Inequality in the Skies: Applying the Gini Index to Airplanes


orgtheory.net

I’m on a plane right now, flying from Sacramento back to Albany. And sitting here I’m reminded of how air travel itself reflects the growing inequality of society in a trivial, but suggestive, way.

Planes have always had first-class and passenger cabins, at least as far as I know. If the Titanic had this distinction, I’m guessing it was in place from the beginning of commercial aviation.

But for most of my adult life, planes—at least the ones I usually fly on, from one U.S. city to another—looked something like this:

plane 1

Just roughing it out here, this means that 7% of the passengers used about 15% of the room, with the other 93% using 85% of the cabin space. Such a plane would have a Gini index of about 8. (For reference, the U.S. Gini is about 48, and the global one is around 65.)

Domestic airlines have pretty much…

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