How’s this for a trend? “Britannia 767-300s. Not just 28” seat pitch but 8 abreast! Packed for 328 pax and I’ve seen these birds at YVR heading back to the U.K.” That was posted a few days ago by YVR Cockroach, FlyerTalk Evangelist and probably the only cockroach in beautiful Vancouver.
Seattlepi.com, the Web edition of the “emerald city’s” major daily, got things going with the headline “Airplane rows could get closer together.” Boeing’s a scared cow up there so the article dissed Airbus for considering a 236-seat version of its A321, trimming the seat pitch – the distance between a point on a seat and the same point on the seat in the next row – to 28 inches.
That’s when FT members got on the case and looked at Boeing.
Let’s look at some other trends, starting in the terminal. The bean counters think of us collectively as “expectations of total expenditure.” They call you “footfall” and they’ve got you zeroed in on stratospheric shopping. Every airport wants to be Schiphol. And when passengers aren’t shopping they better be fine dining while sinking verticals of 90-point vintages.
There are 50,000 shopping malls in America but only one at every airport. Cinnabon is so yesterday. Brookstone is now just airport Wal-Mart. We’re talking high-end in 2013.
Frankfurt airport, a Euro gateway for high-flying Chinese, employs Mandarin-speaking personal shoppers to make buying easy and rack up spending. Like Rolex is not pronounced Rolex in Mandarin? I called to check with San Francisco and Vancouver airport authorities, prime destinations for Chinese travelers, and they thought I was crazy. My New Year’s prediction: “SFO and YVR will have Mandarin-speaking personal shoppers in 2013.”
And then there’s iCloud’s parallel world of social media. It knows what you like, where you are, maybe even what carrier or flight you’re on. Why this very concourse has a capital-D deal just for you. It was named “the Web” for good reason. It’s both man-to-man and a full court press. They got pre-planned buying and impulse buying covered. (They say it’s 50-50.) Hope floats.
Gone are the days of sitting on terminal floors tethered to a wall plug. In this age of light speed, charging stations are everywhere. iCloud wants you to ante up and pass the sugar.
So let’s board that 28-inch-seat-pitch aircraft. We’ve already self-served ourselves to boarding passes, seats, baggage tags, baggage drops. (I hope they don’t expect me to pilot this thing in 2013.)
There are fewer first class cabins, but they’ve shifted the bulkhead of business class and created more seats. Many of them morph into flat beds. The transformer generation has found a home.
But they’ve unpasteurized economy class. The rising cream gets some deviant of Economy Plus, where you can put a few more inches on your credit card. Every guy’s dream. And what about those narrow seats?
2013 promises new and improved inflight Internet. More and more carriers are booting phones with Wi-Fi calling apps that are verbs (Skype, Viber, Facetime).
Also heading into the New Year are runaway runways of minimum-wagers flying long haul, low cost airlines, from Air Asia to xylophone. Even Air Canada has a new low-cost startup on a holding pattern. It’s a jump ball out there and the food chain has plenty of bottom feeders.
Speaking of parallel lines of airlines, here’s another prediction: Deliberately graceless Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary will emit more bursts of methane that sound really, really stupid in 2013. You could highlight a year of gaffes just using him. He thinks we’re all dingle berries. And Ryanair might be coming to America.
Forget about seat pitch. O’Leary thinks we should stand.