Instead of just narrowing airline seats, charge for better ones, too

The Wall Street Journal’s expose on airlines narrowing coach-seat widths seems, to me, yet another market opportunity for the airlines, if only they’d position it correctly.

Now, I’m no advocate of skimpy seating. I want to travel in as much comfort as I can afford. But the key word there is afford. 

Consumers have continually shown that they have strong price sensitivity when they fly. This forces the airlines to keep their base fares low, which in turn forces them to find ancillary revenue sources. Upcharges for baggage, exit rows, and priority boarding are all designed to offset the cost of keeping airfares at competitive rates and aid profitability. (It’s working, too.)

So why not use this seating to their advantage? Selling more-hiproom seats in the same manner as more-legroom rows would undoubtedly prove profitable by servicing that segment of the policy (such as this author) that is willing to pay a small premium for an upgraded experience. If that extra seat in a nine-across row generates another $300 fare, having a handful of eight-across rows generating $40 per passenger in upgrade fees would be similarly profitable.

I do not look forward to my first 17-inch-wide airline seat. Here’s to hoping the more-space movement hits the front of the coach cabins on these planes sooner than later.