Tag Archives: KLM
The costs of flying a commercial plane are simple to understand. There is the fuel for the flight, the debt on the aircraft, the cost of the meals, the salaries of the pilots, FA’s, and all of the ground staff, and the ground services. The more people that can be packed on the plane the less each passenger has to pay for his or her ticket. So, it’s in the airlines best interest to do exactly that. While airlines are quick to announce improvements to their product, downgrades pass with little notice.
The 777 entered into service in 1996. Economy, Steerage, Y was originally designed with nine abreast seating. The common layout is 3-3-3, three seats on each side of the plane with a three seat center section. Some airlines used a 2-5-2 configuration. Anyways the nine-abreast configuration has been starting to disappear. Carriers such as Emirates and Air France followed by KLM have switched to a 3-4-3 configuration adding a seat to the center section. Seeing as the plane cannot get wider the space for the extra-seat comes from decreasing the width of all the other seats and the aisles by roughly an inch-and-a-half. That may not sound like much, but when one is crammed next to a person of size who is already spilling over the armrest, this change only makes that worse.
While Emirates and AF/KLM have had the 3-4-3 configuration for several years now it has seen a surge in popularity. Recently Air New Zealand and most distressing of all American Airline are both ordering their 777-300ers with the new configuration and this past week Air Canada order new 777-300ers in a 3-4-3 configuration.
In addition to the reduced width the 20-30 extra people require feeding and watering as well as facilities. More bodies using the same resources means fewer resources for everyone on the plane. On a two hour short-haul flight seat width and comfort may not matter, but on a twelve hour flight to New Zealand comfort matters, a lot. I would recommend avoiding those configurations if at all possible.
Families all over the world pack their children off on to planes on a daily basis. As part of that if the children are not old enough to handle travel by themselves the families either ask for or the airlines demand they use their unaccompanied minor service. Generally this involves an airline staff member escorting the minor all the way on the plane, alerting the crew, a staff member escorting the minor if there is a connection, and having a family member escorted to the gate to pick up the minor. The legal side of the unaccompanied service is a little dicey, where parents and family members can make decisions the airlines are bound the law. If parents don’t like the seating arrangement on the plane they can ask people to move, airlines however are limited in what they can do.
This past month two incidents were reported one with KLM Airlines and the other with Air New Zealand. The situation was the same on both flights, an adult male passenger was asked by the flight crew to change seats because they were originally seated next to an unaccompanied minor. According to the articles, KLM asked because the child needed to sit next to “a mother,” on the Air New Zealand flight is was because the passenger was seated next to an unaccompanied female minor.
http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/travel/187459521.html?refer=y (I’m pretty sure the reporter meant to say Intercontinental flight)
Previously Qantas, British Airways, and Virgin Australia both got into trouble for asking male passengers to move. In fact British Airways actually lost a civil suit and had to pay damages to the adult passenger. Currently, for flights that fall under US DOT regulations discriminatory seating policies are prohibited.
With 49% of the world population being male, it is a coin flip as to which gender a person is sitting next to. Now I do not want to get into a debate on which gender is more likely to hurt children. If you want to do that it’s fine with me the comments are to the right. What I want to point out is the catch-22 the airlines are. When the airlines accept the child, they take on a guardian type roll. IE, they become legally responsible for the well-being of the child from the moment of the acceptance to the time they turn the child back over to a family member. If anything were to happen to the minor, the airline would be responsible. While people get angry when discrimination occurs it pales in comparison against the multi-million dollar judgment for hurting someone’s kid.
For the airline they almost have to look at from a risk management stand point, balancing the very small risk that something will happen versus the very large judgment when something does happen. It is clear that some airlines have decided to mitigate the risk by engaging in discriminatory behavior. Is this a case of a few horrible individuals ruining travel for the rest of us or are the airlines justified in discriminating against men seated next to children? What do you all think?