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Airline CEOs Try Out Coach

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American CEO Doug Parker, and Delta CEO Ed Bastian, agreed to spend some time in their coach cabins to discuss traveler complaints about cramped conditions. (www.wsj.com) Altro...

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jmanley20
John Manley 4
Southwest has done this all the time since day one.......
wedgeclose
steve jenney 2
PROVES ABSOLUTELY NOTHING...FLY ON A CRJ OR A 320 WITH THE SEAT IN FRONT IN FULL RECLINE
sparkie624
sparkie624 1
Try an ERJ145! that would be the real test.
medic350
Sean Sims 2
They both sat in one of their planes in a hangar all alone. If they want the true experience they'd join one of their flights from a hot location (say Phoenix), with a full passenger load, and sit in a middle seat for a 5+ hour flight somewhere.

And yes, I read the article that says they ride coach on a regular basis. I'm sure the situations are controlled and they're not stuck in a middle seat.

The airlines have been profitable, significantly, for years. This isn't about "if people stop paying bargain pricing we'll stop shrinking seats." This is about "how much money can we squeeze out of people who can't afford our 'premium' products?" Whether the airline CEOs like it or not, air travel in the US has become more like public transit than a choice offering. Many people must fly to get where they need to go. They can't drive or take a bus or train without incurring significant travel delays.

Those relegated to flying coach aren't asking for much. A comfortable seat for their travel. Preferably one where they don't need to contort themselves to keep from bumping into their neighbor the entire time. We won't see that until the government gets involved and regulates the width and spacing ultimately reducing the number of people on each flight.
scott8733
scott8733 2
....what grinds my gears more are folks who post and then it requires me to subscribe to something I don't want to, in order to read the article.

So, after reading about the situation elsewhere- at least Parker and Bastian had the guts to do it, and had the wherewithal to tell people the market drives this. If they want more space, then buy it.

Oscar Munoz was MIA for this. Not surprising.
kdurbin
Kris Durbin 1
Just hit refresh.
gwpet01
Gregory Peterson 2
Don't post articles that make me pay a $12 subscription fee to read the article.
richardorgill
Richard Orgill 1
kdurbin
Kris Durbin 1
Refresh your browser and it opens.
gwpet01
Gregory Peterson 1
I tried refreshing and it didn't open
kdurbin
Kris Durbin 1
Don't know what to tell you then. I don't have a WSJ account and I certainly don't subscribe and the entire article opens just fine for me.
gwpet01
Gregory Peterson 1
It worked on Edge but not on Chrome
kdurbin
Kris Durbin 1
I use Firefox and it worked like a charm. I personally have a ton of problems with Chrome. Even my banks' website doesn't work with it.
thegrump
thegrump 1
At a little over 6'2", and a high leg-to-torso ratio, I'm on the far side of the bell curve for seat design. Add to that that I'm over 50, so cartilage is just a memory in some places.

I completely disagree with any requirement for seat size that isn't essential to passenger safety.

I'm a pretty frequent traveler, and fortunate enough to be able to cough up the extra bucks for a seat with some more legroom (or the exit row, if I'm feeling downright decadent). But there are also times when we have to watch our budget.

A couple such times, I've taken a flight using a certain airline's "teaser" fare - the no-frills one where you don't get an assigned seat, not even allowed a carry-on. Because of that, I was able, in one case, to just call up my mom halfway across the country, and ask if she wanted to go out to dinner. I got a round-trip ticket for under $140, including all taxes, on a flight that was leaving in 90 minutes.

The security fees, facility charges, and taxes meant the actual amount the airline was getting was something like $43 each way, for an 1,100-mile flight.

That's an unreal bargain. In the early 80's, the heyday of airlines like People Express and other no-frills airline, that same ticket was $210. With inflation, that's $550 in present-day dollars.

Airline travel is the great equalizer. It means that someone who hears about an opportunity a thousand miles can afford to take a gamble on what could be "the big break". It means that if I want to see my mom on a whim, it's less than I'd spend on a good dinner for two.

The market has spoken. We want a la carte pricing and options for all budgets. When I need to travel cheap, I can. When I've had a good month and that upgrade to first class is something I can swallow, I can do that too.

Yes, the really small seats are uncomfortable and that *&^%$# metal bar in the seat back pocket digs right into the thin skin at the front of my tibia. But we're talking about an uncomfortable seat for a few hours, not surgery without anesthesia.
kdurbin
Kris Durbin 1
I don't disagree with you, but is the ratio correct? Are the airlines forcing more passengers in the economy coach seats than the market demands? Are they doing it because more pax at lower dollars is better than fewer pax at higher dollars? Are they doing it because airports can only accommodate so many planes on the ramp in certain windows of time? Are they doing it because premium is only premium if there are more peasants in the back of the bus? Are they doing it because they have gross margin minimums for each revenue flight? I think it's a combination of all of these things which make it a magical calculation for the airlines. Revenue minus cost equals gross margin, so more sardines in the can means more revenue with less cost. With that math, there is no way the airlines will be able to right-size the ratio of economy to premium without losing profitability.
thegrump
thegrump 1
That's a lotta questions there, but I think you're right about most of the answers too.

A friend of mine worked for a company that did analytics for airlines so they could price out their flights and plan schedules. The math made orbital calculations look like childs play. But you're probably right - it's "all of the above".

