tip off
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Large passengers v Small seats, short runway @Liverpool = whip around

A cautionary trip to the future for bargain hungry people of size, like the writer, from a combination of a short runway, a full flight, and too many big passengers in the UK

While easyJet mightn’t be top of mind for travellers in this part of the world, an awkward incident being reported in the UK raises the very conflict many Australian travellers are complaining about when it comes to small seats versus people who grow larger by the generation.

There are several clear sides to this issue, none of them wrong, but definitely in conflict.

One is the popularity of very low fares, such as those that are part of the attractiveness of successful low cost carriers like easyJet. (The other part is time saving, since many LCCs eschew hubs and link useful points non-stop.)

Another is the growth in air travel that the  likes of easyJet give rise to, creating jobs in air transport, and enabling what have become enormous high volume flows of people making ultra safe journeys where the biggest risk of death or injury is by far, driving to the airport, or from it, in an unfamiliar car on the ‘other’ side of the road. Or just being robbed by Sydney Airport in the car park, but I digress….

And as far as this long lived observer of transport goes, a further dimension is the inevitable conflict between certification limits on one hand and nutrition on the other, which is not the same as obesity which might be best left to a different forum.

The airlines will tend to pack as many people as they are legally allowed to by the type rules into any aircraft over time, not just to lower unit costs however measured, but to fit in the shifts to higher usages of flying with the lower quality expectations that are a function of a closed loop between lower fares and higher demand.

Or for the large, an ‘unvirtuous circle.’

All of which came together the other morning for passengers on an easyJet flight from Liverpool to Geneva which came in 300 kilograms over its maximum takeoff weight limit for that rather short runway and rather short flight, even though it was damn cold, which is what jet engines like it to be.

The stories quote passengers saying there was an unofficial whip around to raise compensation cash for the four passengers off loaded onto other flights because the £100 payable by easyJet was unfair.  It sounds like they may have been given £300 in total, £200 of which was from the other passengers, but from here, we just don’t know.

What we can say is that at the equivalent of $A 480, £300 would in recent days have left you with change from a full service return flight between Sydney and Auckland on an Emirates A380 seated in Zone One on the ground floor where most A380 operators put first class, or about as much as four sectors for two return trips between Sydney and Melbourne full service on Qantas or Virgin Australia would have cost for a determined bargain hunter.

In other words we have it good, but incidents like the easyJet whip around suggest that a different future is coming to get us, ready or not.

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  • 1
    ltfisher
    Posted January 20, 2013 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Incredible that a so-called airline is able to operate this way. It makes the North America/USA arrangements/laws, look great. There when there are weight etc problems volunteers are called for from the passengers, those ‘bumped’ get a cash payment from the airline and a seat on the next available flight. Last time I saw this happen I recall how pleased the young persons bumped were: the airline had a problem and they had time: win win.

  • 2
    johnny7713
    Posted January 21, 2013 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    ltfisher: the story you describe is exactly what happened here, only no volunteers could be found until the passengers collected money to offer extra compensation in addition to what the airline was offering.

  • 3
    Cat on a PC©
    Posted January 21, 2013 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Pity the danger of NOT getting off the ground before the end of the runway was not enough enducement to get anyone off.

  • 4
    ltfisher
    Posted January 21, 2013 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Not exactly what happened in Liverpool Cat on a PC. Firstly it seems that the passengers were already boarded when the weight problem was discovered. In the examples I have seen any overloading problem is identified before passengers board. Second the involvement of the Captain seems very unusual: these things are generally handled by the ground agents of the airline. Maybe with a LCC such as Easyjet there is more ‘multi skilling’, a bit like some years age when Lauda Air flight attendants also doubled up as cabin and lavatory cleaners at the end of a flight.

  • 5
    michael r james
    Posted January 23, 2013 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Of course it was only an estimate that the plane was overweight. It is a total anomaly that they don’t weigh passengers but until the Americans start doing it, it is a non-starter. I am all for it, and ultimately, ironically, I reckon it might be a class-action suit by Americans more like me than the average (ie. skinny) being penalized because some tubs of lard three to four times my size are pushing up prices and causing problems like this.

  • 6
    michael r james
    Posted January 23, 2013 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of which: today’s SMH:

    (smh.com.au/opinion/politics/all-you-fat-bastards-of-the-world-8230-unite-and-take-over-20130122-2d51u.html)
    Alan Stokes,
    I'm a big fat bastard. Only I am allowed to say that. You try and I'll give you a dead-arm, push you over then sneak into the toilets to weep chubby boy tears.
    Joe Hockey and James Packer are big fat bastards too. So are Malcolm Turnbull, Barry O'Farrell and Peter Beattie. They won't mind my saying that because we all belong to an exclusive club. We even have our own secret handshake; one so strong and manly that it makes the loose skin go wobbly all over.
    Yes, we're BFBs and we're proud.

    Of course the problem is so severe in the US that they do have rules. Really big people can be asked to demonstrate the can sit in a standard seat with both armrests down and close the seat-belt, without spilling over into the next seat. If not, they have to buy two seats.

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