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Are Airlines Skimping on Quality to Force Us Out of Coach?


Porter Airlines lounge, which all passengers have access to (Photo: Mike Gifford)

Are we getting less for our money in economy class on airlines to make business- and first-class travel more attractive? In a New York Times article this week, columnist Joe Sharkey seems to suggest as much, saying that “most airlines are quietly hoping that poor conditions in standard coach…will motivate more business travelers to buy their way out of the sardine can.”

At Where.ca we recently covered the many ways in which passengers are being nickled and dimed in coach to have access to previously free comforts like blankets and pillows and commented on the growing trend of charging extra for “premium” window and aisle seats.

According to Sharkey, the upside of the economy-class squeeze may be that in some cases airlines are discounting upgrades to business class or first class. He got a first-class upgrade for $135 on an American Airlines U.S. domestic flight.

Still, is the solution to airlines’ financial difficulties that they provide lower-quality service in hopes that customers will upgrade? This business practice seems to walk a fine line between nudging passengers toward paying more and nudging them right out the door to another airline. There are some airlines that still care about quality, apparently. That said, two airlines that consistently receive rave reviews from customers—Canada’s Porter Airlines and the U.S.’s JetBlue—are two that don’t have tiered seating, which likely makes the decision not to periodically downgrade customer comforts an easy one.

Do you have something to share about a recent experience in coach? Lave a comment below or e-mail us at online@where.ca.

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