Mar 19, 2010

Single cabin short haul shake up

Another set of nails have been driven into the coffin of class distinctions and curtain partitioned cabins in short haul air travel. Air New Zealand has given the freebie chasers, th

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

Another set of nails have been driven into the coffin of class distinctions and curtain partitioned cabins in short haul air travel.

Air New Zealand has given the freebie chasers, the class conscious, and its competitors, a bit of a kicking with its plans for single cabin services across the Tasman later this year.

But is it the new reality of short haul flight?

Is it another case of the Kiwi’s being faster and sharper than their Australian competitors and getting in first with changes that are not not only inevitable but likely to be welcomed by most travellers?

Or is it just an inducement for those who cling to the indulgences of the past to flee, apparently in ones or twos, to the comforts offered by Emirates, Qantas and Pacific Blue’s intended adoption of a revised premium economy product? A very interesting question indeed.

This is the summary of what Air NZ plans to offer in a 171 seat single cabin A320, a type which it uses to Wellington, and for most Christchurch services, as well as for some to Auckland.


Air NZ says it will also offer a Kids Works package, with luck, with a special cone of silence for those children that should neither be seen nor heard in airliners. The new range of options go on sale from late April, and there is no news yet about pricing.

The Kiwi’s have definitely stolen a march with this. Virgin Blue has been talking up its product revamp, and this sounds like something similar, even though the Virgin product will include a different set of seats for premium economy, and the obvious intention of the NZ carrier is to instead offer as its premium alternative a half empty ‘no neighbour’ seat in the middle between each two ‘Works Deluxe’ seats.

The killer figure in this move is the revelation by Air New Zealand’s group general manager short haul, Bruce Parton, that only one of the eight business class seats it currently offers trans Tasman on its A320s is actually purchased.

Parton says, ” This is predominantly due to companies and government departments …cutting back on spending and adopting a policy of economy class travel, which underpins the rationale for standardising the A320 fleet in one-class configuration.

“Business class will still be available out of Auckland on widebody aircraft flights at prime times that meet the needs of corporate travellers and those Business Premier customers connecting with our long-haul services.”

Which is a reminder of a well worn axiom in airline circles, to “use it or lose it.”

On short haul flights, if Air NZ is right, premium anything has ‘lost it.’

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4 thoughts on “Single cabin short haul shake up

  1. Bill Parker

    “guaranteed empty seats?” Now I know thew world has gone totally mad.

    Check In Desk Customer Service Team Member and fully accredited Ego Massager:

    “Sorry sir, that seat is un-available, we have a passenger already in the next seat……… oh, and that one too……….. and that one. Sorry about that. Perhaps you’d like an instant partial refund so you can sit somewhere else?”

  2. jack504

    “Fare families” such as this seem to be the way forward – I can’t say I enjoy having to hand over a credit card for each frill purchased on board.

    Key benefit here is that that the cabin offering is dynamic – class offerings can be expanded or contracted as circumstance/season requires, effectively sidestepping any mismatch of the supply of business seats and demand for cheaper seats that cost airlines so much last year.

    Hopefully ANZ gets the “Works Deluxe” pricing right, as a business traveller would arguably prefer to fly the Tasman in a widebody Emirates A380/A345/B77W premium seat than the narrowbody A320 option.

  3. thewinchester

    I’m trying to think about the complexities this would add to the cabin service for the FA’s, and there’s just too many augmentations to think about to the point where one’s brain may explode all over the bulkhead.

    What if a meal is accidentally handed to the wrong person, what if a free seat can’t be done because they need to get pax to a location, do all the different fare types have to sit in a specific part of the cabin (which creates classes anyway) to ensure correct service. And then of course there is the scenarios for on-board purchasing, service class upgrades particularly if ODU/OP-UP scenarios occur, etc.

    It’s really a nice idea, but the devil is really going to be in the detail for the carrier to make this an operational and viable reality.

  4. Ben Sandilands

    I’m having flashbacks to the TAA experiment with no frills fares in the early 80s. Little flags were pinned in the seat back cushion to indicate those cheapskates that hadn’t paid the fare that included a meal. It looked so totally absurd, while it lasted. The fare difference was about $20, which considering the time, was significant, even at the fare levels of those days.

    And you could bring your own meal on board, which people did, and which was invariably of a quality (and delicious smell) that shamed the stale offerings dictated to be of equal ghastliness between Ansett-ANA and TAA under the Two Airline Policy.

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