Airbus to tout economy “Choice” at Hamburg interiors show

April 8, 2015: Airbus will unveil a new concept at the international Hamburg interiors convention next week call “Choice” for the economy cabin.

The concept is intended to further segment the traveling public demand and increase revenue for airlines.

Chris Emerson, SVP-Marketing, Airbus. Photo: Airbus.

While the concept isn’t entirely new—it’s a four-class configuration, including business class, and some airlines are moving in this direction already—Airbus is formalizing the marketing concept, which officials believe give it a competitive advantage over Boeing’s wide-body products.

The Choice concept includes Budget Economy, Comfort Economy, Premium Economy and Business Class.

Christopher Emerson, Senior Vice President-Marketing, said that 10% of Airbus operators use maximum capacity in the Airbus wide-body fleet vs 60% for Boeing’s wide-bodies. This gives Airbus operators flexibility to configure cabins in a way to cater to different passenger demands and maximize revenue, he said.

“We’re going into phase 2” of the campaign launched last year to emphasize comfort in economy class, focused on the standard 18-inch wide seat in coach vs the coach seat of around 17 inches in the Boeing wide-bodies. “In long haul economy cabin comfort, the width of the seat really starts to make a difference,” Emerson said.

Airbus’ 18-inch seating campaign.

“When you get up to 18 inches, you are barely touching shoulder-to-shoulder. Anything under you are touching. That was phase one. As we move into phase two, we want to put focus on the economy market place,” he said. “Ninety percent of world travelers are economy. But not all are homogenous. It’s becoming more and more complex. You are segmenting the cabin space, pricing by different seats. We want to give a choice to the 90% of the economy passengers. They are going to be the driver of the growth, the doubling of growth in the next 15 years.”

Emerson said Airbus wants to give a choice to the economy passengers, who will drive the growth and doubling of airline traffic over the next 15 years. Sixty percent of business travelers travel in economy, with some changes as companies change travel policies with respect to purchasing business class tickets.
Premium Economy (PE) typically has 19-inch seat width and 34 inch pitch, Emerson said. What Airbus now calls Comfort Economy has, in its airplanes, 18-inch wide seats and Budget Economy has 17 inch wide seats.

“In the back of the airplane, in the A330s, 10% are at maximum abreast, or nine on the 330, and 10 on the A350.” Emerson said there is a market sector, largely in China and Southeast Asia, where price matters more than comfort. “This is the Budget Economy matter. They are completely agnostic to comfort.

‘With this [economy] market place to stimulate the growth, we want to offer choice,” Emerson said: “Nine (abreast) in Budget Economy, eight in Comfort Economy, seven in Premium Economy and six in Business Class. This is the ability of the OEMs to offer choice at the lowest unit cost. By offering choice, [the airlines] can maximize revenue.”

Revenue per square meter of space is greater in the coach cabin, then, because lie-flat business seats take up so much space.

Emerson noted that cabin configuration differs markedly by region: the Pacific vs the Atlantic vs the Caribbean, for example.

Airbus so far has publicly only given as an example of increased revenue potential for the A380. With a four class configuration providing for some 11 abreast coach seating, Airbus now advertises the A380 with 544 seats instead of 525.

“On the A380, the additional revenue is $20m/per aircraft per year. That’s the equivalent of 40% fuel burn reduction,” he said.

More detail will be forthcoming at the Airbus Innovation Days in May in advance of the Paris Air Show.

51 Comments on “Airbus to tout economy “Choice” at Hamburg interiors show

  1. Ten, 9, 8, and 7 abreast is roomier on a 777, than 10, 9, 8, and 7 abreast on an A350.
    Nine, 8, and 7 abreast is roomier on a 787, than 9, 8, and 7 abreast on an A330.

    Boeing cabins are wider. This gives Boeing operators more flexibility to configure cabins in a way to cater to different passenger demands and maximize revenue.

    • And 9 abreast on the 787 is less roomier than on the A350.

