Standing Seats on an Airplane?

A budget airline in Colombia is considering removing all the seats from their planes and making passengers stand. The hope is, of course, that they will be able to squeeze more passengers in, and as a result, lower their prices even further. Might we be getting closer to the reality of standing seats on an airplane?

Of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard this idea. Back in 2010, the infamous Ryanair was also considering such steps. Considering creating what were in his words “bar stools with seatbelts.” He also expressed doubts about the seatbelts, calling planes buses with wings and saying; “If there ever was a crash on an aircraft, God forbid, a seatbelt won’t save you. You don’t need a seatbelt on the London Underground. You don’t need a seatbelt on trains which are traveling at 120mph.”

He does have a bit of a point there. However, what planes have that trains don’t is verticality. A train isn’t likely to suddenly drop a huge distance because of turbulence. I have been in a plane that dropped so suddenly if it weren’t for my seatbelt I would have gone flying from my seat. Because I had my trusty seat and seatbelt I was able to laugh and worry about not spilling the drink I had just been given. Some of the worst flights I’ve ever been on have been one of Ryanair’s most popular routes, Dublin-London. In some cases, it was nonstop shake the entire flight. While none of them resulted in the plane suddenly losing altitude it is something that COULD happen. And that is why I always wear my seatbelt.

But even before Ryanair, in 2003 Airbus actually came up with the idea of allowing passengers to be braced in a vertical seat, giving a standing section of the plane.

Back to the Colombian airline, the CEO recently told the Miami Herald, “There are people out there right now researching whether you can fly standing up – we’re very interested in anything that makes travel less expensive.”


He also went on to say “Who cares if you don’t have an in-flight entertainment system for a one-hour flight? Who cares that there aren’t marble floors… or that you don’t get free peanuts?”

Sure, we don’t need in-flight entertainment or free peanuts, but marble floors? Come on man, a little bag of peanuts is not the same as marble floors. And I’m pretty sure that no plane has marble floors. Correction, I decided to look it up because I had to know. I did find a story about a member of the Saudi royal family who has marble floors on his plane. He’s also the 41st richest person in the world though. Not exactly your average traveler. The comparison is just ridiculous. Yes, all of them are luxuries, but one is far beyond the others.

There is another problem that hasn’t been factored in. What options do you have available for the disabled? Will wheelchair users be able to use these planes at all? If they went with a mixed option then yes, they could. They may not be able to be in the standing section, but in theory, at least, the price of all seats should be lowered. So there is still some benefit to everyone.

With all of that being said though…would I take advantage of it if I were able-bodied? For short flights, sure. From Dublin, Ireland where I’m based I’m only an hour and 40 minutes away from Amsterdam, 2 hours from Dusseldorf, and an hour and a half from Paris. In between there and here we also have the entirety of the UK. Flights to the UK are already incredibly low at €26-€50 round trip. Quick Christmas shopping trip in London? You wouldn’t even pause to consider it. It would cost you more to get to and from the airport than it would for your actual flight. Which is something I’ve also done before thanks to Ryanair. Though that was back in the days of “only pay the taxes” flights.

Traveling Western Europe would become my weekend pastime. Make a list of every airport less than 2 hours away and just start going to all of them. Especially if I can pair it up with the list of cheapest cities for travel.

Although, there is one thing that would immediately make it a no. The claustrophobic nightmare pictured below from Reuters.

Proposed standing seat on an airplane.
A man tries out Italian company Aviointeriors’ new aircraft ‘standing seat’ which has 23 inches of legroom, instead of the current economy class average of 30 inches, at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Long Beach, California, September 15, 2010. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES)

Yeah, I’m claustrophobic, I’m also a bigger lady. Those seats look like my worst nightmare. No thank you. Not even for a minute.

For now, thankfully it isn’t something we have to worry about. While airlines have considered it no country’ aviation authority has granted airlines permission to use standing seats or make planes standing room only. As you can see I’m quite torn on the idea myself. On the one hand, I love the idea of even cheaper flights and the opportunities it presents. On the other hand, these sound like a nightmare in the making and a real risk to safety.

