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The Future of Economy Class

Old 27th Feb 2020, 00:42
  #61 (permalink)  
 
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The reason I do make comparisons between airlines and ships (transatlantic liners etc) is about conceptual implementations of different travel classes, which are broadly similar to the airlines with their offerings (steerage/Economy, third class/PE, second class/business and first class/First) and the way they are implemented.

It is also a question of fare differences vs comfort/service levels. One way of pricing would be as a percentage of a base ticket (i.e. there is a base price and upgrades of comfort and service are at a percentage of it, such as PE being 50% more than the base Economy, Business 100% more and First 200% more as an example). Other percentages can be used.

One issue with airlines and their prices is that you can't just book a "better seat" at a price difference similar to moving from second class to first class on a train - there's a lot more "extras" included, which can drive up prices to such an extent that a basic Economy is $600 and Business is $1800 and so on, i.e. triple the price. It is possible to argue that the extra services and the lie-flat seat (which take up more space) drive up the price, which is true but it rather make it evident that a different system is needed.

A travel class that sits above basic Economy and below Business would be a good solution. Premium Economy is not the answer since it is more like "old" Economy in many cases and its value proposition can be so-so, especially if we are talking about double the price. One method that could work is a "Comfort Class" with seats similar to old Business (before lie-flat came around) with increased seat pitch and recline, offering a comfort more similar to long-distance passenger trains. It is sold as a better seat at a reasonable premium but upgraded service is extras, offered a la carte (i.e. upgraded meals, priority check-in, lounge access, priority boarding, extra checked luggage, ticket flexibility) are extras that the traveler can choose from. Those who are looking for an "all-inclusive" package are directed toward Business Class.

The pricing model for such a class could be percentage based such as 50% higher than Economy and then different costs for extras such as priority check-in or heavier bags. Upgrading from a $600 to a $900 ticket in exchange for better seating could be worth it. There are people who don't see the need for extra services, just an improved seat. The LCC model of a la carte pricing could be appropriate for long-haul Economy products including a Comfort Class.

Perhaps the best solution would be to move all Economy related tickets to a la carte pricing and make Business the "all-inclusive" class, thus providing "basic Economy" and "Comfort Class" as seat-only fares with extra charges for checked luggage, flexibility and so on in order to provide a decent level of comfort in the rear part of the aircraft, while also keeping the ability to provide "rock bottom" fares.

Another way would be to have a dedicated long-haul LCC division with Economy and Comfort Class onboard with a la carte pricing, while the "full-service" brand is concentrated on "direct city-to-city" flying rather than hub-and-spoke services. The "premium brand" (full-service) provide services with smaller widebodies with Comfort Class/Premium Economy, Business and/or First onboard. A similar separation can be seen with the cruise industry today (luxury cruising means dedicated ships for example).

Price-sensitive travelers fly through hubs on the LCC division, those who want direct connections and "full service" go for the "premium" and pay extra. A typical example of such a concept would be to either fly London-Washington DC direct with the "premium" carrier or taking the LCC division London-New York-Washington DC on a connecting flight.

One way of furnishing the aircraft for respective operation could be:

Boeing 777 LCC division:

Economy Basic - 10 abreast
Comfort Class - 8 abreast (2+2 - small divider and then 2 + 2 on the other side)
Comfort Class Plus (if the airline decide to do it) - 7 abreast (2 + 3 + 2)

Boeing 777 "premium":

Economy Class - 9 abreast
Comfort Class - 8 abreast (same as the LCC)
Business Class (same as today, i.e. lie-flat seats)

It would also help the brands by avoiding the feeling of "degraded standards" since the basics move over to the LCC division, which also offer a reasonable Comfort Class while the "premium" brand provide a higher level of service (similar to the cruise industry such as Carnival compared to Holland America for example). Those looking for cheapest possible seat can get one from the LCC, those who want more service and are ready to pay extra to skip the hub in favor of a direct flight have that option. The LCC division would only operate to the largest hubs/cities in comparison with the "premium" brand with a lot more direct flights.

Yet another way of doing it is to develop different solutions for lie-flat accommodation as per my previous post, including the ability to rent a bunk bed for four hours or something on long flights.

There is a market for "better seats" without bundling a lot of extra services with them and also without giving the traveler the "choice" between Economy "crammed" for $600, Premium Economy (same as normal Economy in the 90s) for $1200 or Business for $1800. An LCC concept with $400 Economy Basic (no checked bag), $600 Economy (checked bag) and $900 Comfort Class (example prices for a long haul flight of around nine hours) could be a decent solution. Those who want a "better meal" can buy one for $20-50 in both classes.
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Old 27th Feb 2020, 07:21
  #62 (permalink)  
 
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Norwegian then. A basic economy class, and a premium offering of a old style business recliner (38Ē pitch though). Itís available on the North Atlantic in many routes but hasnít taken over the market, and the carrier itself is struggling. So perhaps thatís an indication of the viability.

