Friday, May 11, 2007
Greedy Flying Dutchman
In Belgium, Dutch people have the reputation of being greedy. Especially the protestant Dutch of the northern Netherlands – above the Moerdijk – are supposed to count their hard-earned cash five times before spending a penny. In reality, Dutch people are much more generous than their southern neighbours in many respects, especially when it comes to helping people in need.
But sometimes, stereotypes seem to be ridiculously true. The Dutch flag carrier, Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM) announced that passengers in Economy class that get or want more leg room will have to pay a supplement of 50 euros. Before, you could ask for a seat next to the emergency exits if you showed up in time. A small perk for people who are used to doing long-haul flights but can’t afford business-class tickets, such as people working for development aid organisations and other NGOs. But now those greedy Dutch want to make us pay for this small extra comfort.
In my case, it’s not even extra comfort. When you measure 1.87 meters (I think some 6 foot 2 inches), a bit more leg room is not comfort, it’s exercising your right to a humane treatment. While the average length of Europeans (and especially the Dutch) keeps increasing, airline companies are cramming more and more people in the same aircraft. Message to the airline industry: people die because of this. We don’t need stupid videos about doing exercises on board, we need more leg room. I’m not complaining about $10-to-fly-to-New-York tickets here either, my organisation pays between 1.000 – 2.000 euros to get me to Africa.
KLM will first test this principle on a couple of long-haul flights to Asia. When they think it works, they will implement it to the rest of their network. I never fly KLM, but I do hop on an Air France flight more regularly than other people take a bus. Air France and KLM got married a couple of years ago, so I hope stupid ideas like this one are not too contagious.