The Onion has a new piece—United Airlines Exploring Viability of Stacking Them Like Cordwood—that, as usual, is grossly unrealistic. If my own experience is any guide, the real United would never waste money on a grated floor for waste disposal, or people to shovel peanuts into a trough.
But The Onion‘s exploration of the geometry of passenger-packing does raise some genuinely interesting questions. For years, I’ve had this idea to start an airline where, instead of seats, passengers would get personal cubbyholes that were stacked on top of each other like bunk beds. (I’d make sure the marketing materials didn’t describe them as “coffin-shaped,” though that’s what they would be.)
You could sleep in your cubbyhole—much more easily than in a seat, of course—but you could also read, watch a movie, work on your laptop, or eat (all activities that I don’t mind doing while lying down, and the first two of which I prefer to do lying down).
Besides passenger comfort, my arrangement would have at least two advantages over the standard one:
First, depending on the exact size of the cubbyholes, you could very likely fit more passengers this way, thereby lowering ticket costs.
Second, assuming the cubbyholes were ventilated, you could put little doors on them, thereby giving passengers far more privacy than in a conventional airline. No more being immiserated by screaming babies or inane conversations, or the B.O. of the person next to you, or reading lights while you’re trying to sleep. And, as many of you will have noticed, BQP Aarlines could provide amorous couples with a far more comfortable alternative than the bathroom.
So, readers: do you know if any airline has tried something like this? If not, why not? Are there strong arguments against it that I haven’t thought of, besides the obvious cultural/psychological ones? Should I keep my day job?