American Airlines, which gave us the first frequent flyer program, has been a travel innovator for years. Then - after collecting miles became popular and American’s customers invested considerable time and money building up their mileage account - American introduced the first devalued frequent flyer program with higher minimums for free travel!
And who can forget the checked baggage fee that was another brainchild of the consumer advocates at American?
Now the airline is announcing a new class of ticket: Coach class will be joined by Crouch class. Just when you thought it was impossible to reduce the space between rows, American has decided to cut the distance by a full two inches. The new “pitch” will be a kneecap----creasing 29 inches.
This means in the future “the time you crossed your legs on an airplane” will be a story told to skeptical grandchildren.
Normally I’m not in favor of government regulations, but I’m thinking if the feds can calculate the “pollen index” maybe they can tell airlines to post a “compression index.” Think of how much fun a long tarmac hold will be when you’re trapped in a seat that’s 10 inches narrower than a coffin. Putting a briefcase or backpack under the row in front of you will mean you’re wearing your seat like a straight jacket.
I’m guessing management got the idea from a CIA “enhanced” interrogator. An expert on what the agency terms “stress positions.” These forced contortions, according to The Guardian, were “designed to cause muscle fatigue, physical discomfort and exhaustion,” which pretty much sums up today’s air travel for those in the back of the plane.
Just the thought of that sardine seat frightens me. I’d be willing to tell American anything: Where Osama’s buried, the location of Trump’s tax returns or who stole Mitch McConnell’s spine - if spilling the beans would let me avoid Crouch class.
Maybe we should look on the bright side. Sure it means the tray table will now be the width of a ruler and the screen on the “inflight entertainment” will sit on your nose like bifocals, but the good news is the reduced distance between seats will make it that much harder for airport cops to drag you off the plane.
I predict the “bag sizer” at the gate will soon be joined by the “thigh sizer.” Gate agents will instruct taller passengers to sit in the Airline Maiden. If their kneecap touches the electrified button just beyond the seat they will be told to upgrade their ticket or stay home.
I suggest people with small bladders assigned a window seat keep their empty drink bottle, because they may need it. There will be two passengers occupying the seats between him and relief. Unless the window seat passenger can persuade the other two to get up and move into the aisle, there is no way squeeze past and make it to the bathroom.
Even the name of the new aircraft is a slap in the face to those who must endure the seats. Instead of calling it the Boeing Constrictor, which has the virtue of being accurate, the new craft is called the 737 Max jet.
Maybe the “Max” refers to revenue or discomfort.
This new truncation could well be the last time row distance is reduced unless American changes its name to Hobbit Air. The only way to further shrink the distance between seats would be to make rows face each other and alternate passenger’s knees.
In the meantime, I just hope to God airline interior designers never get a look at the seating chart for a slave ship.
Speaking of bathrooms, even if window seat passengers can fight their way to the aisle, American has a surprise in store in the head. CNN Money reports that a sadist familiar with the blueprint for the new Max Pain says the bathrooms will be smaller, too.
In current airplane bathrooms tall men are either forced to lean their heads back and thrust their hips forward, which hampers accuracy, or they’re forced to hunch over like a dwarf working a gold seam.
Without going into more detail than is fitting for a family newspaper, let me explain the new layout means, regardless of an individual’s “gender identity,” everyone is going to be sitting down in American’s bathroom.
I’ve heard rumors the quarters in the redesigned bathroom are so cramped that if an occupant needs toilet paper, he’s supposed to hit the call button and a flight attendant will slip a few sheets under the door.
American also plans to punish domestic travelers first. The new planes are to go airborne later this year and will be used “primarily on routes in North America.” So don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Michael Shannon is a commentator and public relations consultant, and is the author of “A Conservative Christian’s Guidebook for Living in Secular Times.” He can be reached at email@example.com.