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July 07, 2021

Standing-room flights inching their way to reality

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Picture with me, if you will, you’re on a packed public bus and you’ve been fortunate enough to grab a seat.

Now – even though you’re lucky to be sitting – what would be your worst-case scenario in this spot? If some guy, with terrible B.O., came and stood over you with his arm outstretched grabbing the railing above, right?

Of course it would. There’s nothing worse. Yet, what if said you might have a chance to soon pay hundreds of dollars on an airplane seat only to experience the same phenomena? Is that something you might be interested in?

As we discussed in this space last month, the rights of airline passengers continue to melt away, bit by bit, but there’s a story now on the horizon that just might set the standards a little lower.

A Chinese airline has a plan in the works to offer discounted fares to passengers who would be willing to stand in the aisles for the duration of flights.

Shanghai-based Spring Airlines has pitched the idea to the Chinese government and, buoyed by the staunch support of the country’s Vice Premier, there appears to be a good chance it might actually stick.

The airline says the flight would still operate as normal, only the new provision would allow them to, according to the LA Times, “cram 40% more travelers” onto the plane. (Standing passengers would be strapped into bar stool-like stands during takeoff and landing.)

Sounds obscene, no? But I know what you’re thinking. Sure, they’re doing this in China. That place has a population density higher than Michael Phelps at a South Carolina college party. It’s a matter of necessity.

Mmm, not so fast. The idea “isn’t so farfetched,” says the LA Times, and European airlines are said to have been studying the concept “for years.” In fact, just yesterday Ryanair announced it already has plans to adopt a variation of Spring Airlines’ proposed system.

Does that mean standing-room flights could make their way to a North American airline near you? Tough to say, for now. A more important question might be, at this point, would you bet against it?



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...