I think there's one more factor too - air travel is like phone or internet service - it's a pure commodity. Unless you have something to differentiate it - like a cheaper price but you can only use so many minutes (or you have to walk past all the leather recliners, then the roomy seats with lots of storage and power outlets, to the ones where your body will fit, even if it ain't happy about it).

I don't think there's a perfect ratio or answer, and I think that even if there was one that solved for today, we'd need a slightly different answer a month later. Or on a different route. Because the economy changed 1%, or competitors came up with some promo that causes you to lose a lot of your low-fare customers. Or tax policy changes on business expenses and you have to freak out about how it will affect the 15% of customers who account for 50% of revenue, vs. the 5% who account for 20%, because a little bleed-off there kills you.

I think the airline industry is a fascinating business and as a pilot and total nerd about anything technical, what's not to love? But I don't think I could ever work for one. I hate being at the mercy of so many forces over which I have zero control.
watkinssusan
mary susan watkins 1
I was unable to "open" the entire article as well. but I understand what the story is about..airline employees are told by their local supervisors or management to expect the ceo or whomever to be flying on the flight they are working,whether they are a flight attendant or a ground person..rampers are told to really clean the aircraft from seats to floors,flight attendants are told to have everything neat and tidy on the cart,and of course the flight deck crew is advised..upper level management rarely,if ever make surprise visits,or fly unexpectedly..rumor had it that when braniff was still active as a trunk carrie,rthe ceo of the airline had the entire first class cabin to himself,without even passengers allowed! (as I said,rumor from past years!)the point is, the sentence above says parker and bastian "agreed to spend some time in their coach cabins to discuss travel complaints about cramped conditions"...I am wondering if they were seated in a 3 across section with a middle seat and a third person reading a newspaper,"just to get the feel"!someone here mentioned southwest having dne tis all the time..in the past their ceo was known to visit onboard with crews an passengers as well to get a firsthand look and feel..but..southwest has never had a first class cabin, and their seating has remained the same on their 737's for years..seat pitch,middle seats and all..rest assured if the ceo of southwest did a "meet and greet" onboard,he did not sit in a passenger seat,unless it was the first row !
chalet
chalet 1
Folks brace yourselves for what is coming. Over the past few years the airlines made tons of money, really tons and yet they squeezed more seats into the economy section, but now that the cost of fuel has gone up, it is not an educated guess but an outright affirmation that more seats will be shoehorned into the economy section so if your waistline is a bit roundier, you will have to cough up more dimes for the wider seats.
kdurbin
Kris Durbin 1
I would like to think this is unlikely. Consumers, powered with instagram and twitter, won’t accept this escalation any more. Also, the airlines are not necessarily impacted immediately by fuel price hikes because they hedge on crude when the demand is down. Also, airlines are investing in better, more efficient aircraft and are doing it largely through lease programs so they are actually consuming less with a fixed cost of ownership. Unless something in the industry changes drastically, like an oil spill, a major safety discovery, or new sweeping regulation, costs should stay steady for airlines and consumers alike.
chalet
chalet 1
FYI American Airlines just deferred the delivery of 25 fuel efficient 320NEOs until 2019 and 5 787s until year 2019 citing high fuel costs. Watch for the other airlines doing the same thing.
williambaker08
william baker 1
How is this gonna work. As soon as a flight attendant knows your the ceo there going to treat you with the upmost respect as well as try to make you comfortable??
kdurbin
Kris Durbin 1
That's not the point of the article. It's about legroom and physical comfort.
williambaker08
william baker 2
Ya I got that. It’s also about the bathrooms as well.
thegrump
thegrump 1
At the risk of wandering into TMI territory, that's the one place where coach is usually better than first. The front lavatory of almost any airliner has such a low headroom that the only way I could stand up straight would be to stand in the doorway and aim and pray. I don't see that going over well with the crew or passengers. The mid-cabin lavatories some of the 737's have been getting, I can stand up straight.

(something, I'll add, that I *cannot* do in most private jets until you get to like a Falcon 900)
kc0rzw
kc0rzw -1
If people want more room they will pay for it. Most people want to spend as little as possible. Some people feel they should be entitled to a first class seat for basic economy fare, and they usually are the ones whining all the time about economy class
ToddBaldwin3
ToddBaldwin3 2
No, I have to disagree with you. When I travel for business, I have to travel in coach. I do not expect first class treatment in economy. What I do think i should have, i sufficient room for my knees to not hit the seat in front of me, and, if it's not too much to ask, maybe be able to get to my back pack under the seat in front of me. I expect to have a seat I am reasonable comfortable in. When I travel for leisure/personal, I cannot afford first class, it's incredibly expensive, so I travel coach. Again, I have certain minimum expectations. I do pay for the "premium" seats, when they are available, but there is a limited number of those on each flight. I can't drive to the US, when I live overseas and taking a boat is also out of the question.
watkinssusan
mary susan watkins 1
in point kc0rzw, I agree with you..however..it has been my experience that even in first class, unless you are on a long haul flight,the flight attendants sometimes dont even go around to offer another drink,but rather, do one round,sit in the jumpseat, and do not come back until time to land..the same is true for coach,although the seats are a little tigher "squeeze"..sometimes they don't even make it all the way through the coach cabin for a service..flyers,whether coach or first class,just want a little "comfort", to be offered a beverage or what have you,be greeted and treated courteously,and be able to maybe "recline" a bit..yes,it is true that some people will complain or whine about everything,but that is not the majority..keep in mind a family on vacation can only afford economy,and businesses for the most part will not pay for a first class seat for employees..

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