Study claims a standing-only section on planes could mean lower fares

Some airlines may offer standing-room-only fares.
Some airlines may offer standing-room-only fares. Photo: Andrew Quilty

Would you buy a bargain-priced airline ticket, if the catch was you had to stand for the entire flight?

A new university study says the idea of standing-only sections on planes is no joke.

An airline that removes seats can accommodate about 20 percent more passengers and, as a result, offer discounts of as much as 44 percent compared with airlines that offer big comfy seats, according to the study published in the International Journal of Engineering and Technology.

Airlines in Ireland and China have looked into the concept, but none have yet put the idea into practice.

Major carriers in the US and the Federal Aviation Administration say the idea has to overcome some serious hurdles before it can take off. FAA officials say they haven't seen the study but note that under current standards, passengers are required to fasten seat belts during takeoffs, landings and when instructed by the pilot.

"You can't have a seat belt without a seat," FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.

To meet the seat belt requirement, the study suggests passengers lean against a padded backboard, with straps that stretch over their shoulders.

The study's author, Fairuz I Romli, an aerospace engineering professor and lecturer at the Universiti Putra Malaysia, said passengers would probably be comfortable standing only on flights shorter than three hours.

Gregor said all seats on commercial planes must be tested by the FAA to withstand specific pressures.

The idea won't fly because air travellers won't agree to it, said Jean Medina, spokeswoman for Airlines for America, the trade group for the nation's airlines.

"Airline customers ultimately determine what works in the market, voting with their wallet every day," she said, "and comfort is high among drivers of their choice."

Meanwhile, as security is being tightened on flights heading to the US from Europe, its Transportation Security Administration is now seeing a surge in a new, harder-to-detect weapon: credit card knives.

The weapon looks like a thick credit card but becomes a knife with a steel blade once the blade is folded out. The remaining section of the card snaps together in the shape of a handle.

So far this year, the TSA has discovered 491 credit card knives on passengers, through the use of metal detectors and full-body scanners, said Ross Feinstein, spokesman for the TSA.

That averages out to about 20 card knives a week.

TSA officials declined to speculate why the knives are showing up at airports.

The knives are sold online for $4 to $15 from various retailers. Iain Sinclair, a British manufacturer of one of the most popular devices, describes them as "lightweight surgical knives" that can cut through seat belts in case of emergency. The company could not be reached for comment.

Weapons uncovered by airport screeners in the US continues to rise. In May, the TSA discovered a record 65 firearms on passengers in one week, including 45 loaded guns.

LOS ANGELES TIMES

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