What has gone somewhat unsaid on this thread is the fact that the chunky margins from F&J are used to justify routes/frequencies for cheaper flyers.
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Old 27th Feb 2020, 09:03
  #63 (permalink)  
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That was a very interesting link from poster czarnajama on airline travel class economics. I'll return to that.

When I started this thread it was to suggest that there should be a minimum standard for economy seats so that those required to sit in them either by choice or by budget, should not be unnecessarily uncomfortable. I even suggested in light of continued proposals for stand up seats, that government legislation may be the answer to stop the race to the bottom. I mean we are a species of humans and require a minimum space for our physical and mental well-being otherwise you could say we are effectively being restrained against our will. By way of example, would you accept putting your family dog or cat in a cage for 10-12 hours where it couldn't turn around, was squeezed next to another much larger animal with fidgeting and 'spreading' habits and along with occasional barking from it's travel companion and the cramped quarters gave no ability to turn around or find a sleeping position so that the animal suffered anxiety, DVT, and sleep deprivation for the entire journey? I don't think most of us would do that to our beloved animals and if we did, we might expect a visit from the animal welfare officer. Yet for economy passengers the world over this has become derigueur. So much so that many in this thread have simply excused it away with platitudes about choosing premium classes if it bothers you.

While the discussion around class of travel and the relative improvements in the amenities and cost benefit of some premium offerings of today in comparison to flights of yesteryear has been an interesting and informative one, it has been a particularly specious argument. It is misleadingly attractive to say you can always choose a superior class of travel if you want. This is as though we can all afford to do this and it glosses over the enforced unpleasantness that economy has become. We all know the reality is that most people cant afford anything else otherwise we would all be travelling in the more expensive seating. Instead, most of us travel economy because that's all we can really afford. The fare you may be paying is probably for two and while you and your partner may be going on holiday, the mortgage isn't going anywhere! So the cheapest fare it is and that would be in economy.

So this discussion doesn't start when you are booking a flight and making all manner of choices about which airline you would like to fly with, what flight departure times you would prefer, how many frequent flyer points you want use and which cabin class you would like to travel in. No. This discussion starts when for whatever reason your choices lead you to emptying your bank account and arriving in the back end of a red eye departure flight of 10 hours with a 5 hour stopover and an 11.5 hour second leg. (The PE fares for two may as well be at the top of Mt Everest.) You clap eyes for the first time on your economy class seat space and your potentially undesirable travel companion, both of which will be very close to you for the next 10 hours. The first thing you notice is that the coach you traveled on to the airport had demonstrably more legroom, well cushioned seats and a fair amount of recline, none of which exists in this tiny space that at the end of the flight will have succeeded in foiling every attempt at sleep and rival a mediocre torture chair.

Anxiety increase......check.


So my premise is that while service levels, baggage, meals, drinks etc may all be cut in economy and made availble for extra payment in search of lower airfares, the qualty of the seat should be set to a standard that ensures it doesn't just meet a bare minimium based on some human anthromorphic standard that simply says you will fit in the seat, (because in many cases you wont), but that it is actually fit for purpose including a reasonable chance of sleep on a long haul flight. The airlines can keep all their 'extra's and service and get you to pay for it if you need it but as a minium all economy seats should recline sufficient to allow your head to fall backwards not forwards, the seat should be supportive but well cushioned and the legroom adequate enough to avoid seat back/knee conflict from the reclined seat in front.

I can hear you....good luck with that! So, lets go to You Tube link posted by czarnajama above. I won't bore you with all all the calcs but suffice to say that an economy seat pitch in most airliners today seems to be about 31 inches from back rest to back rest. That's not a lot!! I have confirmed that the BA T7 offers this and so in czarnajama's link we see that 122 economy passengers returns $106872 for the airline. Let's take two rows of seats out. That 62 inches of seat pitch made available to be divided up among the remaining 11 rows. This increases the economy section to a 37 inch pitch, enough for some reasonable recline and leg room. Pad the cushion and we are done ie a seat built for purpose. Now lets see what this cost the airline. Well there not going to get the same revenue since 18 seats have just disappear... So let's put the fare up by 150 each economy passenger and then its back to where it was. Does $150 scare anybody away considering the seat can now be considered comfortable? I mean even our mortgaged up to the hilt young couple will not look askance at this when considering the length of flight, the need for sleep and the impossibility of getting anywhere near a PE seat. The airline also carries less weight both in passengers and in seats so there are small fuel savings there which all add up per flight/per annum.

