Does it sometimes seem like the airlines not only make travel an unpleasant experience but that they positively revel in travelers’ pain? Turns out you were right.
Speaking on behalf of all airlines, Jeff Smisek, United’s CEO, admitted the ugly truth in announcing that his airline will be installing new seats designed to make flying even more uncomfortable. “Over the next four to six months, across our entire fleet, we’ll be rolling out seats with an irritating array of lumps and ridges to painfully jab our customers in the back, and we couldn’t be more delighted about it.”
Lest there be any doubt as to Smisek’s sadistic impulses, he adds the following:
Let me make clear that these seats will be incredibly uncomfortable, and there is nothing more gratifying than making the experience of simply sitting during one’s flight an excruciating ordeal.
Naturally, United will make less-uncomfortable seats available as well, for an additional fee.
All your suspicions confirmed, right?
But wait, the article in question is from The Onion, the web’s most reliable source of all things satirical. United isn’t installing torture seats on its planes. And Jeff Smisek harbors no sadistic inclinations toward the airline’s customers. At least none that he’s willing to admit to.
Still, as with the best satire, the parody of airline nastiness is food for thought. There is, after all, a compelling motivation for the airlines to make the coach-class experience as disagreeable as possible: It pressures travelers to upgrade to more expensive premium economy seats.
More pain means more upgrades, which means more profits. That’s a linkage that Smisek and his fellow airline executives can’t help but be acutely aware of. Unless they’re clueless instead of avaricious. But that’s a topic for another Onion article.
Reader Reality Check
Are uncomfortable seats a marketing strategy to encourage upgrades and boost profits?
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This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.