A few years ago a story appeared about Chinese airlines investigating the possibility of standing-room only planes. The country's airlines had, apparently, looked at the vast number of people that needed to be moved around the world and decided that the only way to cope was to have them stand. The story was published on April 1st and people soon got the joke.
But the next worst thing is about to happen. Air Austal, an airline based in Paris, has ordered two giant Airbus A380s and it plans to operate them in an all economy-class configuration. That is 840 people crammed into a single plane.
The airline will operate the service from France to Reunion, a French colony in the Indian Ocean. Clearly this will be a tourist flight, which means that the plane will be stuffed with screaming children and bickering parents. I would rather take a flight through the Bermuda Triangle than get on one of these planes.
When Airbus first designed the A380, the assumption was that most carriers would use the additional space provided by its two decks to add luxuries. Until last week's announcement by Air Austal, that was turning out to be true.
Singapore Airlines, the first A380 customer, put cabins in first class and Emirates then upped the ante by installing cabins in first, two shower units (which are surprisingly spacious) and a beverage area in business class.
Let us hope a similar competition does not break out at the cheap end of the market. Otherwise, Airbus might be asked to produce a stretched version of the A380 that would seat over 1,000 in economy. Imagine the queue for the toilets!