El Al’s New Low Economy Class Isn’t Revolutionary

Think of it as a new airline within an airplane. While many airlines in the past have really liked the idea of starting a low cost carrier, El Al has decided to do it on its existing fleet. There will now be a low-cost class of service on European flights on the airline. Though this may sound unique, and I’ve heard some say it is, it’s really what Air Canada pioneered long ago.

El Al is about to face some serious low cost competition into Europe. Air Berlin started serving Israel on July 7 and easyJet starts in November, so El Al is trying to figure out how to compete. The idea was to come up with a low cost carrier but put it on the same airplane as their existing service. The seats are the same, but if you’re in regular coach class, you get frills. If you’re in the low cost coach class, everything else comes for a price. So just to make sure we’re clear, let’s get graphical. This is not what’s happening:

El Al New Class

The seats are the same. This is the same type of bundling that Air Canada uses with its fare products. Frontier does it as well now. The cheapest fares get very little in the way of frills and the more expensive fares get more. But since the physical product isn’t any different, it’s not really a new class of service. It’s just fare bundling.

So El Al can call it whatever it wants, but it’s nothing new. It is, however, a good idea because it lets people pick and choose what’s important to them.

[Original photo via Wikimedia Commons - CC BY SA 3.0 (de)]


15 Responses to El Al’s New Low Economy Class Isn’t Revolutionary

  1. David SFeastbay says:

    How do they know who’s who and should get what services they paid (or didn’t pay for)? Will their be a separate in the rear cabin or seats a different color. I guess F/A’s would know people in certain rows are the cheap people so they don’t get anything unless they paid on board for it.

    I always think it’s amusing to watch an old establised airline with high labor costs try to act like a younger upstart airline who started as a long fare airline. Shuttle by United, Song, Metro, Continental Lite all proved it can be done…..oh wait….they’re not around anymore are they.

    Will selling a few really cheap tickets really make a difference?

  2. Byron says:

    Is this sort of what southwest does with their business select product? Don’t those passengers get a free drink?

    I was going to suggest this was the same as what Virgin America does, but it just the bulkheads and the exit rows, not any seat.

    and @David, It’s not so much a upstart airline as much as (IMO) repurposing seats that would have gone unused. If they’re flying planes with empty seats, they might as well try to sell them as no frills. I’m not sure of how full they get, but it seems to be a good idea. I would just be concerned that many people don’t want the amenities and would opt for the no frills over the regular economy.

  3. PF says:

    Back in the ’60s, Continental had First (F), Coach (Y) and Economy (K)- if you bought Economy K you were not offered a meal or a headset for audio.. Seating for K was the back rows of the main cabin. United also had “red” “White” and “blue” carpet service; I don’t remember the product differentiation between white and blue.

  4. DRG says:

    The AC take on this approach is to strip the product to its base, which is the Tango fare, and upsell from there. It does a pretty good job of things, actually. The pass product in particular is sold on flexibility and cost predictability but it essentially locks travellers into the higher Latitude level of cost/service.

  5. I’ve often wondered why the airlines don’t price based on the seat location. For example:
    — charge $20 less for assigned center row seating – and the pax gets to move (for free) to the aisle or window if the flight is not full and the doors are closed.
    — charge a $25 premium for seating in the first 5 rows of coach, or the 3 rows closest to the exits
    — sell early boarding (spelled: overhead bin space!) for $10.

  6. David M says:

    Frank Vaughan wrote:

    – charge a $25 premium for seating in the first 5 rows of coach, or the 3 rows closest to the exits

    US Airways does something like this with their Choice Seats program.

    – sell early boarding (spelled: overhead bin space!) for $10.

    Allegiant does this. It’s also one of the perks for booking Choice Plus on US Airways or Business Select on Southwest.

  7. David M says:

    Correction to my last comment:

    Allegiant does this. It’s also one of the perks for booking Choice Seats on US Airways or Business Select on Southwest.

  8. jjjbbb says:

    On AC, the Latitude fare customer gets dibs on the best coach seats (ie the first 3-5 rows), and their meal (which is still just a sandwich, chips and a beer) is delivered by the FA who has the locations of latitude customers on her/his manifest. This fare has the most flexibility, and is quite expensive. Tango Plus is a middle fare, which offers advanced seat selection (all but the seats reserved for latitude), full status FF miles and some flexibility, and Tango is a seat which usually is whatever your preference is (aisle/window) and fewer, non-status, points. AC has taken this to the front of the plane as well, with less flexible Executive fares – which are often less than Latitude.

