Do you think CO will ever cave on seat pitch?

 
Old Sep 3, 01, 2:58 pm
  #1  
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Do you think CO will ever cave on seat pitch?

I know that it is good for CO to make money. I also know that the more seats you cram, the more people you fly and the more money you make. And I want CO to do well financially. However, I am curious about one thing....seat pitch.

I had to fly United recently because of an emergency, so I was flown out on a friend's Air Canada miles who I was seeing. The flight had me on EWR-DEN-YVR. Now, this is the first time I have flown United in YEARS, like the last time I flew United FORD was in the White House.

I was flying a 777 to DEN and a old 733 to YVR. Both planes had Econonmy Plus sections and I was seated in both sections. (Economy Plus is United's greater seat pitch section). I must say it was a real pleasure flying United on the new 777 and even the old 737. I had plenty of room (I am 5' 11") and I was quite impressed. Now I know why my sales manager of my company flies United to Europe. I could handle the 777 to Europe easily in Econ Plus.

After taking CO's 757 and 777 to England and Germany, respectively I was not so impressed with the room in coach. Both planes seemed unreasonably cramped for a top notch airline like CO and a Trans-Atlantic trip.

Don't get me wrong I am not switching to United anytime soon, however, it begs the question. Imagine the stake through the heart that CO could put to United and AA if they increased seat pitch 2 more inches? I know they would lose more money from price sensitive excusion passengers, but business passengers might be willing to pay a little more for a business coach seat, more legroom, power ports, etc.

I think they should definitely move to a 3 class cabin on transcons and transatl flight. BF/BC (business coach) and coach.

To me that's CO's only weakness right now, tight seats and narrowbodies on Transcons and transatls. I could even justify a 5-10% increase in my fares for that kind of comfort on long flights.

Any other opinions....


- HobokenFlyer
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Old Sep 3, 01, 5:27 pm
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I have no facts to support my sweeping statement, but I keep hearing UA is going to lose a billion dollars this year, and AA, with MRTC (More Room Throughout Coach) isn't having a stellar year either. CO is profitable. Maybe seat pitch is a big factor in this?

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Old Sep 3, 01, 5:46 pm
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Oh I agree, the economics of CO's planes is what makes them profitable. Understood.

My point is that the extra seat pitch does make for a more comfortable flight and wondering if the economics could fly with a more comfortable coach environment, especially for flights over 4 hours.

- HobokenFlyer
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Old Sep 3, 01, 7:59 pm
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A recent article I read said that, year-to-date, United has lost $58.00 every minute, 24 hours a day since January 1st. I think we may see United squish-in those extra seats if things keep going that way for them.
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Old Sep 3, 01, 8:07 pm
  #5  
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by MEBenson:
A recent article I read said that, year-to-date, United has lost $58.00 every minute, 24 hours a day since January 1st. I think we may see United squish-in those extra seats if things keep going that way for them.</font>

That's more than a bit misleading. United is a so much larger airline that they can't fill the seats on the planes with the human sized seats as they are now. Squishing them together still won't fill the plane. They (as all airlines) have a problem turning a profit in a down economy.

The real thing to watch is how the past, steady elite flyer is treated by their airline of choice, especially now. That is what frequent travelers will remember when times get good again. Which airline continued to provide good service, which airline took benefits away in the giuse of "enhancements", which airline extended elite levels to people who just did not make it this year, etc.




[This message has been edited by NJDavid (edited 09-03-2001).]
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Old Sep 3, 01, 9:52 pm
  #6  
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Two words:

Labor Cost

(Continental's is lower than United's)
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Old Sep 3, 01, 10:28 pm
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I just got off a CO 757 (BF configuration) on the SFO --&gt; EWR run today. It was packed. 31 inch seat pitch sould be against the law for flights longer than 2 hours, but they had a full plane...
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Old Sep 3, 01, 10:31 pm
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I'm skinny and pretty flexible, so seat pitch means nothing to me, unfortunately, for the rest of you, the modern air traveler has been trained to go for the bottom dollar when the time to choose an airline and buy a ticket. They'll go save a couple of nickles, and complain all the way from here to Haydes about being treated like cattle.

Go figure.
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Old Sep 4, 01, 1:25 am
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Flying the cramped 777 all the way EWR-HKG in coach was no picnic, either. I would gladly trade those ballyhooed multi-channel "entertainment systems" (whose wirebox on the floor takes away legroom!) for two inches more of seat pitch, which seems to be the difference between CO's new 777s and NWs old 747s.

Continental definitely is pushing the envelope on downsizing seat room all across the fleet. 737-800s are another notorious example.

