The Golden Age of Air Travel?

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September 3rd, 2015 at 10:18:27 AM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 313
Posts: 10666
Airline pilot Patrick Smith makes the point that we're living in the Golden Age of Air travel. This is his argument:

http://www.askthepilot.com/cheaper-and-safer/

He makes several unassailable points:

1) Fares are much lower than they used to be, even with added fees(*)
2) Premium seats (Business and First Class) are far more comfortable and offer a better ride and onboard options than in the past (WiFi, onboard entertainment, meals, etc.) More on this later.
3) Flying is much safer.
4) There are more flight and route options.

However, if you recall flying in the 70s, 80s and even 90s, you'll remember when a meal was standard in economy class (coach), even on relatively short flights (2 hours or so), there was somewhat more leg room, and overall better onboard service. Also, back at least as far as the 80s, it was common to obtain open tickets, and even to exchange tickets from one airline for those of another.

All of that is gone.

Here's what I think happened: the reason fares are down is because airlines no longer offer meals in coach and can pack in more passengers in the cabin. Therefore more people can fly, but the experience in coach isn't as good as it used to be. While some airlines have added entertainment options in coach, like seat-back screens with a selection of movies and shows, even on short flights, not all have done so.

In short, coach is more affordable but less pleasant. Business and First Class are also more affordable, but much more pleasant. The problem lies in the fact that few people can afford Business or First.

Add in delays, crowded airports, larger passengers (think about it), fees for bags and such, and what you get is more people are flying and getting a less pleasant experience than what they read or hear about.

Among the latter one learns people used to dress up for flights. This is true. It also means flying was special then and people flew less often, that's why they dressed up.

(*) About fees, the airlines need to rebrand that model and make it more attractive. Call it, maybe, "A la Carte Pricing," or "Pay for what you need." And make it clear you'll pay less if you want to bring along less luggage, or if you don't want a meal, etc. Of course things like booking online, paying for assigned seats or earlier boarding, like some low-cost airlines do, is nickel-and-diming the customers to exhaustion.
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
September 21st, 2015 at 7:34:46 AM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 313
Posts: 10666
I've spent that past two weeks actively bingeing on air travel blogs, notably Airline Reporter.

People complain a lot about conditions in economy (coach), airline fees, and delays caused by traffic. But the public also seems to want cheap fares and scheduling choices. The problem is the demand for cheap fares and choices drives the things people complain about. Thus concepts like premium economy, paying extra for everything past a seat and oxygen, and massive delays because small and medium planes dominate the market.

And yet you have airlines like Interjet which offers a very nice economy cabin with lots of leg room, free checked bags, and fees only for changing flights, destinations or even turning a ticket over to a third party. They offer complimentary snacks and drinks, including alcohol and spirits (and a sandwich on long routes like MEX-JFK). There's assigned seating, and you can check in and print your boarding pass in advance when you're not checking bags.

On the downside, the in-flight entertainment begins and ends with a ridiculously small overhead screens with fixed programming, as well as some audio options (*). On domestic flights no external food is allowed on board (I've not heard this on international flights). There's no Wi-Fi available, no charging ports of any kind.

While it's been called "Mexico's Jet Blue," I think it's more a hybrid of Jet Blue and Southwest.

On the gripping hand, the airlines doing best financially are those who nickel-and-dime their passengers and offer nothing for your fare but a seat and some oxygen, namely Spirit. Lately Volaris has been copying their model, and VivaAerobus used it from the start.

I think there is some nostalgia for a not-long ago past, which many of us remember, when checked bags (and for Jove's sake carry on bags) were free, when snacks were free, when a meal was expected in flights 90 minutes or longer, when leg room and reclining were not an issue, and when people complained about the limited entertainment, the lousy food, the lousy snacks and the wait for checked luggage.

(*) On my many flights on Interjet, I've never been offered headphones. The cabin crew never said a word about them, either. Each armrest has a double-prong plug, which means the earphones most people carry won't work in it. I suppose I could ask, but I've never been interested in the inflight entertainment enough to ask.

