The competition on the transcontinental routes is fiercer than ever – airlines are adding more space, luxury, privacy and, of course, profits. This year we have seen more mini-suites; offering total privacy, lie-flat seats and first class cabins aimed at the VIP market. The trend is set to get more luxurious than ever, this post takes a quick look into the future of transcontinental flying.
In 2014, American Airlines will replace its wide-body 767-200 fleet with narrow-body Airbus A321 models. These boast an exclusive 10-seat first-class cabin along with a 20-seat business-class cabin, both with flat beds. With the move by Delta and United to remove first class on its JFK-LAX flights, in favor of an enhanced business-class, American will be the only operator with first class flat beds on the routes.
American first class has been designed with celebrities and those valuing privacy in mind. The cabin will have just two seats next to each other, both angled towards the window. Those using first class will enter the door behind the flight deck, meaning they will not have to see any other passengers.
The A321s to be operated by American will have 66 fewer seats per aircraft than at present (just 102 as opposed to a regular A321’s 185-220 seats). This is due to the space taken up with first and business-class seats. The airline – which carries more transcontinental passengers than any other, at present – has lost market share in recent years. This makes sense for American who made 45% of their profits from just 9% of their highest paying passengers – those paying more than $1,000 a ticket.
JetBlue also has plans to expand its luxury end next year with a similar fleet of specially designed A321s. The JetBlue strategy – unchanged since its foundation – is to offer customers something better, for less than the other airlines are charging. Their fleet will have mini-suites, complete with privacy doors and some lie-flat seats. JetBlue’s marketing senior vice president, Martin St. George, claims that: “It will be the best product in the market at a lower fare than what people are paying today”. You can expect a bed on a JFK-LAX flight for less than $1,000, the company says.
The move by JetBlue and American will mean that they join United in operating narrow-body aircraft, loaded with premium seats, on the transcontinental route. Last year, 14% of United’s JFK-LAX customers paid more than $1,000 for a ticket and accounted for more than half of the company’s profits on the route.
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Tags: Business travel, travel trends