Apparently they think the "market should decide," but I think they'll reach a point where lawsuits over things like thrombosis will wipe out ill-gotten gains from too much downsizing. Hopefully before then there will be effective government mandates. If the rules are the same for everyone, then practices like seat downsizing won't be fair game for trying to gain competitive advantage.

As for the effect on fares of having 5% or so fewer seats in the back, I don't think it'll be much at all. Maybe the same percent, if that (Don't forget about cargo business. There's even more room in the hold with fewer checked bags from fewer seats).

In the meantime, Continental is more a price follower than a price leader, so some of the profitability is due to charging the same as competitors but packing in more. And labor costs.

But at least they're not the old ValuJet...
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Old Sep 4, 01, 9:03 am
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RustyC:

Fares are set by competition, you are correct that CO is not a low fare leader.

Those 5% extra seats are pure gravy on those busy days that they fill them, and don't cost any extra the rest of the time. Dont expect to see any change as long as AA and UA are in the red, and CO is making a profit.

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Old Sep 4, 01, 1:07 pm
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by snake:
RustyC:

Those 5% extra seats are pure gravy on those busy days that they fill them, and don't cost any extra the rest of the time. Dont expect to see any change as long as AA and UA are in the red, and CO is making a profit.

</font>
Which again begs the question, if CO did increase seat pitch to rival those of AA and UA, would that drive a stake in their hearts because now those business passengers paying the higher fares will flow over to CO because of the service AND the seats. This may increase the number of coveted business/full coach fares over excursions. Yes you would get less seats, but more dollars per seat. But I am sure revenue management does by route and by plane and not overall, so it would make some routes super popular and profitable, and others not.

But no one has any thoughts about CO making a 3 class aircraft for trannscons and transatls; BF, BC (Business Coach) and Economy.

And I have to agree with RustyC about the wireboxes taking away legroom on the 777, the entertainment systems also take away the armrest clearance between the armrest and the seat, which causes a tighter fitting seats.

And snake consider yourself blessed that you can fit reasonably comfortably in any airline seat. Also, not all fares are "bargain basement", even try to fly EWR-CLE between CO's 2 fortress hubs, even if you are 60 days advance purchase it's close to $1000, midweek, while Atlanta (50% more mileage distance) is $200 midweek. So never let the airlines believe that competition has NOTHING to do with seat prices.

- HobokenFlyer

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Old Sep 4, 01, 1:24 pm
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It's amazing how much an inch can make a difference. I was on a 762 recently on a trip from IAH to SFO... and one leg of that trip was in coach. I felt like I had a little more room, as I was able to cross my legs (aisle seat) without too much difficulty. When I got back, I looked up the specs, and noted that they have 32" on the 767s instead of 31"... I could tell a difference.
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Old Sep 4, 01, 7:18 pm
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Try the 737s on CO in Coach! Its a DISASTER! I avoid them like the plague!
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Old Sep 4, 01, 11:47 pm
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My guess is during a downturn like this, no one has the $ to do improvement projects like MRTC. CO's strategy seems to be new planes and reliable service with minimum frills. Why touch it if it is not broken?

I am also curious about how MRTC is working out for AA. It really makes a difference. AA's 738s look a lot nicer than CO's. It also seems to have a little more space below the overhead bins. Maybe it is because AA uses monitors over aisles instead of LCDs that hang off the bins? I am not sure how the effects can be easily cauculated - fewer seats means lower capacity which means higher load factor even if booking remains the same...

Steven




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Old Sep 5, 01, 9:31 am
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AA and CO have taken fundimentally different tactics for attracting fliers.

AA has removed some seats, and also cut down on the inventory for ultra-low fares accross the board. The result of this is that AA is getting a better mix of high-paying coach pax to ultra-cheap coach-pax. The downside is that on a really busy day, CO can sell an extra 12 seats on each 737-800. Those 12 seats might be worth $1,000 (consider average trip is 4 segments, so each segment only gets 1/4 of the total ticket cost). Of course, it also means that a passenger who has a choice (no FF loyalties -- which is the VAST majority of travelers) will more likely go with AA if the prices are the same.

What AA's MRTC does is basically assure them that someone who is not an elite FF, traveling last minute on an expensive coach ticket will prefer AA over any other carrier. Why? Because they're going to get MRTC. On UA, it's a crap-shoot, and if you're booking at the last minute, E+ probably won't have any good seats left. DL/NW/CO/US won't do much of anything for them. So, they'll go to AA -- or at least they will if they have experienced MRTC before.

Overall, it's a tradeoff. As long as CO can keep posting good yeilds and load factors, they aren't going to change.
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