentlemen that wear a size 48 coat in three adjacent seats and there’s no way for all three of them to sit back. Rotate the guy in the middle facing opposite and voila! Everyone gets to lean back comfortably. Also, by rotating the guy in the middle no one has to share an armrest with anybody. Awesome! However, I can only imagine how long it would take folks to get into their seats with this near jigsaw puzzle arrangement. It would certainly take much longer to load the plane. Southwest would NEVER consider it for that very reason.

    1. That’s true, you’d get more shoulder room, but it would be an insane mess to board and de-board, and the only way they could increase the number of passengers per flight would be by adding one extra seat per row, by having seven people sit across instead of six. That just seems weird, though. It’s hard to imagine being able to fit an entire extra human into the space gained by this switchy seat pattern. Maybe a jumbo jet with eight seats across could then fit nine, but I’m still skeptical. The benefits would be outweighed by how much of a nuisance it would be to fill the plane.

  3. Umm, I’ve thought the standup version of the seats are a particularly GOOD idea
    Slight alteration in that the “seat” area would cover the space where carry ons would be stowed, allowing better head room, pull over shoulder bars and simple lap belt protect the client, the seat allows leaning to sitting, both of which are better for short AND long haul flights because it prevents DVT.
    Sleeping would be a challenge, but if the seat were properly positioned, and the shoulder rests were padded, it would prove much more comfortable than being compressed as I currently am on long haul flights.

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