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04.01.24 Special: Spirit Mulls Cabin Pressurization Zones

‘Breathing Or Not-So-Much’ Could Soon Be A Question For Passengers

04.01.24 Aero-News April 1 Special Edition (Classic)

An internal memo from Spirit Airlines president and CEO Edward M. Christie III, obtained by ANN, indicates that the carrier is considering airplanes with graduated cabin pressure zones, with fees scaled for the different cabin pressurizations.

“Everyone will be able to breathe,” the memo states, “though some will complete the entire flight wearing an oxygen mask. The back of the plane will be pressurized to about the altitude of base camp on Mt. Everest.” The base camp is at 17,700 feet.

Spirit has been in talks with both Boeing and Airbus to build special pressure bulkheads to separate the zones, according to the memo. “The bulkheads can be fabricated of lightweight composite materials that will not significantly affect the useful load of the airplanes. We think they can be retrofitted into existing airplanes.”

According to a draft fee schedule, the standard fare would be for the “Mt. Everest” section of the airplane, with those who wish to fly without an oxygen mask paying more for the privilege. A second cabin section would be pressurized to about 12,000 feet, “which may lead to some altitude sickness among passengers. Extra airsickness bags (for a modest fee) may be required in that section,” the memo states.

The Business Class section and the cockpit would be pressurized normally.

News of the plan has drawn fire from the Association of Flight Attendants - CWA. “This plan would make working conditions just deplorable,” said an AFA member not authorized to speak to the media. “Can you imagine having to work an entire flight with a portable oxygen system? We will fight this tooth and nail.”

The FAA has not commented on the certification of airplanes with graduated pressurization, so “breathing or not-so-much” may not become a reality for some time.

FMI: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altitude_sickness

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