    I fly Tango Plus on the Corporate pass for work, and usually a Tango fare for my own travel. Its a good system, and I always feel a bit strange when I am sitting in a seat I paid $99 for, and the guy beside me is eating a sandwich on a fare closer to $800…

  9. CF says:

    David SFeastbay wrote:

    How do they know who’s who and should get what services they paid (or didn’t pay for)? Will their be a separate in the rear cabin or seats a different color.

    They could do it by different cabin divisions or they could handle it other ways. Things like baggage limits and the like can reside in the computer. If you get a free meal, they could give you a voucher to print out when you check in that you give to the flight attendant. Or they could just have the flight attendant have a list.

    Byron wrote:

    Is this sort of what southwest does with their business select product? Don’t those passengers get a free drink?

    Yeah, but Southwest’s implementation is pretty lame. You need to offer me a lot more than a drink and priority boarding to get me to pay that much more for the most part.

    PF wrote:

    Back in the ’60s, Continental had First (F), Coach (Y) and Economy (K)- if you bought Economy K you were not offered a meal or a headset for audio.. Seating for K was the back rows of the main cabin. United also had “red” “White” and “blue” carpet service; I don’t remember the product differentiation between white and blue.

    Well there you go – Air Canada isn’t an innovator – they’re just cool and retro!

    Frank Vaughan wrote:

    I’ve often wondered why the airlines don’t price based on the seat location. For example:
    – charge $20 less for assigned center row seating – and the pax gets to move (for free) to the aisle or window if the flight is not full and the doors are closed.
    – charge a $25 premium for seating in the first 5 rows of coach, or the 3 rows closest to the exits
    – sell early boarding (spelled: overhead bin space!) for $10.

    As has been noted, they do. At least, some of them do. But it’s still not done very well. Show me a seat map with dollar signs on each seat so I can pick the seat I want while looking at the map. Overlay it with SeatGuru-style data and then I can really see the benefit of paying more.

  10. Andrew says:

    As CF said, Frontier does this to an extent: Three pricing levels, each $20 apart. The cheapest gets nothing, middle gets two free checked bags, free TV, and the ability to choose seats ahead of time, and top tier gets a free drink, ability to choose the best seats (front of the cabin, exit rows), and FF mile bonuses, I think.

    To me, choosing my seat ahead of time is non-negotiable (one of the reasons why I absolutely detest Southwest), so I always choose the middle pricing tier on Frontier. To the person who asked how they keep everyone separate, it’s not complicated: The flight attendants have a printed manifest with who/what seat is what, and they service each person accordingly. It’s never seemed like that big of a deal (e.g. I get my TV activated promptly once I’m in the air, etc.) I wish more airlines did this.

  11. jonathan reed says:

    Don’t forget United. Pay extra for economy plus for more leg room. Pay extra for early boarding so your to the limit carryon will find space in the overhead bin. Frankly, as a former United elite I like that I can still buy some of these elite perks now that I have lost my status with them.

  12. Ron says:

    CF wrote:

    Show me a seat map with dollar signs on each seat so I can pick the seat I want while looking at the map.

    Better yet, have the passengers bid against each other. Each passenger sets a maximum amount they are willing to pay for each seat. Somebody is sitting in your favorite spot? Raise your bid and it’s yours. Show all the information in real time, and you’ll see the bids ticking. Your $25 seat got picked up by someone who paid $30, and now you’re stuck in your second choice, $15 seat? We’ll refund the difference with a drink coupon, or credit towards a future flight.

    The same sort of bidding can work on boarding priority for Southwest-style free seating. In a matter of weeks, everyone will know the true market price for a B-25 boarding pass from Phoenix to Denver on a Thursday morning.

  13. People value cheap too much. People complain about crappy airline service but thats because they fly these crappy seats most of the time. I’d rather pay more for some frills.

  14. Andrew says:

    Ron wrote:

    Better yet, have the passengers bid against each other.

    Holy cats that’s brilliant. A little Machiavellian, but brilliant.

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