As newspapers die and take substantive news with them, the Internet is turning into a carnival of odd tidbits. The weirder or more alarming the story, the faster word flits from screen to screen.
This week, a prime nugget from the News of the Weird had to do with Spring Airlines, a fledgling Chinese carrier that is petitioning its government to allow passengers to fly standing up.
Having passengers stand up, the way they do on a subway or a bus, would stuff 50% more people into planes, reducing costs.
Ryanair, an Irish company that never saw a cheap publicity trick it didn't love, tried to act like it was inspired to consider a similar move. It might give a section of passengers barstools instead of proper chairs, envisioned its boss, Michael O'Leary, or it could even let people fly for free if they stood up -- paying the carrier's extravagant fees to take any luggage, of course.
It's funny to imagine that United or Delta might make us start doing it, too, and that makes for an inflammatory e-mail forward, but Americans can relax.
You're not going to have to fly standing up anytime soon, and here is the simple reason: The Federal Aviation Administration requires that you sit on flights. It's in its Airworthiness Standards code, Title 14, 23.785. Don't take my word for it. Just read the code yourself: "There must be a seat or berth for each occupant."
Since the airlines aren't about to lose precious floor space by granting us the dignity of berths (beds), that leaves seats, and since the FAA isn't about to alter its safety rules so the airlines can wring another few bucks out of us, that rules out standing.
Another stipulation that would seem to eliminate standing says that each passenger is assigned a restraint system that "must be designed to support occupants weighing at least 215 pounds." Your own two feet, then, don't count. Berths must also be "installed parallel to the longitudinal axis of the airplane." That means they can't be straight up and down, as a passenger-size stall would have to be.
Although Airbus has been trying for years to inaugurate legal standing-room flights in Asia -- apparently the only place where the jet manufacturer thinks the value of human comfort is low enough and the population density high enough -- but so far, no government has gone for it.
Spring Airlines' managers think that the idea may have wings in China at least, because it was that country's vice premier who suggested the idea to begin with. Even if it becomes a reality there, SRO flights won't be permitted to touch down outside of China unless its destination country endorsed that configuration, too.
No, for now the airlines are content to convey teeming swarms of passengers the old-fashioned way. They'll just reduce legroom to kneecap-knocking intimacy and make the seats thinner than the crackers they no longer serve.
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