Small seats for tall people

by Maarten Swemmer Leave a reply »
Well equiped train in Taiwan

Taiwan train with large comfortable seats

Last week I enjoyed a perfect holiday in Taiwan. We encountered nice weather, nice people, and nice landscapes. For a two day trip to a national park we took a train. Expecting a typical Asian train as you (used to?) see them in the movies, so prepared for the worse, Taiwan again brought me a very good experience. Used to the Dutch trains with uncomfortable chairs with very limited leg space, if there is actually a seat available, I considered that the fact that Taiwanese people on average are less tall than Dutch people would not benefit me. I was pleasantly surprised to find a numbered reserved seat, reclinable with plenty of leg space. How is this possible in a country where average prices for living (and also for train tickets) are about one fourth to half of the Dutch pricing levels.

On the other hand, it made me realize something else. How is it possible that in The Netherlands, the country with on average the tallest people in the world, trains have such small seats? And at the same time the Dutch airline KLM is known for having one of the smallest seats in the industry (up to 10cm smaller than many Asian airlines). It seems to have to do something with market segmentation and applying the 80-20 rule. KLM and the Dutch railway company NS target their 2nd class seats to the 80% least tall people. If the other 20% do not want to hurt their legs during travel, they can choose to pay twice as much for a first class train ticket. Such policy might be nice for the competitive airline market like, but in the monopolized Dutch train market this is unacceptable. This kind of market segmentation even damages the company’s brand.

One Response

  1. Roland says:

    Well, it’s mass transit after all. Actually, with the exception of rush hours, if they would only use 1st class compartments, there would be plenty of space for every passenger to sit comfortably. Just get rid of 2nd class and made everything 1st class (at the price of current 2nd class) and add a few trains or compartments per train during rush hours. I don’t know how much more expensive 1st class compartments are, but by making everything 1st class they’d be saving some of the current costs of the (almost) empty 1st class compartments that we have now.