Nice on the outside, less nice than ever on the inside?

Jetstar will gain capacity equal to one and half current A320s when it add six seats to the 180 seat inventory on 43 of its narrow body Airbus fleet according to this account in Australian Aviation of an investor day briefing.

The report is undoubtedly for investors a telling and persuasive endorsement of sound management of the Jetstar asset.

Jetstar group chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka made the point that this reconfiguration comes without the capital costs of acquiring new aircraft, which to make a stab in the dark when it comes to bulk discounts, could be worth anywhere between $30 million and $50 million before the costs of engines.

It is also very clearly true that this sort of asset management makes Jetstar a more formidable low fare competitor and one better able to contain the apparently limited ambition of Virgin Australia’s equivalent Tigerair Australia low cost subsidiary.

But what does it do for the product, or as the comments below the article discuss, the ability of cabin crew to do their job?

Jetstar makes the point that by making the seats wafer thin legroom isn’t compromised. Well, it’s pretty compromised with the current seats, so let’s say, it doesn’t make it worse.

If we turn the argument for more seats on its side, those extra six seats only add to the bottom line if they are sold. Otherwise they are an irritation. And talking of bottoms, jamming people into ever smaller toilets where they can’t perform the personal and hygienic functions they are intended to serve just adds to the misery of flying, especially if you are with small children or more elderly relatives.

There seems to be no mechanism in the market place that prevents airlines from diminishing the quality of the product in a physical way, including at times in the full fare or premium cabins to the point where the customer decides to fly less than before.

Will six extra seats really per flight really bring Jetstar better fortune? Will further hurting and humiliating customers make the brand stronger? When does this downward spiral in amenity stop?

These aren’t the most important questions facing society by any measure. But they sure make travellers as mad as hell.

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