Wouldn't this be a better flight system?

 
Old Jun 27, 08, 7:55 pm
  #1  
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Wouldn't this be a better flight system?

I've been thinking about ways to make the airlines profitable again, and I was talking to my dad about this when we were in the LAX RCC a few weeks ago, and we've come up with an idea that we think might work.

As I've expressed in other threads, DEN-LAX operates 11x a day on crammed 737's, A320's, and 757's, and in my experience, most of my flights to or from LAX have been relatively empty and have appeared that UAL didn't make a profit on them. Why doesn't UAL cut down on the frequency of intrahub and high-density routes and fly larger (A330 size) planes in more comfortable configurations? Perhaps 8 abreast 777's or 7 abreast A330's? Or all Economy plus Y cabins? (I'm not necessarily suggesting that UAL should buy A330's, but rather that the 330 is the size I'm thinking of for this idea.) Even if it's marginally more profitable, UAL could probably get away with slightly raising ticket prices for the extra comfort. As for low density routes and hub-to-nowhere routes, UAL could still fly narrowbodies.

What do you think of this? I certainly like the idea of more comfortable cabins, and I wouldn't mind adjusting to UAL's schedule to catch my flight. Do you think UAL could turn a profit on this, as well as perhaps improve their reputation?
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Old Jun 27, 08, 8:04 pm
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Your proposal would require buying new widebodies, as the current widebodies are already almost completely utilized flying international, intrahub, and Hawaii routes. The exact route you speak of (DEN-LAX) has at least 3 widebody flights daily.

AA already tried the comfort concept with MRTC, and we all know what happened with that.
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Old Jun 27, 08, 8:12 pm
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I would submit that most business travelers (self included) are willing to pay a premium for increased frequency. If I have the choice between getting home an hour earlier or being in a slightly more comfortable seat for the 2 hour flight back, I will take the extra hour at home every single time. I suspect most folks who are on the road for work often (read: the people who pay the most) think the same way.
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Old Jun 27, 08, 8:18 pm
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Originally Posted by stratofortress View Post
I would submit that most business travelers (self included) are willing to pay a premium for increased frequency. If I have the choice between getting home an hour earlier or being in a slightly more comfortable seat for the 2 hour flight back, I will take the extra hour at home every single time. I suspect most folks who are on the road for work often (read: the people who pay the most) think the same way.
Agree. I really think that the comfort factor doesn't come into serious consideration (as compared to flight schedule) for frequent travelers until the flight is 3-4 hours or more.
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Old Jun 27, 08, 8:28 pm
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Originally Posted by stratofortress View Post
I would submit that most business travelers (self included) are willing to pay a premium for increased frequency. If I have the choice between getting home an hour earlier or being in a slightly more comfortable seat for the 2 hour flight back, I will take the extra hour at home every single time. I suspect most folks who are on the road for work often (read: the people who pay the most) think the same way.
From reading FT and all the stories about VDBs, one could come to the opposite conclusion, but of course I have no idea (generally) if the posters were traveling for business or pleasure.
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Old Jun 27, 08, 10:19 pm
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I've calculated the approximate number of seats on those 11 flights (250 in first, 1818 in both economies), and using a 2-class SQ 777 as a base, UAL could fly these enhanced planes anywhere between 6 or 7 times a day DEN-LAX instead of 11 on their current mix of 752's, 737's, 777, 763's, and 320's. I'm not sure how much more comfortable the SQ 777 configuration I used is, but the SQ 777's I've flown are more comfortable than any plane UAL has. The general point remains that UAL would need to fly less frequently with a larger, more comfortable plane.

The only question is if the operating cost of 6-7 flights on a 777 is lower than the operating cost of 11 flights on a mix of (mostly smaller) aircraft.

EDIT: The configuration of the SQ 777 I used has a 34" pitch and 17.5" width. The UAL 752, the plane that most often flies DEN-LAX, has a 31" pitch and 17" width.

Last edited by char777; Jun 27, 08 at 10:31 pm
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Old Jun 27, 08, 11:10 pm
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Originally Posted by char777 View Post
As I've expressed in other threads, DEN-LAX operates 11x a day on crammed 737's, A320's, and 757's, and in my experience, most of my flights to or from LAX have been relatively empty and have appeared that UAL didn't make a profit on them. Why doesn't UAL cut down on the frequency of intrahub and high-density routes and fly larger (A330 size) planes in more comfortable configurations? Perhaps 8 abreast 777's or 7 abreast A330's?
I've sure we'd all love to fly in half empty wide bodies for a couple hours.

UA used to fly 3-class wide bodies on that route. Last time I was on one was in 2003 on the way to SYD. I imagine they stopped being profitable, and UA redeployed them on TATLs and TPACs.
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Old Jun 28, 08, 12:12 am
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The whole reason UA and other airlines (including LCCs) fly narrowbodies, especially smaller narrowbodies like 737s, is that customers demanded more frequency. That's one reason for the proliferation of RJs - high frequency, hence lower capacity per plane.

