El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. (TASE: ELAL) is considering adding a premium economy class on its Dreamliners, El Al CEO Usishkin told "Business Traveler."
El Al's eighth Dreamliner, out of 16 ordered from Boeing, recently landed in Israel. The rest will be delivered gradually by 2020.
Usishkin said that the premium economy class was proving itself economically, and adding a row of these seats on Boeing 787Ss was being considered. These seats are currently available on routes to which El Al's Dreamliners currently fly (Newark, JFK, Hong Kong, Paris, Heathrow Airport in London, Miami, Los Angeles, and Toronto).
28 premium economy seats are currently available (arranged 2-3-2, compared with 3-3-3 in tourist class). For passengers, premium economy provides a more spacious seat, added luggage, and a different menu than in tourist class.
The difference in ticket price between tourist and premium economy classes is as much as 100%. For example, on an El Al flight to New York, the starting price in each direction for tourist class is $500, compared with $1,100 in each direction for premium economy (for a flight in early March). Business class seats cost $2,000 in each direction.
Premium economy class seats are common in many airlines. Demand for these tickets is mainly on long flights. Passengers do not want to pay for business class, but are still willing to pay more for a more comfortable seat and extra legroom. British Airways, Lufthansa, and Air Alitalia are among the airlines offering this type of seat.
Usishkin called the premium economy class the "new kid in town." He says that it is not a fad; demand for these seats will persist for the foreseeable future. Usishkin added that the company was emphasizing business passengers, among other things through business and premium economy class, especially in view of the competition on routes to Europe, where El Al was competing with low-cost airlines, such as Ryanair, easyJet, and Wizz Air. Usishkin said that 60% of El Al's turnover came from long-range flights.
Replacing El Al's outmoded fleet with Dreamliners will also finally eliminate first class seats, which the airline still offers on Boeing 747Ss. Various airlines, such as Turkish Airlines, prefer doing without first class on their airplanes, and do not offer it at all on their flights.
Another matter mentioned by Usishkin concerned aviation alliances, which El Al did not join for political reasons. He said, "Today, the alliances are more open to talking with El Al. In the past, they rejected the possibility of El Al joining one of the global alliances, but I think that the geopolitical situation is changing, and there is more receptiveness to us." One of the reasons for this is the trend towards joint ventures between the large airlines, which makes it possible to offer passengers a broader range of destinations and routes operated jointly by the airlines.
Usishkin also commented on crowding and long lines created by the increase in the global passenger traffic. He blamed the airports. "Airlines are improving, but airports are lagging behind," he said. "Technological solutions at various points can ease the crowding, but I don't see this being discussed very much. Matters that are being discussed include security. In this area, there is great interest also among airports, but it comes at the expense of increased frustration among passengers."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on January 27, 2019
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