I would love to know what you think of the idea! Would you buy a standing seat or simply stand on a flight?

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  • Clare

    I did see the article in the news and was like what!! If they did come in, I would certainly give it a go for short haul, though I can’t imagine it being possible for long haul!! I certainly wouldn’t stand only and have been on a few flights with turbulence and wouldn’t have wanted not to have a seat belt to keep me safe!! Will be interesting to see how it develops in the future 🙂

  • Elise

    Haha I love the tone to your writing. Really sharp and witty. I’d never even heard of this! I agree I might take them on one hour flights but I would worry they would become a viable option on long flights too and then the less privileged could end up exploited. You read my mind about the marble floors and peanuts! Hilarious.

  • Paige Brown

    I love the lighthearted tone to this piece. However, I do NOT like the idea of the “standing seats”. It doesn’t seem as safe. While it wouldn’t be the very worst thing to have an uncomfortable position on a short flight, I couldn’t imagine a long-haul flight being this uncomfortable. I love a cheap ticket, but damn..

  • Joella

    This is absolutely nuts. I am all for lower prices but standing in the air and such close proximity is just insane. It just does not seem safe. Forget comfort (although quite frankly I like my comfort) but this is NOT safe. I know I would not be a consumer and wonder who the target audience is? Because if you want cheap I rather just take the bus.

  • Jessica Bradshaw

    Wow! That is really interesting. The seats aren’t super comfortable, but I think it’s better than standing. However, for a very short flight, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.

  • Aurelia Teslaru

    I have read about this idea but I would definitely never try it! For my, traveling by plane is a comfortable and relaxing experience and I wouldn’t want this to change. Moreover, I wouldn’t feel safe traveling standing up. I hope this will not become the norm when flying.

  • Antonette Spaan

    If it would be for an hour, I wouldn’t mind standing, but much longer wouldn’t be too nice. I don’t think the idea will ever be put into reality because it would just be too dangerous. But then again, never say never, so we’ll see!

    • I agree completely. And I would be interested in seeing how they do make it safe. Honestly, I think (and kind of hope) that this is just a bunch of people brainstorming and it never actually happens.

  • Hi there, I live in Colombia and I take this airline – generally flights are really short domestically (1-2 hrs max) I’ve heard this isn’t approved at all by Aviation safety standards, but who knows we will have to wait and see!

    • It isn’t yet, and I kind of hope that it won’t be as other airlines would start getting ideas. Would you take a standing flight if they did get introduced?

      • I don’t think I would, but it would be worth trying once to know!

  • That “standing seat” in the photo is awful, not how I pictured it working in my mind. If they could find a way for it to be comfortable and not be stuffed in like sardines then on short flights less than an hour I would be alright with standing. But not if it any way resembles the photo, lol.

    • That standing seat isn’t what they were suggesting. In fact it looked like they were suggesting just removing the seats and leaving it at that. Which sounds even worse to me! Nothing to grab on to, people pushing on others and leaning against them. Nightmare.

      How did you picture it working?

  • That photo finally gives me some idea because I was thinking everyone would just pile in. I was wondering how take off and landing would work like that ha ha. It certainly doesn’t look great but hey for a short flight I would consider it I think.

  • reddel

    That one photo illustrates how awful this flying experience would be. I know some people don’t care about comfort and just want to travel the cheapest way possible. I can’t even imagine traveling like this, no thanks.

  • Chrysoula Manika

    I read about the standing seats as well. I am only worrying about safety. If it was a short flight I wouldn’t mind flying standing.

  • Elaine J Masters

    Can’t say that I’d jump at the chance to fly in a standing seat except for the novelty and on a very short flight. I think the big passenger squeeze is criminal!

  • Gabriela

    Thank God! I don’t want to stand for 3 hours or more just to get to go on holidays