On a recent American Airlines flight to Kansas City, the seats were so close together I had to sit sideways so my knees wouldn’t be crushed. I used to be six feet five inches. Now, as I get a bit older, I’m down to six feet three inches. But obviously, I’m not shrinking fast enough to keep up with the ongoing airline “reconfigurations.”

American Airlines announced last week they will be downsizing the space between seats by two more inches on their newest planes. Can you imagine the senior management discussion debating the pros and cons of lopping off more legroom?

Chief Financial Officer Bert Fingerling: “Boss, here’s a terrific idea. I’ve run the numbers. If we shrink the space by two inches between rows and we have 38 rows, that’s 76 inches. We can pick up at least one more row of fee-paying ingrates. After depreciation on the new chairs, it’s a thousand bucks per plane per flight! A no-brainer.”

CEO Damian Beaver: “I love it. We need to be stockpiling cash for our management bonus pool. But what might the customers say? Of course, anyone under six feet won’t care, but what about the tall ones?”

Customer Care Advocate Fern Blackwater: “I’m thinking those over-glandular guys may not enjoy having to sit even more to one side. What if their long legs run into the passenger next to them? Might cause an incident. You know, arguing, name calling, pushing, shoving, maybe a fistfight.”

Damian: “And your point is?”

Fern: “Obviously, nothing new on board our fleet, just another situation to manage. Wait, here’s a thought. If those big goons don’t like the new configuration, how about we encourage them to get up and stand in the service bay in the back. You know, with the flight attendants. We could call it our new ergonomic station. Good for their legs, blood flow, and all that. And a chance to mingle with our lovely flight attendants. Double the pleasure.”

Damian: “I rode on one of our flights a year ago. My corporate jet was in for repairs. Boy, was that a lousy trip. Hell, next time I think I’ll take Amtrak. Ungrateful passengers all around me. And then our miserable, wrinkly, and rude flight attendants. The burnt-out wait staff might complain if we stash the tall timber with them. You know, file some union action.”

Bert: “Numero Uno, you’re right, they’re always whining about something. Like when we ask them to load luggage in a blizzard because we’re short on baggage handlers. Here’s another suggestion. We could pipe some terrific music into the johns, rename them Flight Spas, and encourage the behemoths to hang out there. Out of sight, out of mind.”  

Fern: “Hold on, another hugely wonderful idea. When making a reservation online, we’ll require everyone to populate a new field call Height. Then, anyone over six feet will always get a list of flights to choose from that will always come up as Sold Out. An easy programming solution. Then the problem disappears. They can go fly with our competitors.”

Damian: “I don’t know about that. We absolutely don’t want any empty seats on any flights. Ever. That’s why we have the highest Oversold Seat ratio in the industry, which I can tell you, I’m quite proud of. Your suggestion could lead to empty seats. Besides, our research shows that our customers already have such a low opinion of us, what’s a few more negative percentage points.”

Bert: “Wait, one more breakthrough concept I think I could be really passionate about. Remember Aeroflot, the Russian airline. Rumor has it that on their short, Russian intercity fights they’ve ripped out all the seats and put in subway straps. Passengers get to stand and hang on the whole way. Do you realize how many more folks they can pack in every flight? Pure genius. A huge revenue generator. I love it.”

Damian: “Now that is out-of-the-box thinking. Nice research, Bert. For now, though, let’s go with the two-inch plan.”

Fern: “I agree, Chief. Our customers are used to us whittling away at their legroom. They almost expect us to. I think they might be disappointed if we didn’t keep at it. And if we get very little pushback, meaning less than a hundred complaints per flight, let’s check out Bert’s idea of subway straps on some of our regional jet flights. Maybe throw in some free cocktails, create a bar-like party atmosphere. By the time the drunks get off, they won’t give a damn what happened inside the plane.”

Damian: “You two are the best minds in the airline business. What would I do without you? Here’s what I’m thinking. If the Ruskies could pull that off, why can’t we? Remember, they were first in space, but we were first to the moon. It’s the same thing here, only different.”