On my last flight out of JFK, I was in the final boarding group to be called. I observed the bulk of the passengers boarding before me all hewing to the current luggage trend: A roll-on bag topped with a little "buddy" bag that slides over the retractable handles.
Boarding the plane, the overhead bins were all filled, not only with roll-ons, but the "buddy" bags as well—along with people's coats. Person after person put both of their bags in the overhead in order to provide themselves with legroom by not having anything beneath the seat. As you can guess, a handful of us in the final boarding group thus had to check our carry-on luggage.
I can't speak for other countries, but in America the in-flight experience perfectly mirrors how we behave in public: We try to selfishly maximize our own comfort to the inconvenience of others. This is how we drive, this is how we ride the subway, this is how we behave in movie theaters, and even how we walk—I've been behind people who stepped off a moving escalator or through a revolving door and simply stopped to look around, heedless of the people trying to exit behind them.
Here's an example of this me-first approach embodied in a physical product design, one that's ten years old:
The Knee Defender is a pair of plastic gewgaws that you bring onto an airplane and slide onto the arms of your tray table, for the express purpose of preventing the person in front of you from reclining their seat.
I can't decide if this is good design combatting bad design, bad design versus good design or two bad designs that taste horrible together.Decades ago some prototypical industrial designer, probably one of the Loewys or Teagues of the world, worked out how an airplane seat could recline, to increase that passenger's comfort. This was good design, as back then the airlines presumably provided enough room between seats that this wasn't an issue for the passenger behind. But over the decades the airlines have pressed the seats closer and closer, while we've gotten larger and larger, thus rendering the good design bad.
It's a sign of the times: The system creating this problem has become so complex that culpability is impossible to assign, and thus the problem cannot be addressed head-on. Who is to blame for the "need" for a Knee Defender: The passenger who wants to recline? The passenger behind, who wants more room? The airline shareholders for demanding returns? The airplane's individual interior designers, or the bosses they must answer to? Our reliance on fossil fuel and the attendant difficulty of turning a profit using an airplane full of well-spaced seats?
There are many situations in life where I feel industrial design can attenuate human inconvenience, but I don't feel this should be one of them.
The Knee Defender, by the way, recommends that you print out the following text and hand it to the passenger in front of you:
Dying to hear your thoughts on this one.
Update: The plot thickens—in August 2014, a plane was grounded due to an altercation regarding the Knee Defender.
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In Frankfurt, or for that matter anywhere where European airlines fly, you can always find Americans complaining because they have to check their luggage. But to me it is only just, as most of these look as if they were moving house.
Hope you go out of business soon, or smarten up, perhaps you should hire a few designers to conceptualize your way out of your customer relation issues!
I think being on either tail of the height curve must stink.
But on the short side, you've missed a few of the inconveniences:
* not being able to use standard kitchen counters without a stool
* feeling like a child at restaurants because the table is too high
* not being able to use the handles on subways or buses because they're out of reach
* not being able to get things off the upper shelves at stores
* most of the cabinetry in a standard kitchen unreachable without a stool
* feet not touching the floor sitting in most public chairs
* social factor of being at the submissive height in every conversation other than with children
* not being able to reach the console in the car without scooting forward (and driving a car in general)
* the feeling that most of the people you interact with could sling you around like a sack of potatoes if they felt like it
Now, I don't want to be so tall that I have to do an intricate contortionist insertion of my body into an airplane seat like the unfortunate 7+ft tall man I sat next to once, but it would be nice if I didn't feel like everything was slightly out of reach.
For the record, recline your seat in front of me for all I care, but do try to give some warning and do it SLOWLY. It's not nice to have your drink sloshed all over you by the abrupt backward motion of the seat your tray is attached to!
...and all I ever want to do is buy all the mens shoes/clothes I see everywhere which will never be in my size and which companies will never produce for women because they don't see a "market" for it. So basically, I don't exist.
This isn't to argue, just saying.
I found these really basic explanations of Cathay Pacific's recline. This should really be the bare minimum that ALL economy zones are equipped with.
Maybe you should suck it up and sit upright like a big boy. The seats were designed to recline long before they were packed together like sardines. I bet you're the same guy who blocks intersections. If you want to behave selfishly, feel free, but do it in First Class.