      You could advertise 8, 7, 5, 1 whatever abreast configurations and call it “flexibility”, but it’s the market uptake that counts in the end.

      When you have blue chip airlines like United, BA, AA etc. stuffing the 787 with the same 9 abreast configuration as LCCs and Charter airlines like Thomson, Scoot and Norwegian, you are far apart from reality when you say the Boeing operators have “more flexibility to configure cabins in a way to cater to different passenger demands and maximize revenue.”

      The 8 abreast on the 787 is on offer, but it’s just that. The market seems to no longer want it. (I’m aware that the early 787 operators, JL and NH do have them, but the latter is also now moving to 9). And watch the 777 trend.

      • And 9 abreast on the 787 is less roomier than on the A350.

        And 9 abreast on the A330, which Airbus is proposing here, is less roomier than on the A350.

        The 8 abreast on the 787 is on offer, but it’s just that. The market seems to no longer want it.

        The market? It’s the airlines who configure the airplanes. If they are going 9x on a 777, it’s because they want to. There is nothing stopping them from putting in a Premium Economy at 8x.

        The 787 is wider than the A330. The 777 is wider than the A350. How can giving the airlines a wider fuselage, give them less flexibility?

        • And 9 abreast on the A330, which Airbus is proposing here, is less roomier than on the A350.

          That should read: And 9 abreast on the A330, which Airbus is proposing here, is less roomier than on the 787.

        • Looks like 8 abreast on the 787 and 9 abreast on the 777 is no longer competitive.
          That is not really a showcase for flexibility, is it?

          • @Uwe
            Looks like 8 abreast on the 787 and 9 abreast on the 777 is no longer competitive.
            That is not really a showcase for flexibility, is it?

            Airbus proposing a 4-class A330 with a Budget Economy class at 9x seating? How is a narrower fuselage better for that?

        • When I said market, I was referring to the airline operators.

          You will have to provide me with real world numbers to prove your contention that the “flexible” 787 has allowed operators to configure it to cater different passenger demands. So far, aside from the first two (more like 1.5) 787 operators, it’s been a 9x one size fits all configuration, regardless of whether they are full fare carriers or charter airlines.

          We can come back to this discussion every few months with updated numbers, but I’m confident that when an airline like BA puts in the same 9x configuration as Thomson, the 8x on the 787 has become as about as sensible as putting 7 abreast in an A330, despite the availability as an option.

          And as I mentioned before, the 777 is trending towards 10x as the new standard among full fare carriers, but we’ll see how many retain the 9x by 777X EIS.

    • Only the economic comparisons seldom compare 10 to 10 or 9 to 9 abreast.
      They compare 10 abreast to the 9 abreast competing product
      to show an advantage. i.e. 777@10 to A350@9.

      This trashes your touted width advantage soundly 😉

      • @Uwe
        This trashes your touted width advantage soundly 😉

        The 787 is wider than the A330.
        The 777 is wider than the A350.
        Look it up.

        • Well, the fact of the matter is that the 787 and 777X won’t be able to compete on seat mile costs at respectively 8 and 9 abreast.

          • @OV-099
            Well, the fact of the matter is that the 787 and 777X won’t be able to compete on seat mile costs at respectively 8 and 9 abreast.

            Really? A 787-8 at 8x can’t compete with an A330-200 at 8x? Do you have a source?

          • I said “won’t be able” and not can’t — implying that the 787-8/9 will have a very hard time competing with the A330-800/900neo at 8 abreast.

          • …the 787-8/9 will have a very hard time competing with the A330-800/900neo at 8 abreast.

            Again, do you have a source? I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I’d like to see the analysis.

          • A short analysis:
            787 sold in 2014 and 2015: 75
            A330 sold in 2014 and 2015: 145

            So the 787 at 9 abreast has problems compared to an A330.
            A 787 budget economy at 10 abreast won’t work.

