Ask Airfare Watchdog: Standing Room Only?

Q: Several years ago I read in the New York Times that airlines were considering offering flights where some passengers would stand rather than sit, presumably allowing airlines to cram more people into their planes. Has this concept moved forward, or was it just a hoax?

A: As far as I know, no airline yet offers this "product" but two airlines are considering the idea. Shanghai-based Spring Airlines ( intends to pursue it with Chinese regulatory authorities. Spring argues that passenger demand in China is growing faster than its ability to receive new aircraft deliveries, and that Airbus has indicated that standing passengers can be flown safely. Ryanair, the low cost European airline, has been reported to seek similar approval from the Irish Aviation Authority. Presumably, airlines would offer a hefty discount to standees. Or perhaps they'd add an extra fee for seated accommodations? Just kidding.

Q: We hope to spend some time in the spring of 2010 in France and Switzerland. What's the cheapest way to get from Avignon to Geneva or Zurich? What is the fastest way for the same trip? There will be four senior adults traveling together. All suggestions will be appreciated.

A: Your best bet is to take the train rather than flying. Avignon to Geneva by high speed rail takes about 3 1/2 hours, and flying would probably take longer when you consider travel time between the city centers and the airport, plus security check in times. There are all kinds of discounts available for rail travel, and you're better off buying directly online using the French rail system's web site at They offer online specials as well as senior discounts. In general, even though there are many discount airlines in Europe, when you're traveling a relatively short distance rail travel is the way to go. It's more convenient than air travel and if you work the discounts and factor in transportation costs to and from the airport, prices are often comparable. You might also consider a rail pass from if you'll be traveling a lot by train. Again, there are senior discounts for these.