Is Bigger Better in the Friendly Skies?

by on May 6, 2013 · 2 comments

in Environment, Life Events

big planeBY JEC / San Diego Free Press

Is bigger better? The new AT&T commercial with the man in a suit sitting on the floor with the kids seems to think so. Cruise ships, now they have gotten huge like Royal Caribbean’s new 5,000 passenger ships. With crew that’s 7,500 souls on board.

But we don’t do cruise ships very often, but a lot of us do fly and we can appreciate the aircraft industry for trying to keep up. Like Boeing’s 290 passenger 787 Dreamliner and its much larger cousin the Airbus’s 600 + passenger two story plane the 380 are doing their best to add seats and more passengers.

I’m on a Southwest flight with just 144 seats. All filled. Among the passengers are three small children. So far during this three and a half hour flight to Nashville at least two of the three have been crying, screaming at times. Then about two hours into the flight I thought I had climbed into a TB ward; passengers started coughing. A couple behind, a few in front, in time it seemed to grow to a chorus and I begin to wonder if the airlines resolved the air quality bio-filter issue.

You might remember; air filters that kill germs, help prevent those enclosed tubes from becoming contamination chambers. Come to think of it, we’re lucky if they pressurize the cabin to 7,000 feet instead of 8,000 (think deep vein thrombosis) so bio-filters I don’t think happened, but I’ll get back to you on that.

Consider the benefits to you the passenger of these ever expanding capacities. Imagine for a moment instead of two or three crying and screaming toddlers there’s seven or eight. How well can you tolerate fingernails on a blackboard and after two or three hours you’d be wishing you spent that $200 on the sound dampening Bose headphones. And now imagine the opportunity to contract that cold or flu on your flight to your vacation in say, Hawaii.

For me bigger is worse. Bigger offers an undesirable level of risk to my trip. What joy going to that business meeting the next morning trying to make the best impression between sneezes as the others at the table wonder what you brought to share. The enlarged cruise ships offer new greater opportunities to catch a Norovirus, be a victim of crime or stand in longer buffet lines. But cruise ships are discretionary; you really don’t have to get on a cruise ship.

Flying, though, is different. We’ve built a society around frequent flyer miles. Flying is almost mandatory. The wealthy can buy their way out of crowded planes, to a point. The rest of us though are left to the mercy of the designers and financial analysts who don’t see human beings but are focused on seat management. Less leg room, smaller seats, and that damn middle seat is still there.

I heard a rumor the airlines have been studying the old slave ship packing methods for new ideas on how to squeeze more bodies into the same space.

Are larger planes a better ride? Safer? They are technically more complicated and have more things that can go wrong. They take longer to load and unload, and are limited to certain airports and certain gates, but with twice or three times the number of passengers the odds of, well, an interesting experience increase.

Like the family across the aisle that brought their own liver and onion sandwiches – oh the smell (obviously not my favorite).

Or a flight on an Airbus 343 – a 300 + passenger jumbo – twenty minutes into the flight people sitting out of our view 120 feet up front started screaming. Nice jolt of adrenaline. A minute of getting scared and watching the fear spread. Condensation coming from an air vent was confused for smoke. And respiratory conditions watch out for that air quality.

airline-passengers_thumbCome to think of it, everyone has an interest. I mean people, ah well, we do gases. Experts say the average person releases about two quarts of intestinal gas a day. Yes, that’s right, farts. Confess, you know you do it; we all do it, we have to do it. Mixed with the sneezes and coughs and burps and belches there are farts. Put 300 people sealed inside a tube for say six hours and what could you expect? About 150 quarts of farts blended together; breath deep.

So Boeing, Airbus, give us flying public safer, comfortably small fuel efficient planes. Because screaming kids and sick people and farts will always be with us.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Old Hermit Dave May 6, 2013 at 11:52 am

I used to love to fly, but doubt I will live long enough to fly like the last time I flew. Go to the airport, buy a ticket, set in the waiting room, board the plane, take off. I refuse to be treated like a Muslim Terror Dude and be X-Ray ed or patted down.


fstued May 6, 2013 at 9:34 pm

Your right crowded airplanes are not real pleasant and screams and crying babies don’t aid to the thrill and you haven’t even talked about getting on to the plane that really makes the ride seem easy. But when all is said and done it is nice getting to a destination oceans away in a few miserable hours.


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