Airlines are emphasizing their “hourglass” structure more than ever. For those who want luxury, the companies are spending more in business class enhancements. For those who want the cheapest flight possible, airlines are making those available, as well. And the demand for basic economy is increasing, so airlines are responding.*
JetBlue, Alaska Adding Basic Economy
JetBlue is the perfect example of the move toward the extremes. When the airline first launched, it was an egalitarian system, where everyone had the same seats, snacks and entertainment. Over time, they added “more room in coach” and Mint to appeal to business travelers. And now, they, along with Alaska Air, are launching their own version of basic economy.
From the little that we know, their trimmed-down coach class will not be quite as punitive as their legacy brethren. You’ll probably still be able to bring a bag on board, and JetBlue is saying that it won’t take away the free entertainment or internet. But both carriers are better than average on non-refundable ticket change fees, and it’s likely that the new low-fare classes of service will eliminate the ability to make any changes. Tickets will probably become fully non-refundable and non-changeable. You’ll also probably be boarding last and may not even have a seat assignment.
Airlines have been working for years to better adapt their products to demand. Expect one more product to become available as time goes on.
*No, of course nobody actually “wants” fewer benefits and worse seats, but everyone wants lower prices. The average American only flies a couple of times per year and price is the #1 factor when choosing an airline.
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