Here’s What Your Flight Would Look Like if Your Seat Was Determined By Your Income


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While the increasing gap between the rich and the poor is no secret, most of us probably don’t know just how disturbingly wide the gap is. OrgTheory recently had an interesting post on how society’s income disparity is reflected on plane seating. They noted how much space on plans are given to first class passengers as compared to economy class passengers. After running some calculations, they found the following statistics on a transatlantic flight with the typical three-tiered structure, including fancy lie-flat beds up front:

“If we look again at how the space is distributed, we now have 21% of the people using about 40% of the plane, 27% using another 20%, and the final 52% using the last 40%. The Gini index has now increased, to 25.”

But as unequal as this model may be, it’s “still nowhere near the inequality of the U.S., or the world,” blogger Kieran Healy of Crooked Timber wrote. She also gave us a handy visual:

Editors Note: All images credited to Kieran Healy

Here is a typical Airbus A330-300 often used for international flights that has first, business and economy class cabins.

airbus 1

This plane carries 270 passengers: 177 in economy, 42 in business, and 8 in first class. Here, 78 percent of economy class passengers get about 58 percent of the seating space on the plane, while business class passengers get 31 percent of the space and first class gets about 11 percent.

Now, here’s a visual of the same aircraft, but structured in a way where it’s actually based on the total income earned by each class.

airbus rich

In this similar-looking layout, economy class makes up just below 80 percent of the passengers. Passengers seated there are those who make less than about $97,000 a year. Since they make less, they get less space.

Here, economy class is left with 31 percent of the space, business class gets 15 percent, and first class is given a whopping 51 percent of cabin space.

It’s a scary visual, isn’t it?

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