UA is trying to cut capacity, and part of that involves cutting frequency... but cutting it by combining 3-4 narrowbodies into a single widebody is probably just a bit more than they are trying for (as well as not having enough widebody planes to do it).
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Old Jun 28, 08, 12:16 am
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Originally Posted by cepheid View Post
The whole reason UA and other airlines (including LCCs) fly narrowbodies, especially smaller narrowbodies like 737s, is that customers demanded more frequency. That's one reason for the proliferation of RJs - high frequency, hence lower capacity per plane.

UA is trying to cut capacity, and part of that involves cutting frequency... but cutting it by combining 3-4 narrowbodies into a single widebody is probably just a bit more than they are trying for (as well as not having enough widebody planes to do it).
I understand that UA doesn't really have the fleet to do this. This is more of an idea for the industry as a whole (in retrospect, I should've put this thread elsewhere.)

However, do you think that perhaps passengers will need to sacrifice frequency in this economic climate?
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Old Jun 28, 08, 12:17 am
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Originally Posted by stratofortress View Post
I would submit that most business travelers (self included) are willing to pay a premium for increased frequency. If I have the choice between getting home an hour earlier or being in a slightly more comfortable seat for the 2 hour flight back, I will take the extra hour at home every single time. I suspect most folks who are on the road for work often (read: the people who pay the most) think the same way.
That may well be true, but IMO it's a big part of what's ruining the legacies, and overcrowding the skies thereby overloading ATC and individual airports. It is ridiculous to fly 2 737s SFO-LAX less than an hour apart instead of one larger aircraft every 2 hours. Even more ridiculous are some of the transcons. A 319 and a 320 going SFO-IAD 25 minutes apart? Come on! I want more than anything to see less frequent service on larger aircraft - everywhere. Maybe if this had been the plan for the past 10 years, the legacies would be in a bit better shape.
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Old Jun 28, 08, 12:24 am
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Originally Posted by char777 View Post
However, do you think that perhaps passengers will need to sacrifice frequency in this economic climate?
I don't think it's a question of needing to sacrifice frequency more so than needing to just not fly as much, which is what's happening. Some of that frequency is being sacrificed simply by cutting capacity and grounding planes, so this is already happening.
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Old Jun 28, 08, 12:28 am
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Originally Posted by cepheid View Post
I don't think it's a question of needing to sacrifice frequency more so than needing to just not fly as much, which is what's happening. Some of that frequency is being sacrificed simply by cutting capacity and grounding planes, so this is already happening.
Therefore, couldn't the airlines theoretically fly more comfortable configurations?
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Old Jun 28, 08, 12:36 am
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Originally Posted by char777 View Post
Therefore, couldn't the airlines theoretically fly more comfortable configurations?
If they did, they couldn't fit as many people on the plane. They're trying to maximize the number of revenue seats per flight while reducing the number of flights. Making the configurations "comfortable" reduces the number of seats per flight, meaning that they have to fly more planes unless they want to reduce capacity below what they're trying to achieve now.

More comfortable configurations are not as cost-effective. Yes, they could raise prices, but consumers are very price-driven. Again, witness AA's "More Room Throughout Coach" - it died. The only reason E+ survives is because it is an optional cost that people can choose not to pay, but choose to pay because they decide it's worth it. If people were forced to pay it, they would resent it.

Also, it costs money to reconfigure planes... that's even more money that then must be recuperated through higher fares.
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Old Jun 28, 08, 12:41 am
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Originally Posted by cepheid View Post
If they did, they couldn't fit as many people on the plane. They're trying to maximize the number of revenue seats per flight while reducing the number of flights. Making the configurations "comfortable" reduces the number of seats per flight, meaning that they have to fly more planes unless they want to reduce capacity below what they're trying to achieve now.

More comfortable configurations are not as cost-effective. Yes, they could raise prices, but consumers are very price-driven. Again, witness AA's "More Room Throughout Coach" - it died. The only reason E+ survives is because it is an optional cost that people can choose not to pay, but choose to pay because they decide it's worth it. If people were forced to pay it, they would resent it.

Also, it costs money to reconfigure planes... that's even more money that then must be recuperated through higher fares.
So then have we reached the omnipotent conclusion that travellers are only looking for the cheapest damn fare they can find for cattle class and cattle class only on Orbitz, and also that the airlines will never change their sardine can configurations in any climate since the consumers are willing to pay for cattle class?
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Old Jun 28, 08, 12:47 am
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Originally Posted by char777 View Post
So then have we reached the omnipotent conclusion that travellers are only looking for the cheapest damn fare they can find for cattle class and cattle class only on Orbitz, and also that the airlines will never change their sardine can configurations in any climate since the consumers are willing to pay for cattle class?
Pretty much. That's one reason why LCCs have thrived. Consumers have, by and large, a Wal-Mart mindset these last couple of decades. A small subset of Americans are willing to pay for extra service and/or extra quality, and that's why F still exists (but is being reduced) on legacy carriers and why niche brands like Apple and BMW exist.

In the modern era, air travel is a commodity, and like all commodities, 95% of consumers demand that it be as cheap as possible, damn the amenities. They'll complain bitterly about the lack of amenities, but will generally refuse to pay more for those amenities, or will resent paying for it because they "have no choice" (read: want it enough to pay for it but feel like they were entitled to it in the first place).

(Of course, one of the reasons why FTers complain so bitterly, and rightfully so, is that paying for F no longer really guarantees better quality or service...)
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