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.
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.
“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.