It is the new war for your almighty passenger dollar, for years airlines sole requirement was to fill planes with as many bodies as possible, it still is, the main weapon was price, cheaper the seat, the more customers, but cheaper seats is still a low yield, so the only way to get more from less was to add more to less, in other words cram as many seats as you can between the windows, and as many seats between the bulkheads, seat pitch was well as small as you can get away with, and you have to pay for everything from pillows to water, and the in-flight magazine is well history…but that is another story.
But you did make a profit, a small one at that but a profit never the less.
But has it also caused very bad press, Deep Vein Thrombosis DVT are the airline management’s voodoo words of hell, poor customer relations went south as well, cattle class is branded about and is now more well known than economy or coach class, and being too close to your neighbour passenger is a complaint machine, but the response is if you want to fly cheap this is only way we can do it for that cost…so tough.
Cheap flights do allow people who would usually not fly to take the plunge, but how far is to far, on a short domestic or national sector, of say two hours it is not really a problem, we can put up with chronic fidgeting, bad smells, coughing, but for ten hours could be reduced to murder at twenty five thousand feet, you are a prisoner at the edge of space in no space to yourself.
Airlines have also upped their classes by one, First class is now in a class of its own, Business Class is the old First Class, Economy is the old Business Class and there is the lower now bulk cattle class or cheaper tourist seats, its still a bit like moving the deck chairs around on the Titanic as things really haven’t changed really at all, the cheap seats are still cheap and the First Class seats or flying villas are still in the “if you want to know the price you can’t afford it” category….so the real problem is…
Every Airline flying your sectors are fighting you in one area and one area alone ……Price, lower the price the better the chance you have filling your planes, except if you have a bad PR moment and everybody will then fly with your competitors, but passengers have had simply enough, cramped, over policed, congested airports, flight delays, loss of benefits, and not even a cheap seat will now make up the difference…..so how do get your customers back and make them happy again……service.
But would the passengers pay for it?
I would, if it is fair.
I would pay for a better seat, better food, better entertainment, and most of all better service, I want to be treated as a good customer and not a bum on a seat, and yes I want that at a decent price, But i would pay the extra for it absolutely.
Airlines are now poised for the battle they simply have no choice in, to simply survive they have to deliver, those who do not will fail and go bust.
The main cash cow for any airline is Business Class, or Champagne Class, Premiums are High, good Yields and the customers get the service, excellent service, the rest of you…well you get what you pay for!
What now as the business sector descends into chaos, the 9/11 event will seem a like speck after this comes down, Wall Street will have to fly, ohmygod, Tourist class, and those yields will well disappear…still rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, its not funny anymore.
So the choice is just that you have to make money on the lower classes, to do that prices have to go up, a little, Super Economy does work, People will pay for extra, so it now comes down to being different and not the same, price still counts but its not the main selling point.
The introduction of the new A380 is showing what is happening, space, tons of it gives you flexibility, most Airlines are still selling the premium classes, but this will have to change and quickly, it is the back of the plane that is important now, once ignored, it is now the difference between survival or death, any airline that ignores this segment will be gone, as the rest will be fighting you into the ground for passengers, Air New Zealand are already stripping their planes out, Economy is the new new, ahead of the curve, it will be interesting, it will be bloody, but it will be great, it will be great to look forward to flying again, service, the few who gets it right will win, the few who don’t will be gone or merged, different cabins will now abound, services, food, gifts, blankets, a smile from the steward, and space, glorious space will Prevail, yes it will cost a little more, but it will be worth every cent, as you smile at a former banker from New York, flying like you in Super Economy..
“Cheers mate”.. raise your glass, “its not to bad back here, but you should have seen it a few years ago, bloody awful, great flying again”, he may smile a small smile back, or scowl, but life is better at the back, really great…..