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An airline pilot reveals a major reason why flights today are less comfortable and frequently delayed

It's weird, when you think about it. More people are flying than ever before, but they're doing so in smaller and smaller planes. The average commercial jet holds about a third fewer passengers than it did thirty years ago. ( More...

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Braniff77 4
I like flying the regional jets, but not mentioned in the article is that those smaller planes seem to be the first to get cancelled when bad weather pops up. So on the New York-Pittsburgh run, for example, there are lots of flights, but almost all of them are Canadairs or Embraers. When snow hits NYC, those Pittsburgh flights seem to be the first to get cut, with no large-aircraft options to pick up the slack.
Ed Merriam 2
and if they're not canceled, they're bumped, delayed, driven back while the pilot's on the phone arguing with dispatch

basically commercial air is being forced to serve the niche that passenger/high-speed rail does in other countries, like how buses awkwardly pretend to be light rail as "BRT"; it just ends up the worst of both worlds
Burke Files 4
I am a frequent passenger. 100,000 plus per year. I am Ok with sitting in coach and even on long flights - I get it. It what I can afford. But what gets me is vinyl seats that stick to everyone after 2 to 3 hours, and a seat design that is not just uncomfortable - but painful. Let's try cloth and a seat design that is more ergonomic. Pleaseeeee
rwtimmons 2
Cloth holds all that butt sweat really well. Much easier to clean vinyl/leather from various bodily fluids that end up being left behind.

