New Nightmare for Fat Flyers

WTF are you doingA company called Zodiak Seats France has applied for a patent for their “Economy Class Cabin Hexagon.” In this air-born nightmare some seats (including the already horrible middle seat) are turned backwards allowing airlines to cram even more people in (and undoubtedly creating an upcharge to sit in a seat facing in a direction that doesn’t not make you violently motion sick.) I don’t see any place for a tray either but that probably doesn’t matter since, according to their drawing, not only will you spend the flight making awkward eye contact, but you’ll also either sitting on some strangers’ hands – or having your hands sat upon by strangers.  FUN!

To take better advantage of space on an airplane, this patent arranges passengers in a hexagonal pattern.

To take better advantage of space on an airplane, this patent arranges passengers in a hexagonal pattern.

Obviously this is just a patent and with any luck at all this will never come to be (one person having to go to the bathroom would cause practically half the plane to have to stand up, and I don’t know how they plan to deal with an emergency evacuation so it seems as though there are some un-addressed kinks.) This is one more example of people designing things that exclude fat people from the outset  With this configuration, fat people could not be accommodated, even if we were willing to pay twice as much as a thin person for the same service (the service here being travel from place to place in a seat that accommodates us)

The truth about the people who are in charge of building and configuring planes is that they put them together pretending as if fat people don’t exist, and then the airlines try to make it our problem when we, very predictably, want to be able to access the same travel options as everyone else. (And that doesn’t even touch upon the ableism inherent in this seating configuration. I don’t want to speak for Disabled People/People with Disabilities but for those who use wheelchairs, those with limited mobility, those who need utilize mobility aids, oxygen and more, this seating configuration seems to me to be a complete mess.)

This same thing happens everywhere from transportation, to restaurants, to healthcare facilities.  The larger someone is, the more trouble that they have simply trying to access the world in ways which those for whom the world is built may never even consider – whether they want to travel across town on a city bus, across the country on a plane, have lunch with friends, or get basic healthcare services. That’s not by accident – there are solutions that accommodate people of different sizes – it’s because much of the world is built excluding fat people from the ground up.

The issue isn’t that accommodation is so difficult, it’s that we’re not even trying.  As a culture we’ve chosen to look for justifications to exclude people, rather than being committed to inclusiveness and access. It doesn’t have to – and it shouldn’t – be this way.

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34 thoughts on “New Nightmare for Fat Flyers

  1. I have to say, I think most cattle car layouts are kinder to the occupants than this is. Let’s all hope this never gets adopted.

  2. Wow. I can’t imagine this would be at all profitable. It would be a nightnare for so many people that they could only sell the seats if they made them significantly cheaper than front-facing airlines. It would also make service extremely difficult, and potentially dangerous. Would such an airline stop serving hot beverages? There is absolutely no way to hand someone a beverage without it passing over the lap of another passenger. Emergency exits would be slowed down, which is unsafe as well.

    1. Also, I think just regular boarding and de-planing would be much more time consuming — to the extent that any airline using these seats might have to schedule significantly fewer flights per day, which would further cut into their profit margins.

  3. Let’s be realistic, airlines stopped caring about the comfort of just about everyone a long, long time ago.

    1. Our city transit system is packed tighter than sardines. There have also been a couple terrorist threats against us, and I can just imagine getting 200 ppl of a train designed to carry 45. My legs used to go numb from standing over my backpack since there was no seating room.

  4. you know passengers would be better being shipped in dog crates in cargo as airlines require a VERY spacious crate for your dog

  5. Well as a fat disabled woman with mobility issues and a bad back and bum knees, this is a nightmare. Heck this is a nightmare for an ablebodied thin but tall person too. Anyone who has legs longer than a five year old is gonna be squashed. And you’re right, nobody is going to be able to eat, especially anyone sitting in front of me if I’m not facing the direction of travel. Motion sickness sucks.

    Nicole is right too. Airlines don’t care about anything (including safety, cause this isn’t safe) but putting more people in a plane for more money, If they could get away with cramming people in without seats at all, they probably would.

    1. Yes, I agree. Although it would be particularly uncomfortable for those of us who are fat, I consider the entire design to be dehumanizing to all.

  6. I don’t think this will ever happen, because it’s a whiplash concern. I’d like to say it’d never happen because someone with eyes will go “This configuration will make it impossible for non-typical bodies” but the real reason is because if there’s a non-fatal crash, everybody rear-facing will be super injured. Unless they also have shoulder harnesses that I can’t see.