I would like WiFi, though.
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
September 21st, 2015 at 9:12:55 AM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 313
Posts: 10666
One feature I like in the aviation blogs are reviews of business and first class flights. Lest you think there's some standard for either, there's not (not really). But for long haul flights there are some commonalities: a lie-flat seat, a big flat screen for entertainment, and at least two meals (IMO, there's been some cutbacks here, as a 14 hour flight ought to include three full meals; though it seems snacks are also available on demand).

There's little mention of price.

My conclusion is I'd be wasting money if I opted for a business or first class seat. Oh, the idea of lying down to sleep, with complimentary PJs, is rather attractive. The entertainment less so (except for the moving map and/or outside views of the flight). The meals are a problem.

See, for the prices one pays for business or first, one expects expensive food to be served. The easiest way to do this is to include expensive ingredients, which usually come down to two things: seafood and fish. Oh, there are options, but usually for the entrée only. Economy gets more "normal" food, as far as I'm concerned.

There's been little mention of coffee, too.

I'm more interested in the various upgrades to economy. Although what they are is really a throwback to regular coach up to the late 90s or so. Decent leg room, complimentary in-flight entertainment, sometimes, and a better meal, sometimes, than regular economy. And then only on really long flights, say of 5+ hours or more.
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
October 22nd, 2015 at 7:12:19 AM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 313
Posts: 10666
I would like a comprehensive, detailed description of air travel in the 70s and 80s vs today. I remember a great deal from that time, but not everything. Furthermore, back then I flew US flagged airlines more often. IN fact, the last time I flew a non-Mexican airline was in 1991. That's not exactly my choice, but rather the fact that Mexican airlines offer non-stop flights to Vegas and/or have cheaper fares to other destinations (actually two other destinations I've travelled to this century).

A further complication is that Mexico now has only one full service, "legacy" carrier, Aeromexico. The other "big" three are low cost and ultra-low cost carriers (Interjet, Volaris and Viva), or specialized and/or small operations (Aeromar and TAR). Not to mention that Mexican airlines tend to lag behind their American counterparts. For example, only Aeromexico offers seat-back entertainment systems, and only in some of their newer 737s and 787s. All the others at best have overhead screens and audio. Charging ports are rare, basically only in the aforementioned AM planes. To my knowledge, none offer in-flight WiFi, either, although AM and Interjet now allow electronic devices to be on throughout the flight, provided they're set to flight mode (ie no Bluetooth, cell or WiFi on).

So flying now is vastly different in Mexico and the US than it used to be in the 70s and 80s.
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
October 22nd, 2015 at 4:49:42 PM permalink
boymimbo
Member since: Mar 25, 2013
Threads: 5
Posts: 615
Quote: Nareed
One feature I like in the aviation blogs are reviews of business and first class flights. Lest you think there's some standard for either, there's not (not really). But for long haul flights there are some commonalities: a lie-flat seat, a big flat screen for entertainment, and at least two meals (IMO, there's been some cutbacks here, as a 14 hour flight ought to include three full meals; though it seems snacks are also available on demand).

There's little mention of price.

My conclusion is I'd be wasting money if I opted for a business or first class seat. Oh, the idea of lying down to sleep, with complimentary PJs, is rather attractive. The entertainment less so (except for the moving map and/or outside views of the flight). The meals are a problem.

See, for the prices one pays for business or first, one expects expensive food to be served. The easiest way to do this is to include expensive ingredients, which usually come down to two things: seafood and fish. Oh, there are options, but usually for the entrée only. Economy gets more "normal" food, as far as I'm concerned.

There's been little mention of coffee, too.

I'm more interested in the various upgrades to economy. Although what they are is really a throwback to regular coach up to the late 90s or so. Decent leg room, complimentary in-flight entertainment, sometimes, and a better meal, sometimes, than regular economy. And then only on really long flights, say of 5+ hours or more.


The folks on the flight forums are generally business class travelers who fly a lot on someone else's dime and get their benefits via their tax free frequent flyer statuses. This is why you don't hear anything about price.

You see an evolution of airlines where the airlines realize that they must cater to the business class. Southwest has a bit of this in the Business Select class which allows people to book fully-refundable flights and gives them first dibs on the plane, free drinks, etc. WestJet here in Canada is now trying to pull the same business folks off Air Canada.

