These days, airlines seem to be competing fiercely on First, Business Class and Premium Economy products. And who can blame them? The most profitable cabin for an airline by far is Business Class. However, the biggest section of the market, budget class travellers, sitting at the back of the plane, seem to be bearing the brunt of the increasing space up front, by being squashed closer and closer together in Economy.
And it’s no wonder. Economy is the least profitable of any cabin airlines provide, though they realise that it accounts for such a big proportion of travellers that it would be crazy to get rid of it all together. With air-travel demand at a record high, airlines realise they can get away with providing less and less for budget-tied passengers. Take BA cutting inflight food for short and long haul Economy flights for example.
Another trend seems to be squeezing as many rows/seats per row into each cabin. Airlines guilty of this include Cathay Pacific, United and the Gulf Carriers, who have moved from 9 seats per row to 10 on their 777. In fact one of the only major carriers to retain 9 seats per row now is Singapore Airlines (my favourite!). And it’s probably only a matter of time before Singapore follows suit to the industry trend.
Of course, the more seats, the more tickets sold, but what’s the limit? Are we going to see more and more seats crammed in until the seat space only just fits our dimensions? I don’t think so. Eventually, passenger outcry will increase and airlines will lose popularity if it continues. It’s a subtle balancing act really, but a good passenger experience often creates repeat customers. We’ve already seen this in the BA food-cutting case, where many outraged frequent flyers have reconsidered their loyalty to the airline. Only time will tell, but airlines will soon realise that when it comes to their largest market, the customer is always right. Sometimes cost cutting can have the opposite effect.
How far do you think it will go?