Qantas has understandably underlined the very good things about the cabins you will find in its 787-9 Dreamliners when they begin joining its fleet late next year.
But nothing changes the reality that most people will fly in it in an economy class seat. In the Qantas 787 it will come in a tight nine across configuration like that in Jetstar’s 787-8s, and with the same 81.28 cms (32 inches) seat pitch that you will find in most, but not all seats in economy class in its 737s, 747s and A380s (with the latter offering a notably wider seat).
This is a jet Boeing designed for a civilised eight across economy class cabin, which is also used by some of the Japan flag carrier Dreamliner flights that Qantas 787s might compete against in the future.
It was never intended to put large children and adults into such small economy class seats when the Dreamliner family was designed, but times have changed, and as the Qantas 787 cabin announcement today showed, the airline has decided to follow not lead when it comes to the current craze by airline managements to physically hurt the numerical majority of their customers by confiscating once ‘overly generous’ space in the interests of dividing operating costs by a larger number of seats for any given flight.
This is a real pity. Telling people that if they want what they previously paid for in long haul economy space in those more generous times they should pay for a premium economy or business class fare isn’t smart if they can find a classic layout 777 (like those flown by Virgin Australia) or an Airbus A380 or A350 as a roomier alternative on a particular long haul route.
What looks like an improved metric in an analyst presentation might also harm the competitive offering, and brand value, of an airline that wants to ‘jam them in’.
The Dreamliner is a superb aircraft, and as Qantas has outlined in its statement today, it will undoubtedly do a superb job in looking after the premium paying passenger, a type of customer that may be in decline as companies look to savings in their managed travel budgets.
But most Australians fly in economy class. Qantas ought to be more mindful of what most of the market buys when it chooses a class of travel, and what its competitors are doing in their A380s and A350s in particular.