As airlines try to pack more passengers into their planes,
ordinary travelers are feeling the squeeze. Now,
is releasing an even more densely packed version of its most
popular plane, the Boeing 737. I'll examine why Boeing is
launching this model, what it means for airlines, and how soon
you could be flying in one.
Remember, unless you're personally in the market for a private
jet, you're not Boeing's target market. Airlines are most of the
market and, right now, airlines are looking to boost revenue per
aircraft which allows them to increase revenue without major cost
This has led to slimmer seat backs at
Delta Air Lines
in efforts to put more seats on each plane. The high-density
trend has even become a core part of fast-growing
and its effort to make airfares competitive with bus fares.
But, as airlines continue to look for ways to lower their cost
per available seat mile, or CASM, Boeing wants to have a
high-density version of its most popular aircraft available for
Wall Street Journal
notes that reducing CASM is a major goal for this high-density
737 with Boeing targeting a 5% increase in per-seat
Will you be flying one?
Not anytime soon. Boeing is targeting 2017 for the first
deliveries of this model. But after that, it really comes down to
how much airlines want to adopt this model of the 737.
Southwest Airlines, which operates an all-737 fleet, has
already been set up as the launch customer. Southwest passengers
stand a good chance of flying on one of these planes toward the
end of this decade.
Ultra-discount carriers, like Spirit Airlines, may also give
the plane a look, although Spirit currently operates an
all-Airbus fleet, and having a more diverse fleet could lead to
increased maintenance costs. But for airlines like Ireland's
, this high-density 737 would go well with their existing
low-fare model and current 737 fleet.
Mainline legacy carriers are less likely to adopt this
configuration, but not necessarily because of the decrease in
passenger comfort. Unlike discount carriers which try to offer
the cheapest fares possible by driving down CASM, carriers like
American Airlines, Delta, and United have a select number of
economy seats with more legroom on board their 737 aircraft,
which they sell, or give to elite travelers as upgrades. Not only
are these major carriers using the upgrades to boost ancillary
revenue, but being able to offer these seats to elite status
travelers encourages customer loyalty and can attract more higher
Since an all-economy-class, 200-seat layout would hurt the
multi-tiered pricing strategy of mainline carriers, American,
Delta, and United are less likely to adopt this layout, as it
would remove their ability to sell and market upgrades.
When it comes to aircraft safety, regulatory agencies in both
North America and Europe pose another series of challenges for
aircraft manufacturers. Among the biggest concerns of these
agencies is the ability to quickly evacuate an aircraft in the
event of an emergency. With the requirement for this being set at
90 seconds to get all passengers off the aircraft, Boeing is
adding another emergency exit door to the 200-seat version of the
737 to meet this regulation.
Safety regulations are also likely to result in many North
American and European carriers choosing to order the high-density
737 with one less seat for a 199-seat layout rather than the full
200 seats. This is due to a minimum ratio of one flight attendant
for every 50 passengers for U.S. and European flights . Canada is
an exception to this rule requiring one flight attendant for
every 40 passengers although the country's two largest airlines,
, have both received exemptions allowing them to operate under
the one attendant per 50 passengers rule .
While the 199-seat layout would mean fewer passengers on the
plane, passengers would not get any more legroom than the
200-seat version since increasing legroom would require removing
an entire row of seats.
Boeing is responding to growth among discount and ultra-discount
airlines by creating a more densely packed version of its popular
737 aircraft. Although the plane is poised to find its way into
Southwest's fleet, and the fleets of some other discount and
ultra-discount carriers, mainline carriers will be less likely to
adopt this model.
That works out fine for Boeing. Discount and ultra-discount
carriers are growing, and mainline carriers are still
looking toward other versions of the 737 as core parts of their
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Which Airlines Are Interested in Boeing's Latest
originally appeared on Fool.com.
owns shares of Air Canada, AMERICAN AIRLINES GROUP INC and Delta
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