Bring your own padding

For the most part, long trips are a thing of our past.

We are quite content to spend our allotted time here on Maui. Occasionally, though, family obligations force us to board a plane and head for the Mainland. A trip last year reinforced some of the concerns we have expressed here about comfort on airliners.

The first leg of our trip was on a brand-new Airbus A321S jet. It is a single-aisle plane with three-by-three seating in coach class. The rows seemed to go on endlessly. The flight attendant told us she believed the plane had 30 more seats (five rows) than the 737 it had replaced.

It also features less legroom and narrower seats. To keep weight down (ostensibly), the seats feature less padding. Thus, the following observations:

1. Any passenger wishing to provide his own padding by eating a bunch of french fries for weeks before the trip will find himself spilling over into his seatmate’s lap thanks to the narrower perches.

2. The missing padding is quite noticeable about one hour into the flight when one’s backside begins a slow continuous ache. People with bony butts are going to be in agony.

3. One tall fellow by a window in coach looked like he was in a crouch position, getting ready for the tipoff in a basketball game. With his knees just below his chin, he also could have been mistaken for a grasshopper. We’re certain those traveling with him had to unfold him when we reached our destination.

Now, contrast that with the second part of our trip. We boarded an Embraer E-175 for a two-hour flight. Compared to the A321, the seats were plush and wide. This jet seats about 74 and looks like a smaller 737. The E-175 is the latest iteration of the E-170 series that Mokulele flew out here on interisland flights a few years ago.

Our spouse fell asleep less than 10 minutes into the E-175 flight (just as we were regaling her with tales of our golfing prowess). No matter what the motivation for her sleepiness, the fact remains she could fall asleep on the E-175 comfortably.

We’re certain that Embraer is under the same constraints as other manufacturers to deliver narrower, lighter seats. We’d urge the airlines to look at the Embraer seats and get others to emulate them.

We also hope this tome doesn’t cause airline executives to rip the comfortable seats out of the E-175 and replace them with the rock-hard narrow ones to get rid of the comparison.

There must be a workable balance between comfort and profit.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.