meat in a seat
n. A customer or employee who is unappreciated or viewed only as a source of revenue; an unskilled person who is just along for the ride.
Also Seen As
In the airlines industry, the success of Spirit has helped to legitimize practices that treat passengers, in the words of one consumer watchdog, like "meat in a seat." When a carrier assumes the moral status of its customers to be different from an ATM only in respect to daily limits, monetizing the mistakes of first-time flyers can be a lucrative business.
—John Paul Rollert, “Dispirited,” New Republic, April 16, 2015
In the wake of the tragic crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo during a test flight, much discussion has centered around the celebrities — such as Justin Bieber and William Shatner — who have purchased tickets to ride into space once commercial flights begin. The media is referring to them as "astronauts," but Jerry Doyle takes a different view.

"Really? Is that what you’re going to call Justin Bieber? An astronaut?" asks Jerry on his national talk radio show. "No. Basically what they are is meat in the seat."
Research how many people they run through their schools, how many trucks they run and what their turn-over is.
Simple math, not rocket science.
They profit from churning people through their school.
They need to get meat in a seat.
—Blood, “Stevens Transport” (reply), The Truckers Forum, March 08, 2013
2009 (earliest)
I had a job once where the penalties for not staffing the position I was in (and by extension violating SLAs) would cost far more in a single 10 hour shift than my annual salary. We referred to ourselves as "meat in a seat" since it cost them less to pay us than the penalties for not slapping someone in a chair.
—zennoshinjou, “I.T. Lingo” (reply), Ask MetaFilter, July 23, 2009