Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek

Airline executives have a heart.

It's an emoji heart they occasionally text to their loved ones, telling them they'll be home late, as they're out having too much fun.

Airlines are making piles of profits, as planes have become more crowded.

Space for movement has narrowed and even the seats themselves have shrunk.

This has allowed airlines to pile even more people into ever more confined spaces. 

Who, though, might stand in the way of airlines, say, making you sit with your legs tucked under you and your forehead resting on the seat in front of you? 

The New York Times today offered a painful article about the battle between airline executives and humanity.

The executives just want to make more money. The humans just want to not feel they're in a flying jail.

Yet American Airlines' CEO Doug Parker admitted there's a surprising constituency that stands in the way of him making planes even more uncomfortable.

No, it's not the passengers. I said surprising

Speaking of the airline's aborted attempt to shove a 29-inch seat pitch on its new Boeing 737 Max planes, which I wrote about earlier this year, Parker confessed to investors: "We got a lot of pushback from our customers and, most notably, from our team members. 
While we could convince ourselves that that might be able to produce somewhat higher revenues on the aircraft, what it was doing to our perception with our team wasn't worth it."

I'm sure Parker and his closest financial brethren could convince themselves very easily that making money was infinitely pleasant. 

Some might find it odd that it's the airline's own employees who declared: "Oh, just stop, you silly man."

Though some of the flight attendants and gate agents you meet might not seem the most affable sorts at times, deep inside they understand the collective suffering that's caused when more than 80 percent of U.S. airline seats are in the hands of just four companies.

So, whenever an airline begins to wonder how many more seats can be put in and how many more toilets can be shrunk or even dispensed with, it's the airline's employees who are actually protecting the passengers' nerves.

And it's not just those whom you'll see at airports. 

The Times also quotes airline and travel industry analyst Harry Harteveldt as explaining that it's "the people in the airlines' marketing departments, who are trying to act as their passengers' advocates and push back on some of these initiatives."

Well, yes. How can you possibly make an airline's offering sound attractive, if passengers know they risk deep vein thrombosis and deep-veined anger every time they contemplate getting on a plane?

Then again, does anyone really listen to marketing people -- unless things are really bad, that is?

Still, next time you're back there in coach on American Airlines, imagine that but for some highly human airline employees, it could be even worse. 

Let's clutch this straw together.

Published on: Nov 7, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.