Will Fear Of Flying Go Out Of Style?

Will Fear Of Flying Go Out Of Style?

By Robert Remin

If you have claustrophobia, avoid flying in the economy section on airplanes. If you don’t have it, avoid flying economy anyway because you may develop this condition.

Claustrophobia is the fear of being confined in a small area with no way to escape. It’s believed that many common settings can trigger this condition, such as a crowded elevator, a small hotel room, a small car, a windowless room, and even a tight-necked shirt.

Unfortunately, some airlines don’t seem to care how their economy class customers feel, as they keep shrinking the size of seats in order to squeeze more people onto a flight. And this has made flying in economy much more than just unpleasant.

If you have to fly economy, in addition to claustrophobia you very possibly will experience physical and emotional trauma by the time you reach your destination. That’s because there is minimal leg room, and if you are a tall or big person you will be cramped. Prepare to share an armrest with the stranger next to you, and when the passenger in the row ahead decides to recline it will surely encroach upon your space. And if you have a window seat, squeezing between the other travelers to get to and from the rest room is an ordeal. It’s no wonder so many passengers flying in this section experience nausea, are frustrated, get headaches, feel exhausted, become angry, and are prone to argue and sometimes even get into fist fights with other passengers and crew.

An End In Sight

For the billions of people who fly in economy, good news is on the way – at least for some of them. Airlines have heard your screaming, swearing, and crying, they know you are pulling your hair out and have reached the breaking point. And a number of them have decided to treat passengers as if they were human.

They are doing this by offering a prime economy section and introducing innovations to make the flying experience more comfortable and relaxing. While it would be nice to think they’re making these improvements because they care about passengers, a more likely explanation is that it’s related to bottom-line issues.

Whatever the explanation, some of the improvements are very novel. For example, Air New Zealand’s Skycouch allows a row of three economy seats to be converted into a flat bed at the touch of a button. How often three consecutive economy seats will be occupied by only one passenger is a different issue, but at least on those occasions when it does happen, that flyer will actually be able to get some sleep.

And that’s not all. According to The Independent, “The arms on these seats retract, while the bases extend and seat belts lengthen to give added space for reclining… Two of these seats will be sold at the usual price, while the third is available at half price.”

Several other carriers have essentially copied Air New Zealand’s Skycouch. China Airlines is offering three economy seats that fold into a flat bed to accommodate family and friends; along with the seats are mattress protectors, pillows, blankets, and toys to keep children occupied. And Air Astana’s three-in-a row economy seats also fold down to enable the flyer to lie down, and in addition to a mattress and pillow come with an amenity kit.

In an effort to create more room for passengers out of the same space, Lufthansa has come up with slimmer seats, which are made with a mesh fiber rather than the conventional padding; the extra inches this saves offer passengers much-needed additional legroom. Lufthansa also moved the magazine compartment to the top of seat backs, which allows several more inches for legroom.

Southwest Airlines, a budget carrier, added 0.7 inches additional room to its economy class, a step – even if only a baby step – in the right direction. Delta Air now offers an economy comfort class that boasts priority boarding, 50 percent more recline, and four more inches of leg room.


Around The World

Singapore Airlines has very recently retaken the title of providing the world’s longest flight – a 10,291-mile trip that goes from Singapore to Newark, New Jersey, and that takes between 18–9 hours, depending on which way you are flying. Because of the exceptionally long flying time, the carrier has put a great deal of effort and thought into making passengers feel not only more comfortable and relaxed, but also into making their flying experience a memorable one.

There are only two classes of seats on these flights: the 67-seat business class cabin, and the 94-seat cabin of premium economy, which CNN says is so good that they could almost pass for business class. The seats on these planes were designed and manufactured by Zodiac Aerospace of Gainesville, Texas.

When designing these seats, Zodiac “measured the weight distribution of seated passengers to determine if a seat is comfortable and for how long,” explains Sebastiaan Does, Zodiac’s sales and marketing manager. “During these trials we had people of different genders, ratios, weights, heights – you name it – and let them sit in the seat for over eight hours.”

The end result of Zodiac’s efforts are seats in Premium Economy with additional legroom, calf and foot rests, over-the-shoulder reading lights, adjustable head rests, a 13.3-inch screen, noise-canceling headphones, 1,400 on-demand entertainment options, Champagne and the option of pre-ordering meals from a variety of fish, meats, and exotic foods.

Other airlines are modernizing their fleet to offer the latest features in comfort. The Independent reports that “The Boeing 787 Dreamliner has a state-of-the-art filtration and cooling system installed into airline cabins to provide cleaner and fresher air. The system uses a HEPA filter to clean out bacteria and viruses, and a gas filter to rid the air of any odors.” Moreover, changes made to pressurization and moisture are geared to making breathing easier and food taste better. United and at least five foreign airlines use the Boeing Dreamliner.

The improved conditions should make it easier for flyers to get work done or to sleep en route, if that’s their preference. Of course, airlines give nothing for nothing, so travelers should be prepared to pay a few hundred dollars more for these premium economy seats than for flying in standard economy. However, they are still noticeably less expensive than business and first class and may offer additional perks not mentioned above. As to whether these better conditions are worth the additional buck, that depends on the flyer’s wallet and on how much he or she values sanity.

Sources: abc7ny.com; CNN.com; independent.co.uk; wikipedia.com

Robert Remin is an independent agent licensed and certified with all the pertinent Medicare carriers in the New York Metro area. As an unbiased resource, his only goal is to match you to the most appropriate plan. For any questions, or a cost-free consultation, contact him at 914-629-1753 or email robertremininsurance@gmail.com or through www.robertremininsurance.com.

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