  7. Gee, do airline execs ever travel in their own jets? Not counting first class and private planes. I wonder. That should be required of all who work at an airline. They must travel in their own jets at regular fare accommodations.

  8. Antigone, rear facing seats aren’t necessarily less safe, after all, that’s what the stewards use.

    It absolutely does pose other risks for exiting, food/drink droppage, and so forth.

    As a short person with narrow hips, I *STILL* would not fly this way.

    Whether the airlines want them or not, at least in the US, they still have to go through the FAA. I can’t imagine it would ever pass safety regulations.

  9. Looking at the drawing, I don’t see straight aisles for clear pathway in case of emergency. Nice. Rather clear what they think of passengers.

    1. Yeah, and how the hell are the flight attendants supposed to get carts down that jagged aisleway (quite apart from safety/evacuation issues)?? I guess an added “delight” of this configuration will be no drinks, at all, not even a tiny glass of soda — because there’s no way the flight attendants could get down the aisle.

      I think this one can’t possibly make it out of the “really stupid idea” category.

      1. Speaking of drinks, the last time I flew (4 or 5 years ago), I learned some things.

        1) Ginger ale is known to be effective against motion sickness, and yet it is not sold anywhere in the Orlando International Airport. You can’t bring your own past the TSA screeners, and you can’t buy it before you board the plane.

        2) The flight attendants give out small cups with ice, and pour about three swallows of soda into them, and call it a drink.

        3) If you’re thirsty, they won’t give you more than your allotted amount.

        4) If you say you are queasy, they will give you as much ginger ale as you need. I got two whole cans of soda on that flight, no questions asked.

        5) Motion sickness can other passengers jealous! At least I wasn’t thirsty.

        6) You’re not allowed to go to the lavatory within 30 minutes of landing, no matter how desperate you are.

        7) ALWAYS bring a full change of clothing in your carry-on luggage.

  10. As a fat person with a mobility impairment who lives in Korea and visits family in the U.S. every year or so, I would be seriously affected by this seating arrangement. If international flights looked like this, cases of deep vein thrombosis would skyrocket.

  11. The ONLY people I could see this working for are parents with young children. If my hubby and I had been able to fly with my son like this when he was still an infant (and even later before he got so leggy), it would’ve been fantastic because we both could’ve distracted him, and he wouldn’t have gotten so freaked on the plane. We might’ve even been able to raise the armrests and create one long cushion for him to stretch out.

    But anyone else? Yeah, this is a nightmare. You know, even skinny people aren’t shaped all the same way with the same weight distribution. If we’re going by weight and BMI alone, I know plenty of people who are shaped like barrels with broad shoulders and hips but skinny legs, enough that they’d overlap into the next seat. I once sat next to very, very tall German man (who smelled like he hadn’t washed or brushed his teeth for days) on a trans-atlantic flight whose shoulders nudged into mine and whose legs couldn’t fit under the seat so they flopped into mine. Yet somehow I was the one who wound up with back kinks from leaning to one side for 7 straight hours.

    I hate flying. I did it so much when we served overseas that I vowed the only time I’d get back on a plane again would be when I owned the damn thing.

  12. When he was thin, my husband still had trouble with his shoulders getting into other passengers’ space. Was he supposed to hold a shrug for the entire flight? As for me, I have long legs; I have limped off every plane I ever rode in since I was a teenager.

    But of course, people who can’t afford first-class fares don’t deserve dignity and ought to expect pain.

  13. How are you even supposed to get from the aisle to the inner seats? Hop from one seat to the next, and then jump down? There is NO leg room to walk between them. And even if your legs were thin enough, you’d have to do this ridiculous shimmy-dance around and between the seats.

    Even if the seats flip up when not in use, this is untenable.

    You know, trans-oceanic ships might just make a real come-back (not just as cruises but as real transportation), if this trend in the airlines continues. Now, if we can just improve the train service in the Mid-west…

    You know, I really miss living in Europe, and being able to just hop on a train when I wanted to travel. Sure, it took a bit longer than a plane, but you arrived much more rested, a lot more comfortable, and when you take into account the time spent waiting around at the gate and luggage carousels, it’s not that much longer. If you can’t check your bags, mail them. It costs about the same, these days, or less, and it’s less likely to get lost, anyway.

    Really, the only way I’d fly these days is for an emergency.

    1. Unfortunately, for those of us who live most of the American continent away from our families, the choice is either a) fly or b) never, never, NEVER see your relatives again. If I had known, when I agreed to take a job in an isolated small town all the way across the country from my relatives, how bad airplane travel would get in the past 15 years, I probably would not have taken the job. But here I am, and now I really have no choice but to fly. I *hate* being in this situation.