Tall, short and those that wish to fit peacably in between, would all love to enjoy the incredible feat of travel that is flying. While some work to increase or matain comfort within an established system (such as the inventor of the highlighted product), or seek a paradigm shift in thinking and design of air travel-we seek to identify and resolve issues that clearly have, and continue to, affect everyone. I welcome all future improvements and innovations that make flying even more incredible, as I imagine anyone else should.
I will end here with a question, why should anyone in the design community bother disputing and attacking attemps at understanding and improving design with such condecention and an immature view of user experience and interaction design?
You seem to think it is a matter of comfort and preference - that we would be more comfortable with a little more space in front of us. 3 inches means a lot when there is only 1 inch of clearance with the seat unreclined - I'm no Wilt Chamberlain, but my knees are right up against the seat in front.
Your attitude is selfish and inconsiderate, but you do have one good point, asking to change seats is a good strategy. I always try to get bulkhead or exit seats, but if I don't, my knees are against the seat when it is upright. Should I check my legs in?
Your back? Tough it out. Sorry if that is not considerate of your feelings. My hips and knees can take days to recover from a few hours of someone pushing a seatback into them. You have no consideration for anyone else, why should I care about your comfort?
I think this says it all. The problem isn't with reclining seats, or products that prevent reclining seats. The problem is with us. WE ARE SELFISH BASTARDS. I mean, have we gotten so bad at manners and such that we have to resort to using products like this? For instance, if a person in front of you reclined their seat, and it uncomfortably hit your knees, why wouldn't you just ask them politely if they could move their seat up a little, and explain the situation, calmly and rationally? And if you're the one reclining, is it too much to consider the person behind you, and maybe ask them if your reclined seat is okay with them? I can't believe that this product expects you to HAND A CARD to the person, to explain the situation. How passive-aggressive can we get? I think this youtube video of George Costanza in an airport pretty much explains what I think ;)
It does go both ways. Personally, I try not to block the view of shorter people wherever possible. However we don't always want to sit at the very back of the theater or show.
Those occasional, entertainment, events are one of the few times being tall has a distinct advantage. I might actually switch if given the option. To fix your issue, all it takes is someone moving, either you or the tall person in your way.
For tall people, the inconvenience are for many things things we need every day. Most of the time nothing can be done about it. Every morning, the shower head only comes up to my shoulders because the building codes say that's where it has to be. Every plane trip, the airplane seats jam my knees for hours and they're bolted to the floor. Every car ride the roof is too low an for the most part can't be moved.
Finding clothes in long-tall sizes is a huge challenge if you want anything interesting. Stores carry very small stock of larger sizes and you can't very well ask a tailor to add a few inches to the length. Shoes are designed for a size 8 and stretched out to the larger sizes. In the rare cases they do actually make something 13+, the shoe usually ends up all distorted looking. Shirts are perpetually too wide around the torso or too short. In order to find anything reasonably sized we either have to make special trips out to special stores or hunt and search for rare things in the stores everyone else goes to that both fit us and look OK.
None of these are a huge deal by themselves, but it's death by a thousand cuts. I would be happy to be minorly inconvenienced at some entertainment venues if the rest of the world was well designed for my body.
And what would you say to the short/small person- and specifically female- who lives in a world where bigger folks, and usually men, assume that because a person is sitting in a public space with their legs together, it's okay to sit down next to them and spread out and take up all the space they want? This happens A L L the time on subways. Sometimes smaller people wish they were bigger so that they'd take up more space and have less invasion of said space when they were in public.
It goes both ways.
See the examples I cited for advantages. I bet you have a killer view at concerts or movie theaters. I can't even tell you how many times I go into a movie theater and some huge person will just plop right in front of me without a second thought. I get up and find a different seat, or politely ask if they wouldn't mind moving one seat over? Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't (and this is different than presenting someone with an inane card and basically telling them, "well, too bad you got stuck in front of me because I'm tall and my comfort is more important than yours.")
Like what? I'm 6' 10" I can't think of any.
I would happily drop 10 inches of my height. Being this large is a nightmare; beds, cars, planes, clothes, shoes, doors. Nothing and I mean nothing is comfortable or easy to use.
I wouldn't need this product, my knees would happily wedge the seat forwards so the person in front wouldn't have a choice.
The last time I had this scenario the person in front got really indignant, the flight attendant was fantastic. Telling the numbskull "what, would you like him to saw off his legs" and then promptly moving me to a seat by the exit in business class. (Business class seats are still too small).
The worst bit, I'm an Industrial Designer, I understand human factors and that the world will never compromise for me.