          • Vinay Bhaskara of airwaysnews.com had a pretty good analysis a few months back, on the Delta order for A330-900s and A350-900.

            http://airwaysnews.com/blog/2014/11/25/analysis-delta-order-for-a350-a330neo-hinged-on-pricing-availability/

            If you look at the comparison of the 787-9 with the A330-900neo, he’s got the Direct Operating Cost (High) at $94,018 for the 787-9 and $94,070 for the A330-900neo (i.e. over a distance of 3,350 nautical miles). By dividing the dollar figures by 3,350, you get the Direct Operating Cost per aircraft mile (High); or $28.07 and $28.08 respectively for the 787-9 and A330-900neo. By dividing these two dollar figures by the number of seats aboard, you get the CASM (High): 0.0923 for the 787-9 and 0.0906 for the A330-900neo

            Mr. Bhaskara is using 304 seats on the 787-9 and 310 seats on the A330-900neo. This means that a 9 abreast 787-9 has a slightly higher CASM (i.e. about 2 percent) than the A330-900neo, over a distance of 3,350 nautical miles. Now, for the sake of discussion, let’s assume that there are 270 economy seats at 9 abreast and 34 premium seat aboard the 787-9. That’s 30 rows in economy. If, however, 8 abreast would be the norm, you’ve only got 240 seats in economy. So, by dividing the Direct Operating Cost per aircraft mile (High) number by 274 instead of 304 for the 787-9, you now have got a total CASM (High) of 0.1024 for the 787-9 at 8 abreast; or a 13 percent higher CASM for the 787-9.

          • “Again, do you have a source?”
            we could play that game all day. 😉

            “I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I’d like to see the analysis.”
            Seating density has an inverse exponential influence on seat mile cost. going from 9 to 8 abreast should increase CASM by more than 15%.

            Ob fuselage width:
            For less dense arrangements especially with monument style seating the dynamics are in the “unused” floor area. Reducing the influence of fuselage diameters ( at least in scope of a foot more or less at ~20′ all over floor width )

          • @MHalblaub
            A short analysis:
            787 sold in 2014 and 2015: 75
            A330 sold in 2014 and 2015: 145

            I guess if you torture statistics enough, you can get them to say anything you want.

            That’s the problem with most analyses, they cherry pick the numbers (2014 and part of 2015 only). Your “analysis” leaves out the all important availability factor, among other things.

            But that doesn’t change the width of the A330 or the 787. If 9x in a 787, is uncomfortable, it’s even worse in the “more flexible” and narrower A330.

  2. I think its a kind of funny Airbus is talking about this, because its not up to them. It’s entirely up to the airlines and always has been. Aircraft cabin width are the only thing determined by Airbus and Boeing.

    IMO Boeing did a 9.5 across on the 777 and 8.5 across on the 787 and I think it is uncomfortably narrow at 10 and 9 abreast. Looking at trip reports it seems everybody hates it, but there nothing Boeing / operators can/ want to do about it. So they say it’s much more complicated, etc..

    I like 8 abreast on A330/340 and 9 abreast on A350 seems ok, as does 10 abreast on A380. But that will probably go away unless you pay. Viva economy plu$..

    • I concur. The worst flight I *ever* took was 10-abreast on a AF 777-300ER from Paris to Martinique. Constant bumping of shoulders with the guy next to me was absolute torture. In comparison the same AF transported me to Miami this winter with a 10-abreast A380 which was a heaven in comparison.

      • It is a downward spiral than can not be stopped by one of the airframers ( it would create a competitive disadvantage
        for the limiting party ).

        So either passengers have to just bear it or limits at some “sane” value are introduced via the legislative front.

      • I would prefer the A380 over the 777 too. Unfortunately, the airlines, who actually buy planes, buy far more 777s, than A380s.

    • It’s kind of funny that Airbus is talking about a narrower fuselage giving them a “competitive advantage ” in a 4-class A330 and A350.

