Reply To: Alex on… fixed business cabins return to Europe

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I had thought that we would never again see a fixed business class cabin within Europe given what happened in the past.

But now I’m not so sure.

Around 20 years ago both Swissair and KLM launched dedicated business class cabins with proper wide seats across their European fleets.

But the fixed cabin failed to cope with the peaks and troughs of European business class. At busy times, business class passengers might be downgraded or, worse still, denied a seat on board altogether.

At times when leisure travellers outnumbered those on business some of the former might find themselves lucky enough to be upgraded.

So after a few years both carriers reverted to the familiar flexible cabin layouts we see today.

However I believe today’s marketplace has changed.

What was impractical in the mid-1990s might be feasible today for the following reasons:

• The big national airlines are rationalising their networks by hiving off their non-core routes

• One reason why business class was popular in the 1990s was because the tariff structure was rigged to get people to book it. Today that’s no longer the case. As a result business class demand has slumped to more manageable levels so a dedicated cabin needn’t take up much space

• Swiss Air and KLM said that one reason for offering proper seats was to reduce the ‘comfort gap’ when transferring from a long-haul to a short-haul premium cabin flight. But that was 20 years ago in the days when even first class didn’t provide as much space as today’s business class

• Today’s long- to short-haul comfort gap is greater still thanks to flat beds in business and suites in first class

• Airlines need a proper short-haul product to impress their top customers, especially those booking long-haul indirect flights.

A few of you hinted in a previous blog that Lufthansa might lead the pack with a fixed cabin once its non-core routes have been handed over to Germanwings.

So what do you think? Will a fixed cabin return anytime soon?

Alex McWhirter

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