Artists conception from BBC
Four years ago we wrote about the idea of standing seating on airplanes, and noted that "there could be a TreeHugger case that more people crammed in means less fuel burned per person, and we also suspect that it will end deep vein thrombosis, but generally we think it gives new meaning to Flying is Dying. Last year we wrote An Idea That Won't Go Away: Standing-Room Only on Airplanes And it STILL won't go away; Ryanair's CEO Michael O'Leary recently announced " plans to remove the back ten rows of seats from 250 planes and replace them with 15 rows of so-called 'vertical seating."
Not so fast, say the plane-makers and regulators.
Now We Know Why They are Called Airbuses- image from New York Times
Boeing, the manufacturer of Ryanair's planes, says it won't work. They tell the BBC:
"We are not considering standing-only accommodations, nor do we have any plans to do so," says spokesman Nick West. "Among other things, stringent regulatory requirements - including seats capable of withstanding a force of 16 Gs - pretty much preclude such an arrangement."
Megan Lane of the BBC continues to debunk the idea, noting:
Sixteen Gs is 16 times the force of gravity, so the seats must be strong enough - and strongly secured enough - not to topple over like dominos in the event of a crash. Vertical seats would require more reinforcing than standard seats, because the passenger's centre of gravity is higher.
Then there is the issue of seatbelts. David Learmount, operations and safety editor of Flight International, asks:
How many points of contact would the straps have to have? Across the body, perhaps securing the ankles, the knees, the head?"
None of these arguments hold up; one could set up the vertical seating so that passengers face the rear, which reduces the strapping problem significantly, and one could fasten the seats to the ceiling as well as the floor, eliminating the domino effect. That is a trivial design problem.
And there are a lot of people who find standing more comfortable than seating; I work at a standing desk and would happily try this. But the main reason it will never happen is the licence; the 737 is rated for only 189 people.
"Even if you take the toilets out at the back and charge people £1 to use the one remaining toilet, even if you take out rows of seats and we all stand up, and the Civil Aviation Authority agrees that's a safe way to travel, you still can't carry more than 189 people. So I'm afraid you'll still get your standard seat."