      • The order for fuselage diameter is as follows:
        A330 < 787 < A350 < 777 < A380
        (Looks like Boeing is boxed in…)

        The A330 is more comfortable than a 767 at 8 abreast.
        A budget A330 at 9 abreast is more efficient than a 787 at 9 abreast.
        The A350 at 9 abreast is more comfortable than a 787 at 9 abreast.
        A budget A350-900 at 10 abreast is more efficient than a 777-8X.
        The A380 at 10 abreast is more comfortable than a 777 at 10 abreast.
        A budget A380 at 11 abreast is more efficient than a 747.

        I would say Airbus can offer a smaller fuselage than Boeing but also a wider fuselage than Boeing.

        • @MHalblaub
          A wider fuselage offers the airlines more flexibility and the passengers more comfort, when comparing similar configurations.

          The 787 at 8x is more comfortable than the A330 at 8x, because it’s wider.
          The 787 is at 9x is more comfortable than the A330 at 9x, because it’s wider.
          The 777 at 9x is more comfortable than the A350 at 9x, because it’s wider.
          The 777 at 10x is more comfortable than the A350 at 10x, because it’s wider.

          The only Airbus widebody that has a wider fuselage than it’s Boeing counterpart is the A380, but it’s a niche aircraft.

          • “A wider fuselage offers the airlines more flexibility and the passengers more comfort, when comparing similar configurations.”

            Do you not realise that your like for like comparisons are hardly relevant in the real world?

            Almost all 787 carriers are using 9x, budget or full fare = hardly demonstrates any “flexibility”. The vast majority of full fare A330 operators are using 8x, and budget carriers 9x = airline configurations that gives passengers either comfort or cheaper fares. That, is clearly flexibility.

            “The only Airbus widebody that has a wider fuselage than it’s Boeing counterpart is the A380, but it’s a niche aircraft.”

            And what in your opinion is the equivalent Boeing counterpart for the A350-900 going forward?

          • Do you not realize that Airbus is pitching this “flexibility” choice to the airlines (you know, the ones that actually buy airliners, NOT passengers who buy airline tickets?)

            Emerson said:
            “By offering choice, [the airlines] can maximize revenue.”

            Also, there is nothing stopping 787 operators from offering 8x Premium Economy, which will be more comfortable than 8x on the narrower A330.

          • You are running in cirlces ( flapping your arms wildly? 😉

            787@8 is uncompetitive against the A330NEO@8 and probably on par or just below an A330CEO@8.
            ( published here some time ago is 787-8@9 is 13% better than A330-200CEO@8 )

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  4. I have yet to fly an 8 abreast 787, 9 abreast A330 and wonder if I’ll ever see 10 abreast A350. However its possible and that’s more important then reality if it fits a story line.

    Airbus has 11 abreast A380 graphics on its site. They say seats are still 18 inch wide. Wider then e.g. the usual 787 at 9 abreast, 747 at 10 abreast or 777 at 10 abreast. However popular US press will jump over that detail, and just state Airbus cramps even more people in a A380. Imagine the waiting lines! .. Because it fits a great story line/ header.

    http://www.airbus.com/typo3temp/pics/23142403ec.png

    • @keesje
      I have yet to fly an 8 abreast 787, 9 abreast A330 and wonder if I’ll ever see 10 abreast A350. However its possible and that’s more important then reality if it fits a story line.

      It’s Airbus that’s pushing this “Choice for the economy cabin,” story line.

      The concept is intended to further segment the traveling public demand and increase revenue for airlines.

  5. Thanks for the link. A380 11x = 777 10x = 787 9x.
    By definition, budget econ.

  6. Ejets and CSeries are 18″ plus, the one middle seat on the CS is 19″. By Airbus view of width, and Delta view of the extra value of aisle and window, these aircraft are premium economy throughout.

  7. A380 11x =18 inch, says Airbus.

    777 10x and 787 9x are not 18 inch, but narrower, 17.x inch.