I'll just have to go the extra mile and spend the extra money to get a seat that sort of fits.
The solution to this was to arrange the pitch such that seats could be rotated around in 90 degree increments to form into circles or clusters, such as family groups, after the aircraft had reached cruising altitude. They had to be facing fore and aft though for take off and landing. This only worked in the center of the aircraft cabin, not on the seats at the sides of the aircraft where the curving outer cabin wall blocked rotation.
In terms of width, on a typical wide body jet you could add an extra row of seats in the centre of the cabin and still fit the 19" wide serving trolley down the aisles, because you suddenly weren't restricted by the ergonomics of adjacent shoulder widths, you could actually get the seats closer together across the cabin.
My solution seemed pretty cool to me and the client did apply for a patent. In terms of seating numbers per cabin, it achieved 98% for an economy arrangement compared to the existing seat layout.
Sadly, somewhere between concept presentation and production of prototypes I understand that an accountant decided it would be cooler if the seats were crammed closer together to achieve a 105% cabin density. To do this the armrests and seats had to be flip up, like old-style theatre seats, and the rotating feature had to be dropped, and that was what the client's engineers built, bless their cotton socks. The test subjects quite rightly slammed the prototype, saying they felt that they were in 'crowded isolation'. The idea was then canned, and I could not persuade them that my idea hadn't been given a fair test.
Looking back on it now I think it may have been simply too radical and the client was just relieved to have a reason to drop it. The design brief asked for revolution rather than evolution, but when they got it, it freaked them a bit.
Actually, they are intended for limiting the recline of the seat in front of you, not preventing it. For tightly packed airplanes where the seats over-recline and the jackass in front of you insists on lying flat, with his/her head in your lap. You can limit them to a reasonable recline. Sometimes I do that with my knees, but I'd rather do it with plastic.
P.S. BET is showing Roots? Amazing! People long thought that it would be impossible to air Roots again, because all of their various copyright clearances were short-term, had expired, and many of the copyright holders had jacked their prices sky high in the intervening years.
If you want to hand-carry your luggage onto the plane and inconvenience everyone else and cause delays boarding and disembarking, pay extra. Otherwise it goes into the hold along with everyone else's.
One purse and/or backpack/briefcase per person.
I did a survey of about 200 people as part of my research. The vast majority of people said they reclined their seats on the plane. The vast majority also said they didn't like when the person in front of them reclined their seat. Bunch of hypocrites.
"tightpack" or "loosepack" asked the first mate to Ed Asner, a first time Slavestrader Ship Captain.
Nothing changes, only today we charge for it.
The trickle down effect is obvious here, but difficult to resolve. Generally, the airline's goal to maximize profit causes an unfortunate ripple across baggage regulations, plane capacities and passenger comfort. It's difficult to point fingers to one cause. Oil prices are chewing at the airlines, and despite their efforts to charge for baggage, cram as many persons as possible onto the aircraft, and overbook flights for guaranteed fullness, they are still losing money.
How can this be resolved? Is anyone willing to pay double the ticket cost now for 4" more legroom and free baggage checking in economy?
The real problem is how inconsiderately many planes were designed, but not all economy planes are built the same. I believe it was a Cathay Pacific plane I was flying economy in once where the seats were designed to recline in such a way that the back barely moved back at all; somehow the mechanics were such that the seat reclined into itself (it made sense I promise), adjusting the angle so that you got a nice recline but didn't smash your back into the person behind you. Easy... why don't they all do it?
The problem is exacerbated by airline carry-on/luggage check policies. They've reduced room for carry-ons and charge hefty fees for checked baggage.
All those roll-on and buddy bags, stuffed in the overhead are a consequence of airline policy.
There may be a well designed answer to the Airline and passenger needs, but to this point it seems the airlines are unable or (more likely) unwilling to put in the hard work to design such a solution. It's easier to just move the seats closer together and count on other airlines to do the same so there's no alternative for passengers.
Something like the knee defender is inevitable, because the airlines have created a passenger pain point that's begging for a design solution.
There is something unfortunate about the knee defender, but it a logical follow-on to bad policy on the part of the airlines.
Well, thats part of it. But their airlines and FAA regulations are really to blame. This wasn't a problem before baggage fees which encourage people to bring as much as possible on the plane as carry-ons. If baggage fees were not allowed then their cost would be rolled into the ticket. Tickets would be marginally more expensive but everyone would be more comfortable.