Monday, April 02, 2007

I don't fit

A recent article featured the headline Getting There is Half the Fun. Whoever wrote that article didn't have the seats I had on my last trip. The 2007 Airline Quality Rating Report has been released and according to this story on Yahoo!, things have gone downhill this last year. The quote from the article worth mentioning is, "They just don't get it yet."
One of the metrics used in this report was complaints per 100,000 passengers. Southwest airlines had the fewest; United and US Airways had the most according to this report. I'm going to make a bold statement here: I believe that we are not complaining enough. (I know it is rare that Americans could be so accused!) Airlines claim to listen to their customers. If you want your voice heard, it seems like a good start to actually speak!
I have a particular axe to grind here. At 6 foot 7 inches tall, I'm
far beyond anything "typical". Below is a chart I lifted from
here which illustrates this nicely.

The 50th percentile, the thick red line, delineates the point where half of men will be taller than this height and half of men will be shorter. Similarly, the 75th percentile line shows the height where only a quarter of men are taller and three quarters are shorter.
Life out at the 3 standard deviation point is interesting enough in any day-to-day activity, but it gets especially interesting when getting on an airliner.
On the last set of flights the seat pitch was so short that I had to sit diagonally in my seat for the cross country flight because my legs were too long. Scoff as you will at the person too fat for the seat, but I could diet from now until the cows come home and my legs won't get any shorter. Granted, I'm off the scale (as per the above diagram) but the fellow sitting next to me on that last leg of the trip was only about 6 foot tall and he fit in his seat with only about an inch to spare. That's the 75th percentile point on that graph.
My Seattle trip included four flights on American Airlines MD80/83 airplanes. BOS to DFW (flight 1113), DFW to SEA (1587), and returning with SEA to ORD (1956), and ORD to BOS (874). Each of these airplanes seat about 142 people in two classes (coach and business). If American is arranging these seats to accommodate the 75th or 85th percentile, then a full 15% of the passengers (perhaps 20 people per flight) are uncomfortable. Several, like me, probably didn't fit in their seat at all. Nobody (I hope) had as much trouble as I had.
I just measured myself from the back of the seat to the end of my knees. That distance is about 28.5 inches. On these flights, the coach seats had something approximating 27 or even 26 inches. I sat diagonally coast-to-coast on every flight but one (when I managed to get the exit row... by begging).
I'm never taking these flights again. I'll never fly on an MD80 again if I can help it. I'm also thinking about writing to American Airlines. If I can sit comfortably on a Southwest flight, why can I not find an AA flight with reasonable seating? Again, airlines claim to listen to their customers. We'll see.
For more information on this topic, check out The Shrinking Airline Seat.


Blogger Steve Weinert said...

6'7" Scott - I am looking forward to meeting at Dayton! I am going to bask in the pleasure of NOT being the tallest one for a change.

Your airline observations are shared. Unless they don't go there I try to fly Midwest Express domestically.

For a while I had a light twin, as I was so annoyed with spending time in an airline cattle transport.

Now I tend to head out on four or two wheels. The whole airport secuirty, breathing bad air in the plane while my knees are crushed into the seat ahead and having my baggage takes its own trips to a separate destination just isn't worth it.

For overseas hauls I try for BA, KLM or Virgin. Have had pretty good luck on all of them. On Virgin I was able to visit the flight deck. Rather a neat experience compared to what I've flown myself.

All the best & 73,


April 02, 2007 9:54 PM  
Blogger DTO said...


Whenever booking flights I like to consult the seat guru

Confirm the exact plane configuration then consult the guru before booking.

April 07, 2007 11:34 AM  

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