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Economy Rethink?

How to Fill an Aeroplane

Let's face it. Either way you look at it, air travel, for the many people who cannot afford the luxury of First or Business Class, is a mess.

Reading the news email from the Travel Trade Gazette (one of our travel industry newspapers) there is nothing but a liturgy of unfortunate issues. US based airlines and the FAA having "words" resulting from trying to shoe-horn in even more people, in even smaller seats, long queues at non-Schengen borders with people waiting so long, that the actual flight they are taking can be accomplished in a shorter time frame and many missing their flight, British Airways still suffering from "technical issues" and Michael O'Leary of RyanAir wondering if there will be very much in the way of European air travel unless the Brexit "negotiators" start to make significant progress.

Not to mention, the increasing number of "air rage" incidents which, though deplorable, are mainly caused by the increased dehumanisation of the whole air travel experience, certainly in the seats at the back.

Yet despite everything that is going on, RyanAir once again, are bucking the trend. The airline that was once harangued by all and sundry for their attitude and service problems, is the airline that is increasing legroom and making significant progress in the area of simply making air travel more bearable.

There is still a need for airports to re-think their approach with regard to security. There is a obvious need for airports in general to work more closely with the relevant authorities to make the beginning and end part of the overall flying experience ...well... to put it bluntly, work.

Recurrent "technical issues" plague all airlines. What we do not know, is why.

Personally, I think it is driven by having significant legacy structures in airline technology that airlines wish to be shot of. Why they wish to be shot of something that fundamentally works to be replaced by something that may or may not work is not exactly clear. The two most obvious reasons are cost of legacy systems and secondly, that modern day technologists view legacy systems with disdain and feel that replacing them "is a good idea". Old fashioned legacy systems (both from a technical and a non-technical perspective) did not arrive overnight, they started from embryonic systems and grew over a very long time period, being honed and perfected over the years. Modern systems do seem to appear overnight and more often than not, are not good enough to fill the shoes they have to replace.

The answer? Air travel is too cheap. Far too cheap. At the risk of being branded an elitist, we have to remember that no one has any "right" to cheap air travel. Getting a fully loaded Airbus from 0 to 32,000 feet is not a cheap matter, even with modern full-efficient aircraft. Prices need to rise to reflect that cost.

True, there are many low-cost carriers who make a tidy profit on cheap airfares, but low-cost carriers only fly routes up to 2 hours in flying time and do not carry the burden of long haul or the need to connect with other carriers and so on and so forth. Low cost and long haul do not mix well, the path of aviation history is littered with those that have tried and failed.

The Economy (or Coach) cabin needs a rethink. Not distribution, not aircraft type nor how any part of the travel chain works. The whole economy "thing" needs to be re-thought from the ground up (literally!) with all stakeholders in the process co-operating to make the whole back-of-the-bus process more fluid and more bearable, enjoyable even.

Then airlines can resort to my maxim: "If you cannot make money flying from A to B, then do not fly from A to B".

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