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Travel Agent Urges Airlines To Improve Economy

Travel Agent Urges Airlines To Improve Economy Seating

New Zealand’s largest travel retailer is calling for airlines to improve the comfort of their economy class seating, particularly for long distance travel.

Flight Centre is urging airlines to follow the lead of Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines and Air New Zealand in developing alternatives and more comfortable products for travel to Asia, the US, Europe and the UK, for New Zealand travellers.

Hong Kong based airline Cathay Pacific is planning to introduce ‘fixed back’ seats in economy class, similar to a mini business class seat, creating greater legroom and preventing seats reclining back into people’s space as the seats slide within the fixed shell. It will be the first carrier flying out of New Zealand to offer fixed back seats in economy.

In a similar move, Singapore Airlines has also researched customer attitudes towards economy seating, and has announced it will be rolling out ergonomically designed seats with ‘smart features’ from later this year.

Flight Centre general manager Rick Hamilton said while most airlines were continually upgrading their business class seat offering, economy hadn’t kept pace with these changes.

“One of the biggest difficulties our clients face is the uncomfortable nature of long haul travel. We’d like to see all the airlines flying long haul from New Zealand examining their seating configuration very carefully.”

Flight Centre said Air New Zealand’s premium economy product was also a popular improvement, with many of its clients now taking advantage of larger seat pitch and increased service levels on the trips to Europe.

“Business Class fares are often 150 percent higher than Economy, so a middle ground that offers great leg room was always something that filled a very significant niche.”

So far Mr Hamilton said the agency was aware of no other airlines that had announced an economy class upgrade.

“But often all it takes is a perceived competitive advantage by one or two carriers to create better service.”

The new Cathay Pacific economy seat structure has been designed to maximise knee and shin clearance, including putting the magazine pocket under the seat and removing awkward fixtures.

Mr Hamilton said the most desirable outcome would be travellers eventually enjoying their flights, no matter what class and how long the flight.

“We have the longest to fly of almost any nation in terms of accessibility to destinations, and with the UK and Europe booking season about to start, this is particularly relevant.

"We believe the next area of airline competition should be comfort.”


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