Economy Plus, or whatever you want to call it which gives you basically more seat pitch and a handful of other benefits (earlier boarding, maybe a free drink, first off baggage, etc) for a few bucks based on the length of the flight.

No domestic flights in Econ offer meals for free any more. Only transcons offer meals and free alcohol and only because they are catering to the travelers of the foreign countries which still reaps these benefits on their local flights.
October 22nd, 2015 at 5:29:43 PM permalink
terapined
Member since: Aug 6, 2014
Threads: 35
Posts: 2899
Quote: boymimbo
The folks on the flight forums are generally business class travelers who fly a lot on someone else's dime and get their benefits via their tax free frequent flyer statuses. This is why you don't hear anything about price. .

All my comments below are in regard to regular business travelers, not VIP business travelers.

Some business travelers care about price.
Some don't to a certain extant. A lot of factors involved. position, budget, reason for travel ect.
Also most companies don't pay the price the public pays.
A large corporation will sign a contract with an airline. Discount on coach fares is small, up to 10% off depending on price.
The business class fares, about 0% to 40% off depending on price.
Sale price, no discount, regular business class fare, around 30% off. Depends on the contract and size of company.
To keep that discount, airline demands most of the business.
Don't give them the business the airline feels they should get, lower discount next year when they redo the contract.
With the discount, the company preferred airline almost always prices cheaper but not always.
Quote: boymimbo

You see an evolution of airlines where the airlines realize that they must cater to the business class. Southwest has a bit of this in the Business Select class which allows people to book fully-refundable flights and gives them first dibs on the plane, free drinks, etc. WestJet here in Canada is now trying to pull the same business folks off Air Canada.
.


For most companies, business class only allowed on International flights over 8 hours.
The hour rule varies from company to company. Some companies, coach everywhere on the planet unless a vip or medical need.
Business travelers are usually not allowed the higher business select fare on Southwest. I rarely sell it.
Most company policies on domestic is to take the cheaper fare, especially Southwest with no penalty to change.
Quote: boymimbo

Economy Plus, or whatever you want to call it which gives you basically more seat pitch and a handful of other benefits (earlier boarding, maybe a free drink, first off baggage, etc) for a few bucks based on the length of the flight..

"Economy Plus, or whatever you want to call it"
Yea , the verbiage is getting ridiculous
Economy Comfort
Preferred seating
World Traveller Plus
Economy Extra
Premium Voyager
Comfort
Premium Economy
Evergreen Elite


Also known as the section in front of regular coach but behind business class :-)

Most people sitting in economy plus did not pay extra, those seats are filled with frequent flier members with status.
These upgrades to premium economy, business class and 1st due to frequent flier status is what keeps business travelers loyal to an airline
Sometimes we live no particular way but our own - Grateful Dead "Eyes of the World"
October 22nd, 2015 at 5:46:52 PM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 313
Posts: 10666
Quote: boymimbo
The folks on the flight forums are generally business class travelers who fly a lot on someone else's dime and get their benefits via their tax free frequent flyer statuses. This is why you don't hear anything about price.


The writers at Airways News and Airline Reporter do state on most of their reviews whether they or someone else paid their fares. As media, they get a lot of fares paid by the airline they're covering, particularly in special events (ie first 747-8i flight, first 787 flight to the US from Japan, etc). I don't know how far this is a conflict of interests, but at least there is disclosure.

Quote:
No domestic flights in Econ offer meals for free any more. Only transcons offer meals and free alcohol and only because they are catering to the travelers of the foreign countries which still reaps these benefits on their local flights.


It's about the same in Mexico, except Interjet and Aeromexico, at least, offer complimentary alcohol (one drink per passenger) on all domestic flights departing after 11 am. Prior to 11 am Aeromexico won't serve alcohol in economy. Interjet will, but you have to ask for it. Volaris used to as well, but I hear they've removed complimentary snacks and drinks.
If Trump where half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be twice as smart as he really is.
October 23rd, 2015 at 12:41:34 AM permalink
Pacomartin
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 689
Posts: 7926
Quote: Nareed
It's about the same in Mexico, except Interjet and Aeromexico, at least, offer complimentary alcohol (one drink per passenger) on all domestic flights departing after 11 am. Prior to 11 am Aeromexico won't serve alcohol in economy. Interjet will, but you have to ask for it. Volaris used to as well, but I hear they've removed complimentary snacks and drinks.


