An Open Letter to the Concept of “Premium Economy”

Dear Fictitious and Exploited Promise of Comfort,

For the record, I never perceived this seat as a luxury. What sold me on it was a firm belief that I needed — physically needed — a seat in Premium Economy. Drawn to your enticing words about the extra legroom and seat width I would find there, it quickly became clear that you had exactly me in mind when you created such a section. I felt included. I felt understood. At six feet four inches tall, my slenderish 190 pound frame needs a seat just a skosh bigger than a person of average height and weight. You realized this without my having to say it, and as I boarded the airplane, I loved you for having done so.

What an absolute crock of shit.

You spit that promise of comfort at every lumbering chump on the whole planet, apparently! Do you advertise Premium Economy in the pop-up windows of every person who has an Internet cache with searches for “Size 13 Shoes,” “Sandwich Places at Airports,” or “Last Remaining Unsold Twinkies”? Has it ever occurred to you that the combined weight of the six occupied seats in a row of Premium Economy is considerably more than half a ton? And before you answer that question, allow me to warn you: if you tell me your airline anticipated the extra weight in Premium Economy and proactively reinforced the airplane beneath those rows, I will freak out so majorly right now and possibly slap you right in your siren-song spouting, purely conceptual little mouth. Because that’s exactly the kind of premeditated bullshit I’m talking about here.

It’s not that the additional cost associated with Premium Economy is not worth the additional space. It costs a bit more, but you do get a bit more space. Fair enough. I saw your little description thingy, with the measurements and the picture of the guy who looked not just comfortable but satisfied, and I bought that. But now I realize one cannot buy that. One cannot buy that at all, because the extra space and comfort of Premium Economy really only applies when the airplane is empty.

What I did was pay a nice steak dinner more than the scrawny numb-nuts back there in 22C with his laptop happily open. Why? So that I can squeeze into a seat between a kind-hearted woman with a gland issue and Kevin James’s stunt double. A seat located right behind someone who I’m pretty sure is Yao Ming. We all chose this section with hopeful intentions and, in doing so, collectively fucked ourselves.

Would I like a headset? Yes, thank you, but only if you can remove the blanket of strangers’ flesh that is currently covering my input jack. Ah, but of course, the headset is not free in Premium Economy! Why would I have thought otherwise? It’s not Ultra-Premium Economy! There is no Ultra-Premium Economy, you fool! There is only Premium Economy, and that’s what I bought. But not really. What I really did is paid extra money for a seat that, inch for inch and pound for pound, actually provides me with considerably less space than I would have had in the lower-priced seats where regular people are pleasantly perusing the issue of SkyMall that I am using to pad the tray table from cutting into my knee caps.

You found an ingenious, albeit evil, way of sectioning off the large folk, and in doing so, you found a way for us to pay extra to sit next to each other, crammed together like whichever animals turn into veal because they can’t ever move.

All I wanted was comfort. All I wanted was that one comfortable chair that exists in what I now understand is a purely theoretical world where I am understood. A world where my negligible physical need is taken into consideration. A world where the concept of Premium Economy leads me to some slightly larger, slightly gratifying place.

Or, as it turns out, a world where I’m sitting bitch in a row of reject linebackers and quarry laborers. With no headset, to boot. That’s a wonderful non-addition. Well played! For the sake of all of us, let’s hope the octogenarian eating the banana in the exit row acts fast if we have an emergency during the flight.