Among the many announcements made at Wednesday’s US Airways Media Day was the introduction of a first class cabin on their larger regional jets. These aircraft are increasingly flying longer stages and carrying more passengers for the airlines, often in rather cramped environs. Adding a few first class seats opens up the possibility for elite upgrades or just buying the bigger seat for folks who roll that way.
Certainly offering a better in-flight experience is a good thing for the customer and can help drive demand for the product. And frequent flyer guru Randy Petersen suggests that the move may be coming now based on the aircraft being scheduled for an interior clean-up/retrofit this year anyways. But is it possible that there is another motivation for this move?
On the supply side of the market the airlines are struggling to control capacity, especially as oil prices are rising. Even in the face of some markets growing (see American Airlines’s move from Monday) the airlines are trying to keep capacity growth under control. This plan definitely helps with that. These planes fly more than the larger mainline aircraft and reducing their total capacity will definitely help keep the numbers down. Overall it is nearly 700 seats being removed from the fleet, roughly 7.5% of the total seats in the large RJ market. Taking out a couple seats here and there adds up quick when the planes don’t have many to begin with.
So it seems like a good move for everyone involved, at least until we discover the impact that the reduced capacity has on airfares.
- New destinations–and bonus miles–from American Airlines
- US Airways to launch lifetime status program
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