Have you flown Spirit, EasyJet or Ryanair and vowed never return because of the lack of legroom?
There's actually an industry term for this, I learned this week. It's called "passenger burn," and it's a cost-of-doing business for most Ultra Low Cost Carriers, or "ULCCs" in industry parlance.
"Passenger burn occurs when passengers use a ULCC service once and do not return as a repeat customer," Jetlines, a new Canadian airline, told prospective investors last month. Jetlines plans to launch this summer with two aircraft based in Vancouver. It wants to be the Spirit Airlines, or EasyJet, of Canada.
But Jetlines will offer customers 30-inch pitch on its 737s. That tight -- Delta Air Lines has 31 or 32 inches of legroom in regular economy on its 737-800s -- but it's not as bad as other ultra low cost airlines. Jetlines estimates that the average pitch for similar bargain airlines is 28 inches.
So why is Jetlines being so generous? Canada is a small market, and the airline is worried that about 'passenger burn.' In the U.S. or the U.K., airlines can alienate some first-time customers and still attract enough repeat business to make money. But perhaps not in Canada.
"In the larger population centres of the United States and Europe passenger burn may be acceptable, but Jetlines believes that in the lower population based routes in Canada, repeat passengers are crucial to obtaining profitable passenger load factors," Jetlines reported in its recent prospectus. "Therefore, Jetlines selected the 30" pitch seating system."
Apparently some research went into the selection.
"In seating tests conducted by Jetlines with the new slim line and pre-reclined seats, a 6'3" passenger will still have space between his/her knees and the seat ahead of him/her (about 2")," the airline reported. "With the 28" pitch seating, this same passenger would have his/her knees touching the seat in front of him/her, which Jetlines deems unacceptable in the Canadian market given the longer sector lengths."
What do you think of Jetlines' move? Good idea?