Given the widespread criticism of these cramped quarters, it’s very surprising that an unnamed major airline is seriously considering an “Economy Minus” class. Under this reported plan, economy class would be divided into three tiers of seating based on amount of legroom, or lack thereof. While the first tier, “Enhanced Economy,” would offer space of 35-38 inches, “Economy Minus,” the bottom tier, would afford space of 30” or less.
It’s easy to understand airlines’ financial motivation for wanting to squeeze more passengers onto each flight. It’s also conceivable that some airline travelers may prefer more money in their wallets versus space around their knees. So, what’s the problem with an “Economy Minus” option? There are at least two significant issues.
First, as consumers we know what’s best for us most of the time, but sometimes we don’t. How many airline passengers, for instance, can explain seat pitch and whether 30” of it represents enough? Furthermore, even if we become educated about the concept, we still may not be able to predict how that amount of space will impact us over a four-hour flight. Here’s one of those cases in which marketers shouldn’t give consumers what they think they want, but what they need.
Second, it’s easy to imagine some people buying “Economy Minus” seats who really shouldn’t--just like some individuals park their full-size SUVs in spaces designated “sub-compact only,” or some XXL-size people wear LG t-shirts. Such squeeze-plays can affect the people around them, in one way or another. Similarly, a larger-size passenger in an “Economy Minus” seat could make things even more uncomfortable for his seat mates.
The idea of cutting unnecessary product features in order to save customers money is often a good one. In the case of more constricted airline seat space, however, it’s hard to envision many travelers realizing increased value. Meanwhile, stress will likely increase, making it more difficult for frayed passengers to stay composed and maintain values such as peacefulness and congeniality . As a result, “Economy Minus” seating should be seen as mindless marketing.