For those of you who don't know, the domestic airline industry in Mexico is primarily four companies. One third of domestic passengers are on AeroMexico (former flag carrier of Mexico). Volaris is primarily owned by a Colombian company and used to do code shares with Southwest. Interjet is privately owned so there is little or no insight into how profitable it is to operate an airline with fewer seats, lower load factors, and more indulgences aimed at securing loyal business flyers. The owners are mostly Arabs. Viva started in Monterrey (Mexico's primary industrial and technological city outside of Mexico City).

The final 5% is regional airlines or airlines that mostly offer inexpensive vacation flights on older jets.

Domestic Passengers
34.2% Aeroméxico Total
14.9% Aeroméxico (Aerovías de México)
19.3% Aeroméxico Connect (Aerolitoral)

24.6% Volaris (Concesionaria Vuela Cia de Aviación) primarily owned by Avianca S.A., the national airline and flag carrier of Colombia
24.4% Interjet (ABC Aerolíneas) Wholly owned by the Aleman Group.
11.6% Vivaaerobus (Aeroenlaces) co-owned by the Ryan family, founders of Ryanair

3.0% Magnicharters (Grupo Aéreo Monterrey)
1.3% Aeromar
0.6% Transportes Aéreos Regionales (TAR)
0.2% Aéreo Calafia

International flights to Mexico are dominated by foreign carriers. The domestic airline industry is still about 2/3 the size of the luxury intercity bus industry.

The 57 airports in Mexico are normally owned by airport groups. Percentage include international travelers
AICM 34.14% 1 (Mexico City)
ASUR 22.88% 9 (CANCUN major airport)
GAP 23.36% 12 (GUADALAJARA & TIJUANA major airports)
OMA 15.32% 13 (MONTERREY major airport)
ASA 2.04% 18 (very small airports)
SOCIEDADES/PARTNERSHIPS 2.27% 5 (privately run)
October 23rd, 2015 at 3:58:07 AM permalink
boymimbo
Member since: Mar 25, 2013
Threads: 5
Posts: 615
Nareed, try FlyerTalk.
October 23rd, 2015 at 4:03:22 AM permalink
boymimbo
Member since: Mar 25, 2013
Threads: 5
Posts: 615
Quote: terapined
All my comments below are in regard to regular business travelers, not VIP business travelers.

Some business travelers care about price.
Some don't to a certain extant. A lot of factors involved. position, budget, reason for travel ect.
Also most companies don't pay the price the public pays.
A large corporation will sign a contract with an airline. Discount on coach fares is small, up to 10% off depending on price.
The business class fares, about 0% to 40% off depending on price.
Sale price, no discount, regular business class fare, around 30% off. Depends on the contract and size of company.
To keep that discount, airline demands most of the business.
Don't give them the business the airline feels they should get, lower discount next year when they redo the contract.
With the discount, the company preferred airline almost always prices cheaper but not always.


At our company, you have to be at a certain level (which I am not) to fly business. I'm at the point where I'm about to be promoted to a level where business class is permitted on trans-cons. We are also not allowed to upgrade to any of the plus-sized seats, nor are we able to charge for baggage (unless we stay over on weekends). Southwest doesn't come up for us in our travel tool, so we have to call them to book.

Quote:
Business travelers are usually not allowed the higher business select fare on Southwest. I rarely sell it.

Makes sense. I usually just buy for and pay for the Preferred seat selection, which gets me a late A-boarding and allows me to get my preferred aisle or window towards the front of the plane.

Quote:
Most company policies on domestic is to take the cheaper fare, especially Southwest with no penalty to change.

It's a pain to book at our company as it involves picking up a phone.

Quote:
Yea , the verbiage is getting ridiculous...
Also known as the section in front of regular coach but behind business class :-)
Most people sitting in economy plus did not pay extra, those seats are filled with frequent flier members with status.
These upgrades to premium economy, business class and 1st due to frequent flier status is what keeps business travelers loyal to an airline


True.
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