I have also wondered about the ergonomics of seats, but don't know if there is a reason for the generic flat pads. Beyond the fact that the material has to provide a limited about of flotation and meet fire resistance standards the shape shouldn't matter much.
rwtimmons...the seat cushions are replaced (cloth ones)by the crew who cleans the aircraft if there are visible "bodily fluids" on the seats..if not they are brushed off or vacuumed if there is time when a plane lands,before the next takeoff..overnighters are always cleaned and sanitizing sprays are used..if a seat is deemed "unuseable", it is literally "roped off" and put in the maintenance log for replacement...
Well, how old is this guys story, I'd rather fly every time in an ERJ 175 - no middle seat, they load and unload quicker than any 37 - or 320 series aircraft. Sorry but after years of flying 125 + flights a year - (yes love a widebody), but I will always choose the 175 over any other single-aisle aircraft outside a 57 or maybe 321
James Howard 7
I agree. The ERJ-175 has the most comfortable economy class. Seats are wider than those in a 737 or A320, too. The CRJs are a different story, but I am looking forward to teh C-Series. My favorite big plane is the 767 because in the common 2-3-2 configuration, only one seat out of 7 is a middle seat.
Cansojr 5
You might change your mind and opinion. The C-Series Jets have more leg room.
The Embraers don't. They have the widest seats in the Industry. Give it a try before you judge it. Note seat spacing is very comfortable and this aircraft can do things like put the largest cabin windows ever in an aircraft for real light.
Note: Despite my experiences Embraer make excellent aircraft. The final judge is the often overlooked and abused passengers. The Airlines will like it for fuel savings and profit. The C-Series has carried over 2 million people since its entry in the market.
feknight 3
Couldn't agree more - the 175 is a great aircraft. And of the widebody aircraft the 767 (with the 2-3-2) is the best. The new 777 (3-4-3) is terrible and on the low end, the 200, 135, 145 are terrible.
Tim Payne 2
I think another factor that isn't addressed is the current and pending pilot shortage. It doesn't do any good to have 6 flights scheduled if you can only hire enough crew to run 5, so that means you need to move to bigger planes and less frequency. The number of flight hours for a pilot doesn't go up just because there are more flights scheduled.
ken young 5
I have a friend that used to fly commercial aircraft.
He is now in dispatch for a carrier. He actually earns more than he could sitting in the right hand seat.
Imagine that.
Pay rates for flight crew have not kept up with the high level of skill required. Consequently, the shortage of available people to fly the aircraft.
JohnTrolinger 2
The 'shortage' is about pay not the number of available pilots. There are lots of USD 100k/year pilots but few 30k per year pilots.
Greg Bird 3
Its both. Low pay means fewer people are becoming pilots due to training costs and little return in the short term- hence pilot shortage.
Here in Australia we are definitely feeling the pinch. Majors are hiring like crazy but struggling to train people as there are insufficient trainers to meet the demand. Regionals are cancelling flights due to lack of crew.
Its going to be a problem for a number of years until the cycle finishes (or some global problem affects airlines)and then we'll have too many bums on seats once again......
what the article, and the author says are true..time and newer aircraft have not made the travelers experience any better..seats are more cramped,overheads are smaller and full,and you must pay to check a bag..people will always fly,no matter what the aircraft configuration, because its quicker than driving and of course leisure travel destinations require long haul or overwater trips for the most part...delays and cancellations have become an acceptable norm to air travel..
ken young 2
My $2.
Quite frankly, air fares are too low.
I will explain.
In the mid 80s I flew Piedmont EWR to CLT. The fare was around $175to $200. Using the I clarion calculator that $200 fare shoukd run around $550 to $600.
However, I can find flights for about 1/2 that price.
Air travelers expect the kind of service carriers provided 30 years ago for HALF the price. Not possible.
Marc Rodstein 1
Fares are not too cheap. The reason the fares have not gone up as fast as inflation is that the planes that used to fly half full are now flying with nearly every seat filled. The over-capacity of the 80's was very inefficient and that inefficiency no longer exists. Full planes can charge less than half-full planes.
ken young 1
Simple economics prove you incorrect.
First, costs have risen much faster than fares, Second, Carriers have reduced capacity and this adjusted the demand to higher levels. In actuality fares SHOULD HAVE been allowed to rise faster than inflation.
Fares are lower than they should be. This is proven out by the incremental addition of various fees.
If fares were balanced to cost, the level of service provided would be higher. Carriers would not have to shrink the seats down to the size of a 6 year old. PAX would be seeing a return to the past when airline passengers were treated like valued customers.
ken...baggage fees began when the fuel costs were quite high and that was one way of balancing costs..meal service became non existent, and airlines began to charge for snacks,not just alcohol,and also service fees on using or adding miles to a frequent flyer program..carriers have not reduced capacity,but rather restructured the interiors over the past 10-15 years to add more and smaller seats to accommodate more even the regional jets have a very small first class cabin..the fares are changed periodically as in any business, to offset some costs, but also to compete in the marketplace.. there are many "cheapish" fares available if you choose to research,particulary if a passenger books vacation packages which include airfare..businessmen who do not have access to their own company jet, will always fly where they need to go,and use frequent flyer mile to upgrade,even if the programs have changed..families will always fly from Chicago to orlando for a spring break at disneyworld,and newlyweds will always fly to some exotic carribbean destination for a honeymoon..if anything, fares are still quite high in markets where you would expect it to be cheaper (point to point,say dfw-iah),but people,as i said, will always fly anyway because they need to be at that meeting, or that family get together, or that wedding, or want that vacation to disney world..airlines are upgrading their fleets to newer aircraft,and they stil have to pay landing fees and maintain ticket counters and pay gate fees at whatever city or airport,and yes,occasionally they do give raises to union groups like pilots and flight attendants or ramp workers..customer service still matters,and whether an employee is paid $15 per hour or $25 per hour,service comes from the persons attitude about their job and you will still find those who really want to make everyone feel like a valued customer,even with cramped seating,and those who don't really care!!that is not economics sir, that is a fact ...
ken young 1
All true. The point being , carriers had to find ways to increase profitability. Since fares were not effective, they went to a few system.
As far as capacity, carriers originally tried using smalle r aircraft. Then reducing the number of flights.
For example. US airways, now AA,used to fly direct from CLT/LAS8 times daily. Now it's last check anyway.
That is effect a reduction of capacity
rwtimmons 1
I am not convinced that we airline pilots are always the best commentators on our business. At least in recent history it seems all these types of decisions about size and frequency are data driven to provides maximum revenue and profits. It would be difficult to justify changing the model to a less profitable model to fix periodic and unpredictable delay events.
srobak 1
I have been wondering this myself for many years.... why are we flying 10 flights of small aircraft the the same place each day instead of 3 large ones? Makes absolutely no sense - and in reality is more expensive for both the airline and the passenger.
Jamar Jackson 1
How about a discount carrier using an used A380 on transcontinental flights LAX - JFK
John Rogers 4
I can remember when Pacific Southwest Airlines (yes, good old PSA) tried to run a hourly shuttle service between LAX and SFO using L-1011s in an all economy configuration. Didn't work out.
feknight 2
PEOPLE airline did transcons with 747s - back a long time ago. Didn't last long. They eventually got bought by Continental - who discontinued that practice. Although, United does now run 757s on an almost hourly basis between EWR and SFO.
Freddy Laker tried that - but with the 3 majors and Jet Blue (All with full first class cabins) offering constant service between LAX and SFO to JFK & Newark I doubt they would steal many Elites or high-end fliers
8984p -2
Oh. I thought it was GA that was the problem and that ATC would be much better if privatized.
srobak 3
this has nothing to do with anything you are typing about.
8984p 0
how so?
8984p 0
I read / heard many comments that point to GA holding up or a major contributor of airways congestion. Now it's smaller commercial aircraft. I would like you to support your statement.


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