The Evolution of Basic Economy – an Update

A Window into the Competitive Playbooks of the Airlines


Low Cost Carriers were a thorn in the side of the legacy carriers long before the industry felt the need to add the term “Ultra”. With networks built on maximizing revenue through connectivity, the legacy carriers became prime targets of low cost airlines who could fly point-to-point for low fares with their low cost structure. Starting with the original PSA and Southwest, low cost carriers required response from the legacy carriers. It is from these early responses that we first saw restrictions such as the Saturday night stay, and 14-day advanced purchase. As the first generations of LCCs age, the latest iterations required a designator to differentiate. The new LCCs that grew to presence in the 2010’s includes airlines such as Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit, all with costs even lower than the traditional LCCs, and thereby earning the title Ultra Low Cost Carriers. The greatest impact has been felt by […]

The Redemption of the 757

How the US Airlines Finally Realized its Extraordinary Capabilities


The market opportunities of new aircraft programs are often constrained by the limitations of the past. These new designs tend to be evaluated on current networks, drawn to circumvent the now outdated limitations of the older fleets. It can take years for operators to realize the full potential of an aircraft as they slowly discover how their networks can be adjusted to take advantage of new capabilities. Only then does the aircraft rise to its true potential, re-drawing route maps and creating a new market for future aircraft to emulate. That, in a nutshell, is the story of the 757. The career of the 757 can be separated into two distinct roles: 1. What it was designed to do 2. What it could actually do Originally billed as a 727 replacement, the 757 was designed to replace the former workhorse on short range trunk routes with sufficient field performance to […]

Can the A321XLR Replace Wide-Body Aircraft Across the Atlantic?

History Suggests it Can


US Transcontinental Capacity - 1990

Airbus officially launched the A321XLR at the Paris Airshow last week with 4,700 nm range and 243 commitments. The improved range is significant, up from the LR version with 4,000 nm range. However, when you consider the vast majority of A321s flying today are -200s with approximately 3,200 nm range, the XLR will offer almost a 50% improvement in range over the current fleet. This type of range improvement is significant, to say the least. Yet, we know wide-body aircraft have much longer range, up to 9,500 nm with the A380. Of course the aircraft capable of these distances are also much larger, leveraging the infrastructure required to carry the requisite fuel and, in turn, the large amounts of passengers (and revenue) to offset. While the XLR’s 4,700 nm range makes news for extending the reach of the narrow-body, it is the inherent economic advantage the narrow-body has over the […]

Ethiopian 302 – Even Without Answers, The Data Tells a Story

The Ethiopian 737 Max 8 crash preliminary report was released late yesterday and we were provided a rich set of rudimentary data visualizations, coupled with a transcript from the cockpit to decipher.  First things first:  a word on speculation of air disasters.  This is a preliminary report.  It is not final, and we will certainly learn more as the investigation continues. However, this is an industry discussion site and the intended audience is professionals in aviation.  With a healthy dose of objectivity, we can begin to discuss likely scenarios and missing information that will help piece things together.  We are professionals, and we can look at the data available and begin to move the dial in likely directions, keeping transparent what we know and don’t know. Having had that taken care of, let’s begin by first comparing Boeing and Ethiopian Airlines responses.  In a nutshell, Boeing says the MCAS system […]

Can We Declare Basic Economy a Success? – A Visual Approach

It has been over a year since Basic Economy made its way onto the industry vocabulary list.  While the impetus was to provide a no-frills fare class to compete with the ULCCs, what excited the airlines (and Wall Street) was the ability to increase fares for those not willing to put up with the Basic Economy level of service.  Delta President, Glen Hauenstein put it succinctly when he explained in a CNBC interview, “Really the success of that product isn’t how many people buy it, in our mind, but how many people don’t buy it and choose another…”  In a nutshell, the idea of Basic Economy is to convince customers to not buy it; rather, to pay for the higher fare. Did Basic Economy live up to the expectations of producing higher fares while maintaining a competitive offering with the ULCCs? American, Delta, and United all rolled-out their various forms […]

Is Allegiant a Safe Airline? – Using Data to Review 60 Minutes’ Conclusions

60 Minutes recently did a piece bringing into question Allegiant’s safety practices.  It’s worth a read and a watch if you’ve yet to do so.  In this report, the 60 Minutes team makes some very bold claims regarding Allegiant: “I have encouraged my family, my friends and myself not to fly on Allegiant.” “But what really sets it apart from the competition is that its planes have been nearly three and a half times more likely to have serious in-flight mechanical failures than other U.S. Airlines.”   Based on the information provided by the FAA, it is very easy to analyze the data collected by 60 Minutes to determine if there is some context lost.  The investigation utilized the Scheduled Difficulty Reports (SDRs) filed by Allegiant and seven other airlines, according to their reporting.  All SDRs are available to the public for all U.S. airlines, as well as general aviation […]