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United Airlines Just Decided to Reduce Space on Transatlantic Flights (Happy Holidays)

There’s a certain inevitability with such things.

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BY Chris Matyszczyk - 05 Dec 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.


They hope you won't notice.

And perhaps you won't.

You've become used to a certain imbalance of power when it comes to flying.

Yet you've always held out a little hope, haven't you? At least for international flights.

Airlines can't expect to squeeze people in, shoulder to shoulder, nerve ending to nerve ending, quite like they do on domestic flights.

Because, well, there's a limit.

Isn't there?

I regret to bring you woeful tidings for the Holidays.

United Airlines just decided to use its most heavily densified planes across the Atlantic, starting next year.

Should you not be familiar with the term densification, it translates as: "Shove as many seats inside the plane as you can to make more money."

United isn't the only who's doing it. American has had quite some joys with the concept, even reducing the legroom in First Class.

And now, should you be flying, say, from Newark to Barcelona or Madrid next year -- or, perhaps, Newark to Dublin -- things will be a little tighter than they were before.

We're talking 336-seats-in-Economy tight on a Boeing 777-200.

This will mean some things that you might find irritating.

For example, with four seats shoved in a row, there will only be three power outlets between them. With three seats in a row, there are only two power outlets.

I contacted United to ask whether it had any mercy. The airline admitted that these planes were, indeed, configured for domestic flights only.

However, an airline spokesman told me: "We continuously monitor demand and supply in all of our markets and make adjustments to our schedule and our aircraft and because we are seeing high demand this summer to Europe, we are responding by placing a larger aircraft on these routes and offering customers more opportunities to get to Spain."

You see. United is offering you one long sentence. And it's doing it just for you.

Still, those of dry countenance and frigid faith in humanity might wonder whether this is a trial run.

If United can get away with this squeeze, why wouldn't it extend to more transatlantic flights?

Indeed, I asked United whether there's a plan to do just that. The airline didn't reveal. However, its spokesman told me that this new configuration "offers the right mix for the high demand for leisure economy traffic while still being able to offer our customers a lie-flat Business seat option."


Recently, American Airlines' CEO Doug Parker admitted that there was a limit to squeezing coach passengers.

He also admitted that it was own staff who railed against him pursuing the maximum squeeze as often as possible.

Not only is it more difficult for cabin crew to do their jobs, it's also potentially more hazardous.

How are you going to evacuate the plane in an emergency, if passengers can hardly move once they're in their seats?

Oh, details, details.

Just think how good the extra profits will look when you squeeze a little more out of your customers.

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