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Are Pigs Treated Better Than Coach-Class Passengers?

Are Pigs Treated Better Than Coach-Class Passengers?

If pigs could fly … well, they might have it better than humans flying in coach.

Pigs on a truck are probably on their way to the slaughterhouse. For people on a plane, shoehorned into coach seats, it just feels that way.

According to the American Meat Institute’s “Recommended Animal Handling Guidelines & Audit Guide: a Systematic Approach to Animal Welfare,” a swine or sow weighing 200 pounds should be allocated 4 square feet of space when being transported by truck during the summer months. (Although the guidelines are for travel by ground, they would presumably apply as well in the unlikely event that pigs were flown rather than trucked.)

How does that compare to the space occupied by the typical coach-class airline passenger? The average pitch in coach (the distance between the same points on seats in adjacent rows) is 31 inches. And the seat width in more generous coach seat configurations is 18 inches. So the area most airlines dedicate to their coach passengers, including the seat itself, is 3.9 square feet.

Advantage livestock!

To be sure, it’s not an altogether fair comparison. Humans on a flight are sitting, whereas pigs are standing on all fours. Pigs don’t benefit from the distraction of multi-channel inflight entertainment systems or the calming effects of purple-hued mood lighting. And pigs aren’t offered vouchers for a future trip if the truck is overloaded.

On the other hand, I’ve never heard a pig complain about a shoddy meal or the lack of space in the overhead bin.

Reader Reality Check

On a serious note, shouldn’t there be guidelines in place that define the minimum conditions for the humane treatment of coach-class flyers? Are we less than swine?

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  • John

    Pigs are treated better than coach class passengers…right up until the moment they’re made into bacon!

  • Eric

    Well, we could demand to be treated better, but airlines have overhead, so if they give us more space, they’d have to charge us more.

  • Reggie Atkinson

    Those pigs in the picture aren’t on their way to a vacation. They’re on a one way trip to their last supper. Their “accommodations” can be of the lowest grade because there’s no hope they will be repeat customers. Us people are going to be repeat customers (so the airlines hope).

    Saddle “seats” are what you get in a UK bus shelter. For $2.50, on a NYC bus/subway I can get a full seat for the 2 hours (subway) or 3 hours (bus) it takes to get from the Bronx to Coney Island. Who knew a ride on the bus or subway would end up being a better deal than a plane?

  • Dr Evil

    someone is buying coach tickets and until they stop their travel experiences won’t get any better

  • Karen Kinnane

    Coach passengers will get better treatment………. when pigs fly!

  • Michael Del Greco

    Why should this surprise any one?

    Our convicted felons in jail get more rapid access to higher quality medical care than combat veterans who honorably served our country risking their life, permanent physical and mental disability for our country.

  • Zachary

    “shouldn’t there be guidelines in place that define the minimum conditions for the humane treatment of coach-class flyers?” Yes – it is called ‘vote with your pocketbook’. We don;t need government telling businesses how they should treat us – we need to tell businesses what we are willing to accept. Let your voice be heard. Don’t fly where they don;t treat you right and fly where they do. If you always go for the cheapest ticket on the cheapest airline when you could have gotten more comfortably accommodations for a bit more elsewhere… you made the choice! This is not a safety issue… it is a marketable comfort issue. That said… I hate these minibus’ on wings these days… so I feel you on the issues… I just don;t look to gov’t to fix it. I believe in our capitalist system. 😉

  • db538

    That’s stupid, they are making hefty profits now.

  • roadrunner

    Yes — absolutely! The FAA and/or Congress need to mandate a minimum seat width (20-21″) and seat pitch (34-35″). Things have just gotten out of hand and will continue that way until the government steps in. This is one example of where government regulation is desperately needed — people don’t have a choice about whether they need to fly anymore.

  • Molly S

    Zachary, unfortunately we can’t vote with our pocketbooks unless we have the price for a Biz of First Class seat. Alsmost every airline has created a miserable experience in coach seating. I’m one that’s willing to pay a little more for comfort and will opt for a premium economy when available. Trouble is, it’s rarely an option. Instead, I’m often “bullied” into paying an extra fee to sit in the same crappy, tight squeeze coach seat just to guarantee an aisle. On a recent search for a ticket to Paris, AA wanted to charge me an extra $140. each way to guarantee an aisle seat – that’s almost $300. added to their $1800. R/T price – just to avoid playing Russian roulette so that I don’t get stuck in a window seat (which many love) or a middle seat.
    While I agree that we should have less government sticking their noses into everyone’s business, I do think that what the airlines are being allowed to do – especially, after we gave them so much of our taxpayer money for a bail out – is to mandate a minimum amount of space.
    I agree with Roadrunner here and think that a 20″ seat and a 33″/34″ pitch for coach is what’s humanly decent. I’m 5’6″ and only a size 6 (120 lbs) and I’m cramped and uncomfortable on a flight over 3 hours, and even more uncomfortable when seated next to a larger person who’s hips are spilling onto my seat. (and I’m not talking obese here, just “average American”. )

  • roadrunner

    Great comment, Molly! What she said.

  • jennj99738

    I’m with you (I’m even shorter at 5’2″) but it’s not even just overweight passengers that encroach. It’s also, even more frequently, men with larger shoulders. There’s nothing like a shoulder banging into my head. There’s not much they can do about that, which is why I end up with back pain from leaning into the window on every flight.

  • Dunn John

    Glad I live in Asia the better part of each year. U.S. carriers are, for the most part, now third world. Not so throughout Asia.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    stop complaining unless you want to pay more, much more.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    get real Zachary.
    Most people want cheapest.
    The crazy thing is airlines like Cebu Pacific can put 436 seats (all economy) on their A333’s & yet have more seat pitch than other airlines with less seats.
    How by cleverly designing their galleys(small) & toilets(around doors) & by having no business class.
    in place of say 12 business class seats, you can easily get 30 or more economy seats. This is why bus class is dying. No one wants to pay, but everyone tries to upgrade.

  • Zachary

    Exactly. But it is their choice. Now if the airlines put seats on the wings and people started dying… it would be a different story. If people want cheapest… the airlines are accommodating. If people want more comfort and will insist on that and pay for it… they’ll get comfort. Where do regulations come in? This is a free market of choice. If that is what the people want… that is what the people are getting. There is no danger – just comfort versus $$$s.

  • Mel

    I wish I had a choice. At DFW it’s American or don’t fly non-stop. There’s no practical choice there.

  • CTed

    A government regulation is the same as an organized boycott. If 50% of flyers refused to fly airlines below a certain seat pitch they would have to change. But companies make people fly, and make them fly coach, and funerals mean we HAVE to fly even if we would rather boycott.

    So getting together and electing congressmen (which takes 50% of voters to elect 50% of the congressmen) to say on our behalf that seat pitches below X are unacceptable is the same as organizing a boycott.

    It is a safety issue. DVT is a health hazard, and in an emergency all passengers have to get out in 90seconds via the slides (FAA regulation). Try that with 28″ seat pitches and large Americans in panic.

    34Inces would let you slip by an unconscious passenger in the aisle seat.

  • CTed

    Yes but they we will see true competition just on price vs profit, not on price vs how low the seat pitch the airline is willing to try to stick us in.