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Aircraft Cabin Interiors - Did Galley Slaves Have it Better?

By Tony Guerra
In the race among most airlines to pack in more paying customers into a fixed and very limited aircraft cabin, the idea of what constitutes "foot space" or any "space" at all, for that matter, is a fungible and never easily understood concept on the part of an airline passenger. Believe me when I say that - as a former airline manager - that the airlines would LOVE to give everybody in every section of the plane their own personal "space," but that's not going to happen in this lifetime, from what I can tell.

In actuality, airlines are trying out newer, lighter and sometimes even narrower seats for at least their "main cabin" areas. We didn't't call that area the "main cabin" in our line of work. It's usually referred to as "the cattle car," and made up of a Stephen King-like dead zone full of zombie customers who we always said lived "in the back" (coach cabin). And the reason we needed to fit more folks into a cabin whenever we could was simply due to "revenue management."

This sort of management mainly revolved around techniques for squeezing every single cent we could out of one paying ticket. If that meant charging 50 bucks for that second bag -- as a "fee" -- then we were going to keep tacking on such fees (instead of just raising fares) and looking at ways to cram in just one or two or maybe even three extra seats (for paying passengers) right up until we had a full-scale customer rebellion on our hands. That's how tight the make-or-break profit point on most any flight is these days.

Trust me when I say that the airlines really do sympathize with all those folks back there in coach, manning the galley oars and pulling like hopped-up little monkeys. After all, I was a "non rev," (airline employee flying on a free or very cheap "space available" basis) and I learned how to pack a bag to make sure it doesn't't have to be checked at the last minute while boarding the plane, for example. I know how rough and spartan it can be back there.

Also -- having flown thousands of flights to just about any point on the globe -- I've become intimately familiar with the ins-and-outs of trying to score just a little more seat space on a flight that's already overbooked and bound to be more crowded than the last lifeboat on the Titanic. I usually find a window seat, put my one very small roll-aboard bag in the overhead as quickly as possible and then stare out the window, gazing at the airline ramp employees mishandle all those other passenger bags. Just kidding!

Nowadays, try to get your seat assignment as soon as possible after making your reservation, if allowed. Go for the aisle or window seat first (everybody knows that). Also, don't try to bring all your worldly possessions aboard. If you're at the back of the boarding line (most domestic U.S. airlines now do a version of "open" boarding, after First Class and perks fliers are seated), chances are that bag's going "downstairs" (into the cargo holds). Think slim, when it comes to flying. Travel light, and you can travel fast.

Now, as far as that whole "Aircraft cabin interiors: Did galley slaves have it better?" thing goes...well, all I can say is that we hear the CIA is looking for a new interrogation method to get bad guys to talk, and that they're considering threatening these folks with a week straight of flying in the center seat of a fully-loaded LAX (Los Angeles) to DTW (Detroit) Boeing 757 airliner. I think that's way too harsh, and that Amnesty International will soon have something to say about such an obvious violation of human rights. In the meantime, though...I'm practicing my meditation and a bunch of yoga techniques. I'm flying an LGA (LaGuardia) to SLC (Salt Lake City) flight next week myself. It's "booked full" and the only seat I could get guessed it: In the center!! Now, where are my oars?

Tony Guerra: Former airline manager and current author and freelance writer, blogs on the airlines at:
He also offers a variety of writing services at:
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