So wny dont they do this? Perhaps because a number of PE passengers would make the choice to book economy simply because seat comfort is what they will pay for, not extra's and if the economy product offered this, why would you buy PE? That's right, making economy more bearable will hurt the airlines more substantial icome from the PE offering. The converse is also true. Turning econmy into torture chairs has boomed the PE offering. Little wonder most airlines have taken this up. This is a deregulated airline industry at work. Passenger welfare is the least of their concerns. They know we have no choice but to accept this there is no government oversight.
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Old 27th Feb 2020, 10:08
  #64 (permalink)  
 
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The simple answer to your question is that passengers prefer lower fares (and they are at a historical low) than slightly more comfortable seats. If you value what you perceive to be a slightly more comfortable seat than a lower fare, then you need to pay a higher fare. If you can't afford a higher fare (which are also at historical lows) then that's life, unfortunately. All of us can't afford something we want.

Suggesting a government or other authority should intervene and set a higher standard for seat comfort (which is subjective anyway) than already exists means raising fares for everyone, and the consumers have said they don't want that.

My most uncomfortable flight was 12h HKG-LHR on a cabin crew jumpseat (horizontal base, vertical back, no cushion, the only way to sleep was leaning forward against the harness) by 4L on a 747-400. I would've much preferred an economy seat...even a middle...but I didn't complain because the fare was £50!
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Old 27th Feb 2020, 10:27
  #65 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by Lord Farringdon View Post
By way of example, would you accept putting your family dog or cat in a cage for 10-12 hours where it couldn't turn around, was squeezed next to another much larger animal with fidgeting and 'spreading' habits and along with occasional barking from it's travel companion and the cramped quarters gave no ability to turn around or find a sleeping position so that the animal suffered anxiety, DVT, and sleep deprivation for the entire journey?
That's a terrible analogy. As an economy class passenger you are NOT in a cage. You are not confined to your seat. You have access to food, drink and entertainment. You have access to toilet facilities. You have access to any personal belongings you have brought onboard. Within reason you can get up, stretch your legs and wander round.

You also have the choice, if economy class travel holds such horrors for you, of simply not travelling.

You suggest an arbitrary figure of $150 as being an acceptable premium to pay for more legroom. For a family of four, that would be $600. That's actually a tidy sum of money they might prefer to spend at their destination. Effectively, you would be taking away the choice of other passengers to travel at the lowest possible fares if they so wished.
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Old 27th Feb 2020, 21:03
  #66 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by AviatorDave View Post
It's not going to change anytime soon. In my experience, people are willing to take an unbelievable amount of sh!t as long as it is cheap, and they just adapt and put up with it. Unfortunately, this seems to hold true for all aspects of life, not only (air) travel.
Divide the difference between business and economy fares by the hours in flight.

Compare this to the average hourly rate for employment.


Most people have to endure sh!t during their day to day life for x dollars per hour, essentially, they are paying themselves per hour, many multiples of this by enduring some discomfort.

Business class fares, when considered in this way, is not a good value proposition.

Economy class space has reduced but facilities to help pass the time have improved from a glossy magazine from yesterday to video on demand.



Mjb
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Old 29th Feb 2020, 17:33
  #67 (permalink)  
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I like many of the suggestions but nothing will change.

Having expanded Business so profitably - they are not going to do anything to undermine the brand. I'm guessing that most airlines have run through the various angles over the years. The last big one was Premium Economy introduced by (I think) SAS in the early 90s. It is now becoming a standard option in the same way that C is now F.

Introducing new fare structures is easy BUT cabin crew then have the headache of checking print outs of each pax to see what food/drink etc they have/have not paid for. What happens when someone insists that they HAVE paid for all the meals but the CC information says they have not? Is the pax blagging in the hope of them handing over a meal to keep the peace? Same for alcohol or free wi-fi. If everyone in the cabin has the same - then it is much cheaper to operate with the only variable being special meals that have been pre-ordered.

Size of seat may be crude but it is understood by all. Changing the layout and spacing of seats is seriously expensive and pu thenblicise. FAR, far worse to retract if it does not pay for itself.

