Mike Tighe: Squeeze me into plane — just so it lands

Participants in a survey about major irritants they experience as airplane passengers came close to the right conclusions on a couple of points — for the wrong reasons, IMHO.

One of the main takeaways from US.jetcost.com’s survey is that 71 percent of Americans believe that planes should have plus-size zones to accommodate larger passengers.

OK, I’ll grant the point that it would be a good idea to have a few larger seats to accommodate folks of larger girth and longer legs, but let’s not let the airlines off the hook by fat-shaming a few passengers.

The problem is that, for decades, airlines have been squeezing all of us — skinny, chubby, short, tall, 12-packs and no-packs — into smaller and smaller spaces, much like the trash compactor closed in on Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and, of course, Chewbacca, in Star Wars Episode IV — a New Hope.”

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Someday, the seats will be as small as the ashtrays on the armrests from the good old smoking haze daze.

Airlines were able to conjure up the term “seat pitch” as a measurement between seats to make it appear that they are interested in passenger comfort. Actually, I suspect it derives from the formula they use to decide when to pitch passengers out the cargo bay because of overbooking.

Without getting into the boring mathematical details, let’s just stipulate that seat pitches have shrunk since the 1970s. If you doubt that, think about it the next time you have to fold yourself like a jackknife to get to the window seat — and still end up with a concussion when the overhead compartment wallops you.

Now, one can endure being sandwiched a bit, as long as your derriere has room, right? Well, in the barnstorming days of the 1970s and ’80s, the width of a seat — any seat — in coach/economy class was as yuge as 19 to 20 inches, according to reports on the issue.

Nowadays, seats can be as narrow as 17 inches, although you might find some still as gaping as 19 inches.

A 3-inch lop off of the luxurious old 20 inches may not seem like much, until you convert 15 percent, which is a hefty chunk.

With all these machinations, in a quest to put more seats to put butts in on planes, the airlines have turned us into enemies of each other. If we aren’t pointing fingers at heavier and taller passengers, we’re slamming into each other.

Fat-shaming, it is, blaming the obese when, in fact it’s corporate greed — the main reason is that airlines have slashed seat sizes to be able to stack in more passengers like cordwood.

Charging extra for larger seats is reasonable — 93 percent surveyed said so — because those in first class pay extra to be spoiled. But I don’t think planes should have a zone labeled “bulbous butts” because that’s discriminatory.

Being an airline passenger is like owning dogs who sleep with you. Our two little cockapoos can take up 60-70 percent of a bed, leaving Kate and I hanging over the edges, clinging for dear life.

Similarly, a 90-pound weakling in the middle seat can take up as much room as a sumo wrestler if he’s so rude as to park both elbows on the armrests, as many do.

If you’re too polite to push back, as I am, you end up scrunched because the airlines are so bent on making money on the fly.

If people want zoned seating in airplanes, why not an elbows expanse, a bigfoot branch, a big-hair belt, etc. While we’re at it, might be a good idea to have a stinky subdivision, because gawd knows how many times you sit next to somebody who bathes once a month — whether she needs it or not.

I remember the first instance of zoned seating, beyond first class, when anti-smoking vigilantes were able to relegate smokers to the back of the plane. So, the last three or four seats were reserved for smokers, and God help the people who sat in the fifth seat, because they could damnnear choke to death.

Other findings in the survey, which polled 4,887 Americans age 18 and older, included:

Fellow passengers were very disruptive — 57 percent.

The passenger in front wouldn’t put their seat upright — 42 percent.

The food portion was too small/not to my liking — 23 percent. Face it, the days of meals, and being able to choose the entrée, for no extra charge, are over.

Another US.Jetcost survey plumbed people’s fears of flying.

Fully 60 percent of the 4,923 polled do have flight fears, including:

Turbulence, 40 percent (pretend it’s a state fair ride).

Having to sit next to strangers, 28 percent (in many instances, I’d rather sit next to a stranger than some of the people I know).

Using the restroom, 26 percent (when you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go). Even if you do have to factor turbulence into your trajectory, it’s better than the alternative.

Almost 50 percent are more afraid of the plane’s landing than the take-off.

I don’t bother with such trifling arguments over whether the take-off or landing is worse.

I save my worrywarts for big issues: Once the plane takes off, my only concern is that it lands — even if it’s bumpy or, for that matter, in the middle of the Hudson River.

No matter how tight, an airplane seat is more spacious than a casket or an urn.

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