Several months ago, I posted a news release from May 2018 (69 KB PDF) in which the newly consolidated airline DeltaUnited-American announced the end of coach service:
“Coach just got to be more trouble than it’s worth,” explained Capt. O’Leary. “Coach passengers always buy the cheapest fares, but they still expect to be treated like royalty. I tell you, though, did you ever see the coach section of a 777 after a 12-hour flight? And those toilets! Our business class clients complain about even being on the same plane with those people, and who can blame them?”
Slowly but inexorably it is coming to pass. Here are a couple of updates:
- “The Incredible Shrinking Plane Seat,” Wall St. J. (paywall) Similar article non-paywalled at “Flying coach is only going to get worse“: “Air France recently expanded the premium sections on its 777s while cutting the floor space in economy class. Yet the carrier kept the number of economy seats constant by switching from nine- to 10-abreast in the back, a spokesman said.” Most other airlines are following suit. On a 777, ten-abreast is the way to go,” said Emirates President Tim Clark. “You’d be nuts to do it any other way.” So long as you don’t have to sit back there, I guess. RyanAir CEO Michael O’Leary (no relation to DU-A Capt. Katherine O’Leary) has proposed doing away with seats (and lavatories) altogether, lending new meaning to the phrase “cattle class.”
- Think you’re going to escape the stampede by using frequent flyer points to upgrade? Not so fast there, Bossy: “Frequent-Flier Programs Enter an Era of Inflation,” (also the WSJ): “United Airlines will raise the number of frequent-flier miles needed for award tickets in many categories by double-digit percentages on Feb. 1. Standard coach tickets to Hawaii go up 12%; business-class standard awards to Europe increase 20%, and first-class awards on partner airlines climb 63% to Europe and Japan and 87% to the Middle East. Delta, Southwest and Alaska airlines will make similar moves early next year.”
The trend is clear: Coach will continue to shrink in both quantity and quality until it disappears entirely. Airline travel will return to what it originally was, a luxury for those who can afford it. There may be a few all-economy carriers, who pack 12 abreast in hand-me-down 777s, but with the cost of fuel nowadays, the economics of such a venture are challenging.
For the rest of us, there’s FaceTime, cars, and the bus. We could build high speed rail along our densely populated coastlines and a few other routes such as NYC – Chicago and DC-Atlanta, but with roughly 50% of our population believing that anything the government does is evil, you can rule that out for a while.