It won't be cheap, but more elbow room will soon be available for some passengers of WestJet Airlines.
The carrier, which does not offer business class, is debuting a trial program to cut out seating passengers in the dreaded middle seat in the first eight to 10 rows of its single aisle planes. For now, the extra space is only proposed on flights between Calgary and Hawaii, and those between Edmonton and Hawaii. The proposed fee to stretch out: $20 per leg.
Although the plan will certainly please passengers, it's not necessarily altruistic. The carrier doesn't have any long-range planes in its fleet. Cutting down the number of passengers on board (and presumably their corresponding overloaded luggage) the mid-range Boeing 737-700's will reduce the weight load and maximize fuel. Perhaps most importantly, it will comply with aviation safety regulations.
The new seating chart, scheduled to take effect with the March 2010 schedule, could lead to a happier flight for all on board. In recent years there have been numerous verbal spats among cramped passengers battling for a place to rest their arms.
If the plan is successful, it will interesting to see if it catches on with other, larger carriers.
If you had the option, would you pay a surcharge for more room? How much do you think an empty arm rest is really worth?