This year US airlines will make more than $10 billion. They’re doing it the old fashioned way: by mergers, surcharges and convenience fees.
The number of carriers accounting for 90% of the US market is down from 11 to 5 since 2007. Available seat miles have fallen from 744 billion in 2007 to under 700 billion today. The average round trip fare has gone up by 17% despite jet fuel prices doing very little. This year the industry will make more than $6 billion in baggage checking revenue.
Yesterday Airbus announced that it had found a way to add more seats to a next generation version of its popular A330 wide-body jet. Remember Airbus’ customers are the airlines, not the passengers. While fliers are crying for more comfortable seats and additional amenities the airlines just want lower costs and more capacity. To meet those demands and extend the life of its 20-year old A330’s Airbus is improving the jets and installing smaller seats. That means more tickets sold for every flight.
While shrinking the chairs is a start, Airbus has even more radical plans for increasing revenue in the next generation of planes. The company has filed a patent for seats that stretch the definition of what sitting even means. The new plan is to minimize the size of each row by having passengers lean back into cushions that resemble bike seats and strap themselves into place with seat belts. With the entire row of seats will be fixed to a common bar, allowing it be folded and stored when not in use.