Plane Travel At Christmas
By Ed Tasca
Many of you are about to send yourself off again into a torment like none ever noted in Dante. You’ll soon be getting on another plane, which is currently nothing more than a macro-variation of the common sausage. As I recall from past trips, I could have been stuffed into a hockey bag and gotten dumped into cargo and had a pleasanter journey. And according to those who measure these things, passenger seat space allotment has never been so stingy.
I can put up with just about any insanity related to flying in a commercial airliner, including security checks and interminable customs and immigration fuss. The one thing I consider to be the ultimate sacrifice in order to catch up with family and friends thousands of miles away is flying around for several hours in 1 and 1/3 feet of space, ergonomically designed for the spatial needs of a capuchin monkey (a creature needing little personal space because he can do things like wash his face with his tongue). Humans aren’t monkeys, at least not until we land. According to CNN:
CNN (November, 2013): You’re not imagining it: Airline seats are generally getting smaller.
But while many airlines have been slimming down their seats over the past few decades, we’ve been bulking up. According to the World Health Organization, the global prevalence of obesity has doubled since 1980.
Your 1 and 1/3 feet of space reduces further by overlapping from the two BIG co-passengers who almost always squeeze in on either side of you (and aren’t really big at all, but get bigger the moment they sit down). There is usually convivial acceptance all around, and an immediate forgiveness when your row mate gropes your buttock on his way to finding his seatbelt buckle, and then assumes immediate possession of the arm rest, squeezing you into even tighter quarters. Your carry-on bag then goes under the seat in front of you, leaving limbs mortified and unmoving and either dumped inside your carry-on, crushing your bag of pretzels or pinched beneath your own seat with the potential for a deep-vein thrombosis and possible death. So inside and over the bag they go, given that your dying in mid-flight would make it impossible for co-passengers to enjoy the in-flight movie, It’s a Wonderful Life.
As a quick distraction from the discomfort, you snare Sky Mall Magazine. It’s unfailingly right there in front of you, as ubiquitous as the Gideon bible. It also fits into the last remaining space in front of you. But you never get to read much of it, because very shortly the guy in front of you decides to lower his seatback into your lap, giving you the eerie feeling the guy is looking for a shave. At this point, it becomes luminously clear without the need of scientific explanations why animals in zoo cages refuse to mate. And… often eat their keepers. This situation continues to exist after almost fifty years of modern airline development and advancement, because cutting internal spatial capacity to human sausaging is an airline’s key to profitability, despite the Geneva Conventions prohibiting human sausaging.
According to airline experts, here’s how the capacity/profitability math works: You take the basic measure of airline revenue production, something called the Revenue Passenger Mile (RPM). An RPM is one passenger seat flying one mile, and, of course, if that seat is travelling on its own without the rest of the plane, it’s in violation of FAA regulations—and a sure lawsuit. Now, to calculate the value of a single customer to the airline, you divide your ticket price by Revenue Passenger Miles travelled, say 500 miles. This gives you something to do during flight delays while you sit eating airport food and wishing you had taken the bus or even a forced military march.
If a customer pays $250.00 for the 500-mile trip mentioned above, the revenue yield would be 50 cents per mile per person, including gratuities, which airlines claim is cheaper than calling a cab and avoids all traffic lights. The obvious problem with this argument is that nobody takes a cab from New York to Los Angeles—at least not sober. This is the rationale used to squeeze into their sausage skin as many passengers as possible, so they can say it’s cheaper to fly than to take a cab.
Anyway, while all this is spinning through your thoughts, it’s always nice to hear the snack trolley coming, right? Except that now, down comes the place-mat sized tray in front of you. This tray just fits under the sleeping head of the imbecile in front of you. But it further compresses your only moveable body part, your diaphragm, into a tortilla. All space around your body has now left you more or less with the freedom of a shrink-wrapped fish fillet. Not surprisingly, the overweight man next to you interrupts your in-flight repast just as you are savoring your fourth peanut. He has to go to the washroom. This requires everyone in your row to get up, jostle through body contact reminiscent of a Sumo-wrestler attack.
Unable to shrink physically any further for the rest of the trip, you take the equivalent of a spy’s arsenic pill, your sedative of choice. After a few minutes, you shrink to total disembodiment and disappear from the plane entirely.