Will Airlines Ever Introduce A Cabin Below Economy?

Economy class: words that strike trepidation into the heart of many a long-haul passenger, who is not only about to embark on a physical journey but also a spiritual one, as they enter the tiny economy seats most modern airlines employ.

Economy cabins like this might soon be considered luxury. Photo: Wikimedia.

However, some airlines are flirting with the idea of an even lower cabin class below economy.

What are the details?

According to God Save The Points, many airlines are considering unbundling the features that are offered in economy. After all, what seems to be working well in business class might work just as well down at the back of the plane. What sort of things they might unbundle?

  • No longer including meals
  • No longer including entertainment
  • Reducing seat pitch below 30″
  • Another seat per row
  • Not even a tray table or overhead bin space
  • They might even eliminate windows or place the area off the main deck

But with this unbundling, airlines will now be able to offer an even cheaper price point for budget-conscious passengers.

Some airlines are really starting to push how many people they can fit on the plane, with reports that French Bee will offer 10-seat across in their economy cabin onboard their A350 fleet. In an interview to RGN, the Airbus VP of Marketing, François Caudron, mentioned the creation of a new sub-economy class, saying,

“Some of them say we may want to have a cabin portion, just to have a product that allows us to compete with the long-haul, low-cost. And then I’m seeing in the mainline carriers, this is what we’re going to be seeing. The back of the cabin, or it’s a part of the economy cabin, ten-abreast, and then a nine-abreast, and then a premium economy, and then business.”

French bee A350 on ground
A French Bee taxis in Paris. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

What would this class be like?

The first major difference between this and economy is that technically you would not actually get a seat. Rather you would be seated in an ‘upright brace’ that supported you physically but would not provide any comfort. It would allow airlines to greatly reduce the seat pitch from 30 inches to 23-inches (58cm), a 25% decrease. This would increase passenger capacity onboard by 40%.

It would be for airlines that fly short-haul routes of no more than two hours… at least that’s what we hope! Additionally, passengers would have none of the perks that we normally expect with air travel, and might be asked to fly in very spartan conditions.

Who would fly it?

There are actually airlines in the world today who have tested the waters with a ‘lower class cabin’.

The first, Ryanair, will come at no surprise for long-time readers. They have already pushed for a special Boeing 737 MAX 200 aircraft, that takes a normal Boeing 737 MAX 8 and increases the seat density to 200 seats. This is accomplished by removing toilets and other extra spaces that are deemed ‘unnecessary’. Fortunately, this aircraft has been delayed by the Boeing 737 MAX groundings, but maybe it is only a matter of time until Ryanair takes the concept further and removes the seats altogether.

Ryanair 737 MAX
Ryanair will operate a dense 200 seat configuration of the 737 MAX. Photo: Ryanair

Other airlines that have expressed interest in the design is Australia’s Tiger Air and Chinese airline Spring Airlines. The saddle seat design pictured above has not yet been approved by the FAA or other regulatory authorities.

That just leaves us with the real question: which airline will implement this first?

What do you think of this new airline class? Would you fly in it for a cheaper experience? Let us know in the comments!