As airlines increasingly look for their margins from the globe-trotting 1 percent, luxury classes get longer and more luxurious. Meanwhile the 99 percent traipse dejectedly through the aisles of privilege to the cattle-stalls in coach where they’re even more cramped and underfed than last time. ‘Occupy Business Class’ anyone?
But for once it’s not Wall Street billionaires stealing Main Street thousandaires blind. Without the profits up front, airlines can’t afford to pack the back. Business class is bailing out coach.
Doug de Bourbon, a software entrepreneur from Cupertino Ca. who spends 85% of his life in first or business, sees his inflated fares as a form of indirect taxation, but feels he can live with it. “I get a warm fuzzy knowing that thanks to me, folks are enjoying air travel they can’t actually afford. It’s kind of a model for our whole economy,” adds Doug, a life-long Democrat.
What he can’t live with is dying with them. “Say there’s one of those ‘life-threatening mid-flight incidents’ like the plane hurtling to earth in an uncontrolled Mach 2 dive filled with screaming, shitting humans. Why should us guys who pay the freight end up the same charred human-burger as the moochers in the back?” For Doug’s ‘class’ their largesse rates some reward like - freedom from fiery death.
Airbus agrees and has done something about it. Result: the revolutionary, possibly in more senses than one, A001. A modified A380, Airbus’ new 850-seat mega-plane, the A001 has a huge class fore of the wings, where 100-odd Luxe de Luxe travelers enjoy amenities like cabins with wood-burning fireplaces and an on-board escort service. Aft of the wings the A001 accommodates 700+ Premium passengers, on rows of narrow wooden benches, fitted with safety belts. Meager cushions are available at an affordable cost.
So what’s revolutionary and new about the A001? Simple. Should one of those rare life-threatening mid-flight incidents occur – electric storms, engine failure, pilot epilepsy, rudder loss - the A001 is designed to jettison the entire rear half of the aircraft. Massive high-altitude parachutes deploy to float the abandoned hulk to solid ground or sea. This can take anywhere from 2 to 36 hours depending on location. Airbus calculates 80-90% percent of the equipment can then be salvaged – as can most of the Premium passengers, except those dumb enough to unfasten their seat-belts or disobey the recordings.
The fore half flies on, instantly acquiring a new tail-section, an auxiliary engine and supplementary fuel supply. The wing-to-body ratio of the now shorter plane triples its ability to survive adverse weather; even with all four original engines kaput, the plane has a range of 7500km - enough to make safe landfall from any part of the globe.
De Bourbon, on its maiden flight to Singapore, sees the A001 as a win-win for all concerned. “Before, a mid-flight incident meant hundreds of gruesome deaths, the loss of a $275 million plane, crippling liability for the carrier. Now a few folks may get triaged, but liability is minimal, the equipment survives and – most important - so do we. The business class on which every major airline depends, lives to fly another day. In a way we’re a micro version of a macro trend” he muses, sipping Cristal, lightly caressing the labia of the exquisite Eurasian escort who’ll share his cabin for the 15-hour flight. “Meet the future of the global economy. You crash, we fly on. End of story."