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Ryanair’s CEO has mentioned standing-only tickets before, though that was probably a publicity stunt. Now Spring Airlines–a low-cost carrier hubbed in Shanghai with service throughout China and East Asia–has requested regulatory approval for standing sections in its cabins.

That’s a real first step toward a far-less glamorous future for air transportation.

Up to this point, making the customer experience worse while making the base fare lower has been a good strategy.

  • Spirit is down to 28″ of pitch (the space between seats) on its planes, which is 3-4″ less than legacy carriers. That 3-4″ difference is enormous at my height and I’m sure very noticeable for people of almost all heights. And yet Spirit is expanding its route network rapidly and has doubled its passenger emplanements in the last four years.
  • Frontier charges $2 for soda or water. Frontier hasn’t been doing as well, but I expect that its fortunes will turn around as it transitions to an ultra-low-cost-carrier model since being purchased by a private equity firm.
  • Everyone except Southwest has eliminated free checked bags and more airlines are even charging for carry on bags. I haven’t seen any backlash.

So will be people stand for having to stand?

This article claims that standing will allow for 40% more passengers compared to sitting. If the number of passengers in economy rose by 40%, the airline could charge each one 29% less and have the same revenue. Of course, more passengers would mean more weight and more employees needed to service the extra passengers, so in reality, I think we’d see cuts of less than 29% in airfares.

Would I stand to save 29% on my flight? For a cross-country roundtrip that costs $400, that would be about $100 off. I’d much rather have a seat for 10 hours than stand and save $100.

But how about a $150 one-hour flight? I’d probably take $40 to stand for an hour.

I can’t see any future in which all seats are removed from an airplane, so even if standing flights become a possibility, I imagine you’ll always have the choice of paying a bit more to sit. For this reason, I hope standing flights become a reality. More options should make us better off.

What Would Standing Look Like?

By the way, according to this Telegraph article, “standing” is a bit of a misnomer. Both designs look a lot more like stools than actually standing.

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 2.57.03 PM
Source: Telegraph.co.uk

Bottom Line

A Chinese airline actually wants regulators to approve standing sections on the cabin. I hope regulators do approve, and we get to see what standing flights look like in practice.

How much would you have to save to stand on a flight?

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