    A350 10 abreast or 330 9 abreast maybe 16.x inch, even narrower.

    It ain’t all the same.

    • “says Airbus”
      Well, I guess it’s their airplane, but I think their math is off on that one.

    • Correct that’s why I added “says Airbus”. I want to see a credible picture first. 11 abreast has been waited for a decade, but 18 inch pusdhes it. I remember Airbus pulled a demo last year, just ahead of the Hamburg Interior. With heightened floor. I guess it will be there next week?

      Anywasy they didn’t go 9 abreast on the upperdeck. So the 2-4-2 with wall stowages makes it preferred seating anyway..

    • @keesje
      A350 10 abreast or 330 9 abreast maybe 16.x inch, even narrower.

      So 17-inch on a Boeing is torture.
      16-inch on an Airbus is “flexible”.

  8. Rick 17 inch or less combined with narrow aisles is very uncomfortable. Regardless of which aircraft it is.

    Fact is most 787 are 9, and 777 increasingly 10 abreast. 737s are also 17.x, as are the 747s.

    Most 330s are 8 and most A350 wiill be 9. A320 also 18 inch wide. As are A380.

    Some folks are introducing what’s theoretically possible or is in use somewhere, and say “see..”

    IMO it is about seats in operation and you’ll get on your next flight. Today most seats on Boeings are 17.something and most seats on Airbusses 18 inch. Hard to digest for some I guess.

    • keesje,
      What we are digesting, is this article. Airbus is marketing a new concept, called “Choice” for the economy cabin, where they propose a four-class configuration, including a Budget Economy class of 9x for the A330 and 10x for the A350. They claim this will give them a competitive advantage over Boeing. The whole notion is absurd.

      Not long ago, Airbus was calling on the aviation industry to set a minimum seat width standard of 18 inches. Now they appear to be abandoning that, stepping on their own marketing message.

      I’m merely pointing out the obvious. That the 9x is more comfortable on the wider 787, than on the narrower A330, and 10x is more comfortable on the wider 777, than on the narrower A350.

      Airbus does not have a competitive advantage over Boeing in these segments. Hard to digest for some I guess.

      • Airbus does not have a competitive advantage over Boeing in these segments. Hard to digest for some I guess.

        I have to ask you again since you avoided the question earlier…what does Boeing offer that competes with the A350-900?

        Along with the above concept, Airbus offers other things such as the 11x A380 concept, 20″ aisle seat concept on the A320, etc. but their success remains to be seen in the marketplace (and by market I am talking about airline operators as customers). Personally, I have my doubts.

      • “Airbus does not have a competitive advantage over Boeing in these segments. Hard to digest for some I guess.

        Yes , Airbus do have an advantage with an A330neo at 9 abreast. In fact, it may look like a double digit advantage in CASM for the A330-900neo at 9 abreast over that of the 787-9 at 9 abreast — perfect for LCCs in Asia where statistically passengers are slightly smaller and where quite a few low cost airlines have been fitting in 9 abreast on their A330s for sometime.

  9. Rick what you say (9 on A330 & 10 on A350) is correct. It’s just not happening on todays fleets, luckely 🙂 Airbus aircraft with same capacity are just a bit longer instead of wider.

    About Airbus calling this “Step 2” after promoting 18 inch recently under the name “choice”, that certainly is changing course while saying its the next phase. Indeed laughable marketing 😀

    As said in the first post, its not Airbus or Boeing deciding on cabin configs, just on cabin width.

  10. @keesje
    Indeed laughable marketing

    Glad we can finally agree on something.

  11. I’m glad Airbus is giving attention to the choice of economy product. What’s the current situation? 747-8 and A380 have 10x with 8x, AA 777 has 10x and 9x premium, 787 is 9x with 7x premium. The more choices and pricing options the better.

    What economy minus products have been tried? L1011 10x, A330, 9x, 767 8x. By the numbers, 767 8x is the least width per seat.

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