However, given the Covid19 problem and the imminet financial crash (that was going to happen irrespective of Covid 19) there will be a lot of seats available at bargain prices. Then the airlines will cut services and park up the machines to keep prices up!
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Old 29th Feb 2020, 21:36
  #68 (permalink)  
 
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Anyone remember American Airlines and "More room in coach" 20 or more years ago? Only lasted a couple of years....
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Old 29th Feb 2020, 22:14
  #69 (permalink)  
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Ah yes. Advert showing them taking seats out. No advert when they put them back in as loads did not increase enough.
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Old 1st Mar 2020, 04:17
  #70 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by PAXboy View Post
Ah yes. Advert showing them taking seats out. No advert when they put them back in as loads did not increase enough.
On the domestic US flights I've been on the last few years, there has only been one (round trip) that I couldn't count the empty seats on one hand. The exception (coincidentally that last time I flew back in November), there were lots of empty seats, but it was a new service that had just launched a week earlier. I still sprung for premium economy though...
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Old 1st Mar 2020, 21:31
  #71 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by PAXboy View Post
Ah yes. Advert showing them taking seats out. No advert when they put them back in as loads did not increase enough.
And as I can understand it was due to pax refusing to pay the higher fare AA was trying to charge.
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Old 3rd Apr 2020, 11:06
  #72 (permalink)  
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Well, well, well,

What do all the naysayers have to say now about paying a little more for economy and looking after our health and well being? As the OP I fundamentally knew there was something wrong with what airlines were doing to us in economy. Don't get me wrong. I don't blame airlines for Covid-19 but their huddled masses and lack of turn around cleaning exposed us all to global contagions large or small on a daily basis. I for one am grateful that I think the pendulum must now swing the other way.

Originally Posted by PAXboy View Post
......However, given the Covid19 problem and the imminet financial crash (that was going to happen irrespective of Covid 19) there will be a lot of seats available at bargain prices. Then the airlines will cut services and park up the machines to keep prices up!
It remains to be seen what happens next but the 'stand up' seats that I raised at the beginning of this thread, that an incredulous number of posters were more than happy with if the price was right, are out I guess. Good riddance to that! As I have said all along, we need to treat humans as humans and ensure we have adequate living space especially on long flights. The new world and with it the new normal is about to begin. In light of the pandemic sweeping the world, the people it is killing and the airlines who are first and foremost to suffer job losses and entire collapse, I ask again what is the future of economy class? I suspect the answer will be a bit different. We mostly all accept that lock-down is the only way to stop this and anything like this in future. What ever shape the airlines or tourism are in after this it must be accepted that we will demand to be treated better and just like we accept lock-down, we accept this will cost more. Does that mean less people will travel? No, but perhaps people will travel less.
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Old 3rd Apr 2020, 16:37
  #73 (permalink)  
 
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People are paying more for economy as the supply has collapsed and a lot of people are still desperate to get home

Once teh virus has gone the airlines will flood the market with low fares to get people flying again - and the seats will l still be bloody awful

After several months locked in at home they'll be desperate for foreign shores and bars again..............
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Old 3rd Apr 2020, 19:26
  #74 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by Lord Farringdon View Post
I don't blame airlines for Covid-19 but their huddled masses and lack of turn around cleaning exposed us all to global contagions large or small on a daily basis.
Are you seriously suggesting that a few extra inches of leg room would have slowed the spread of Covid 19? I suspect that even flying Biz class wouldn't have made much difference to your risk of exposure.

As to the future, once the dust has settled on this mess I suspect that those who can still afford to travel in the immediate aftermath will be more, rather than less keen on rock bottom fares.
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Old 4th Apr 2020, 14:00
  #75 (permalink)  
 
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Might be better if LHR installed the kit that's at every other world airport to check people's temperatures............
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Old 4th Apr 2020, 22:48
  #76 (permalink)  
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When I arrived in JNB on 8th February - they were checking pax temps with a person in mask and gloves.
When I arrived in LHR on 19th Februry - nothing.

Whilst we now know that a person can be infectious before being symptomatic - at least it told me that South Africa realised there was a problem ... (even if they could not do much about it)
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Old 5th Apr 2020, 07:01
  #77 (permalink)  
 
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As late as Mid March I came LA, Heat cameras, Papeete (Temperature check) ,Auckland - temperature check, Changi, heat cameras (and a man with a big gun behind the nurses)- LHR - nothing - just half the security gates working as usual.............
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Old 5th Apr 2020, 16:25
  #78 (permalink)  
 
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I wouldn’t say there was nothing at LHR - I was handed a leaflet... I was subject to far more checks in the country I travelled from (Sri Lanka​​​​​​). They were taking things far more seriously there.

However, as for future travel once things pick up, I suspect there will be a lot less demand due to the economy. Could this see the return to a superior service in order to attract customers?
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Old 5th Apr 2020, 22:00
  #79 (permalink)  
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I would suggest, Sainstman, that it will be the Price (as usual). I think that so many people will have been financially weakened by this that they will be wanting low prices. Of course, there COULD be service improvements too - but I doubt across the board.
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Old 6th Apr 2020, 07:46
  #80 (permalink)  
 
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Every stakeholder (airlines, airports, manufacturers, holiday destinations, hotels , car hire etc etc) will need to maximise revenue as fast as possible- they'll try and get as many punters back as fast as they can. Expect some REALLY low fares for about 3-6 months

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