Airlines have needs.
They tend to revolve around money.
Which is harder to do when you were laying off a lot of people during the pandemic and then having trouble hiring more people once the pandemic starts to recede.
Despite the claims of many, business travel has not reached pre-pandemic levels. Vacationers, however, are desperate to get on a plane and get out of where they are.
So how can airlines make more money out of this less than ideal situation?
A clue emerged last week when details of a new American Airlines plane were leaked.
As the The dot guy reported, the airline is expecting new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners.
If you’ve never flown one of these, they’re smaller than your old-world big plane and have lots of comfortable, modern features, such as progressive blinds.
What’s different with the latest American Dreamliners is that they lean much more towards customers who have, well, a lot more money.
These will have 51 business class seats. No wait. 51 business class capsules.
And these modules have doors. Welcome to the gated community at 36,000 feet.
The latest Dreamliners will also have 32 Premium Economy reclining seats.
In total, there will be 41 fewer seats on these planes, compared to American’s previous 787-9s.
It is easy to jump to conclusions.
Americans must believe that some people have made a lot of money over the past two years. Whether they’re traveling for business or not, they’re willing to spend more money to have a more polished flight experience – these days it’s a relatively polished experience.
The American will then deal with them in the belief that more margin can be made by offering (a higher level of) exclusivity.
The airline isn’t alone in trying to find customers willing to spend more for something even slightly better. Even Southwest, for example, has allowed its enhanced business offerings — as they are — to appear on aggregator Kayak, but only for those who are part of a business.
Some will think that this separation of the haves from the have-nots reflects the growing inequality that infects society.
The experience can be heightened on planes when Economy Class passengers board and bump into Fancy Class passengers who are already down to their second glass of champagne.
Research has even suggested that walking past luxury seats is linked to increased unrest among economy class passengers. You would think that airlines have already had enough trouble from passengers during the pandemic.
And did I mention that airfares have recently increased by about 20%?
One can completely understand the American thought. It’s about money and a perception of who will be the most profitable future flyers. This is quite clear business thinking.
But it’s a bit difficult. It’s not like a restaurant, where the food is the same, the atmosphere is the same, but some people order wine at ridiculous prices. It’s a completely different experience.
Of course, American isn’t the first airline to offer gates to top-earning customers. But the timing of the news here may, to some, seem inconvenient.
They may see a larger, more palpable split of a potentially uncomfortable type. And somehow underlined by the introduction of new sliding doors for chics.
If you’re a regular American Airlines Economy Class customer and have to walk through the gated community, how will you feel when you get to your own seat? Oh, maybe I forgot to mention that. Economy class seating has not changed since the last iteration of this aircraft.
Dear American Airlines Economy Class Passenger, please try to tolerate this.
One day you may be lucky enough to fly into the gated community and open a door to your seat.
It’s what they call the American Dream.