There were plenty of nuggets in yesterday’s American Airlines earnings call, though many were of interest only to those who are a bit “geekier” about the airline industry (raises his hand).
One piece of information that’s relevant for all travelers was Scott Kirby saying that the airline plans to start selling their new “Basic Economy” and Premium Economy products mid-year. Scott brought a stripped down “Basic Economy” product during their last conference call. I’m sure some of the analysts that thought American Airlines needed to make even more money were disappointed to hear they would continue to price match with Spirit air, et al. And, I’m sure others were thrilled to hear that Scott Kirby would use his mad scientist laboratory to find a way to squeeze a few more pennies out of empty space on airplanes. After all, an empty seat is a missed opportunity.
We still don’t know exactly what these fares will include, but we can take some educated guesses. Dubbed “Last Class” by the media, these fares will probably not come with the ability to pick a seat prior to check-in or the ability to change the ticket in any way.
There’s a certain amount of technology that’s necessary to sell a product like this, given how different it’s likely to be from the standard offerings. Plus, American needs to figure out how to message and merchandise these fares alongside those offerings.
While American Airlines will begin selling Premium Economy mid-year, I expect it will be available on very flew planes to start. Announced last month, Premium Economy will only be on a portion of the fleet, and the majority of those planes will need to get retro-fitted (some will be delivered new with the Premium Economy product installed).
Given what we know about the product so far, seat selection is likely to be important to getting the best experience.
I’ll be really interested to see where American Airlines prices both of these products as compared to their standard offerings. I’m much more interested in the “Basic Economy” pricing. Why?
American Airlines has said they will continue to aggressively match pricing with the likes of Spirit and Frontier on competing non-stop routes. Does that mean that all of the seats they plan to allocate for competitive pricing will be “Basic Economy”? What will the gap look like between “Basic” and the next cheapest seat on these flights?
Lots of questions, few answers. Lots of changes, some good and some bad. 2016 appears to be the year that American and United join Delta in disguising part of their cabin as Spirit Airlines. I’m still trying to figure out if that’s good for frequent fliers.