My biggest problem with all of this is that the big three US airlines are taking on many of the trappings of a low-cost carriers without actually charging less. The new basic economy fares being rolled out by the legacies are little different from what Spirit, Allegiant, or Frontier offer, but without the commensurate reduction price. American, United, and Delta charge more but consistently offer less.
In this vein, American announced that they will be increasing the seat count on their 737MAX 8 aircraft, to be delivered beginning later this year, from the original 160 to 174. The first class seat count will stay the same, and, as usual, it’s the economy cabin that will be getting tighter. To add in the additional 14 seats, legroom in coach will be reduced from 31 inches to 29 inches, far bellow the industry standard and similar to what Ryanair offers. But you won’t see American offering $50 fares from Dallas to Chicago… you’ll likely pay at least triple that, but get the same knee-crushing legroom. What the heck American?
I’m very much irritated by this. Why is it that the big three US airlines can charge more than low cost carriers but do very little to differentiate themselves from them? I am by no means in favor of a return to pre-1978 government price regulation, but, really, when will this stop?
I now believe we can categorize US airlines as follows: three ultra low-cost carriers, one airline is sort of a low-cost carrier but is distinguished from most in that people actually like it, three huge airlines that flirt with the low-cost business model but can’t bring themselves to admit it, and Alaska.