      1. Yeah, I have invitations to visit relatives, and probably never will, because it’s physically painful to travel very far. Driving is pretty much my only viable option right now, because I can stop and get out and walk around, and that’s not even size related! That’s because of my back. In a plane, it would be so much worse, because of having to scrunch up, and leave sideways or forwards, or whichever direction to give the person next to me enough space.

        The airlines aren’t interested in familial relationships, though. They’re only interested in the bottom line.

      2. I was looking into train travel to see if you could go all the way down to the bottom of the world (Tierra del Fuego), and there are some spots in Panama and Peru where the trains are spotty or non-existent. You’d have to take a bus there. Also there is only 1 trans-continental train in Canada. Service seems to be more widespread in the USA.

        In total I think it would be hard to plan a trip that only involved trains, you’d have to take a Greyhound at some point.

        My parents recently took a vacation to Orlando that involved a transfer at Toronto, and my mom said both planes made her stiff and unable to move. They had even upgraded to the Econo-Plus which has more leg room (it’s the front of the row).

  14. This seating would be a nightmare for emergency evacuation. The flight attendants would have to be trained solely for a plane using these seats and even then there would be many more deaths and injuries than in the existing arrangements.

  15. Thank you, Regan, for not speaking for those of us who are people with disabilities. I’m one of those who needs a mobility aid, in my case because my balance is SO bad that I fall over. A lot. I prefer walking upright and facing people directly and have chosen to use an approximately 5′ tall handmade wooden staff, which I and everyone else refer to as my stick, instead of a cane that would largely require me to hunch over. My stick has a wide, round foot with a better gripping and stability ability than a standard little rubber foot and works really well for me. I am also wide-hipped and have an unusually protuberant, rounded belly due to a medication I’m taking, in addition to being a small fat in general. I rarely have trouble with my stick but do get a lot of questions as well as a lot of compliments and comments about how I must hit people with it frequently. On airplanes my husband and I generally attempt to stow my stick in the overhead compartment because I do need it to be able to walk down the aisle. This configuration is an absolute nightmare from a mobility issue standpoint. I can picture trying, and failing miserably, to get into and to get out of any of these seats except the aisle seats. I would invariably end up falling onto people, since I do that anyway in a standard-configuration airplane no matter where I’m seated. The flight attendants will often take my stick and put it in an onboard closet, then retrieve it for me when needed, because of course I can’t stash it under my seat and the one in front of me.

    Never have I had any problem with my stick at the airport, including in the TSA screening. All they ever want to do is run it through their xray machine that they use for everything else. If this configuration or anything similarly limiting for people who have disabilities becomes commonplace, I may not be able to fly in the future.

    My husband’s most common solution to the problems I encounter flying in a three-across configuration, as well as the edema he gets from cramped plane configurations, is to upgrade us to first class if possible any time we have to fly. When we go to California, usually to visit my family, we drive if we can but have been known to fly if necessary, and there a first-class upgrade on our usual airline of choice is pretty reasonable in price although we are not frequent fliers and don’t have any sort of status with any airline.

    I am *extremely* concerned about this proposal and what may come of proposals like this. For safety reasons, as others have pointed out, the FAA will likely prohibit this exact seating type, but there’s likely to be something similarly impedimentary coming within the next decade. Maybe the best way for those of us with mobility aids, other mobility differences, and those of us who inhabit bodies with curves, roundnesses, thicknesses, and fat to deal with this is start our own airline and compete…

    1. I have wondered for years why some entrepreneur with funds doesn’t start an airline with wider, more comfortable seats — regular sized plane, but with two seats where planes now have three. I would think that a GREAT many large people (tall, broad shouldered, wide-hipped, etc., as well as fat) would become extremely loyal customers almost immediately. I certainly would. Obviously they’d have to charge more per ticket to make it work — sort of like a whole plane full of British Air’s “World Traveller Plus” seats — so I know this would not help people on very tight budgets. But still, it seems so obvious a market that I really do wonder why no-one has done it.

  16. This seating arrangement looks like a nightmare to everyone! Imagine a mother travelling with children, and one needs the loo. Imagine an orchestra, travelling with instruments (typically hand-luggage)? Where will they put them? It’s simply the commercial principles getting so cheapskate that they are not user-friendly anymore. I sure don’t ever want to sit that close to strangers for any length of time.

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