Monday, July 09, 2007

Boeing's Gift to the Airlines

Everyone should be giddy with ever-approaching debut of the 787 dreamliner. 20% more fuel efficient means its 20% less costly for airline companies on their second biggest expense behind labor. We all know they can threaten or pursue bankruptcy to control the first, but old man OIL was until now elusive.

Ok, back to the everyone being giddy - its the first chance that any smart airline has to turn this airline into a better customer experience. What do I mean? Well the average leg room in current airliners is about 34 inches from the back of the seat to the support bar in the magazine holder (that thing we tall people know and hate). Notice to Airlines - here is your chance to add 10% more legroom throughout the plane, expand a larger portion of planes legroom by 20%, or really get creative and accomodate America's love affair with burgers and make the seats wider by removing one seat from the standard 6/row throughout some of the plane.

Ok, skeptics hush - I realize the price of a 787 somewhat offsets the immediate savings, why shouldn't it after all? Also - with customers so conditioned to terrible accomodations, why get back to pampering them instead of pocketing the profit, right? I'm not saying a there should be a goverment agency mandating larger seats with more legroom, but there is an opportunity for airline differentiation that might lead to slight pricing power through more room. Combine the 787 with direct flights instead of connections and the opportunity to offer the customer more while charging a slight premium becomes even greater.

Bottom line - I'm not going to bore anyone with the cost analysis of these ideas, but if you're an airline exec, know that the 787 opens more doors than the efficiency gain if you're willing to treat the efficiency like a raise and re-invest the difference in bringing differentiation back to the market. I'd take 3" of leg room over an in flight meal day in and day out.