Want a bit more comfort on your next Allegiant flight? Travelers to and from Los Angeles now have the option to pay up for “Allegiant Extra” on board, offering a number of premium seating benefits, though stopping short of a true premium economy seating product.
Allegiant Extra Seating
The new Extra product delivers a minimum of 6 inches extra pitch for travelers compared to the regular economy class seats. Once on board these travelers also receive a complimentary drink. Extra passengers also receive priority boarding, designated overhead bin space and priority boarding.
Of particular note, the Extra offering is delivered without changing the seating count on board. An extra row of seats is added behind the window exits, making for a tighter squeeze in the back half of the plane. It also reduces the Legroom+ seating option on board, essentially converting those to the Extra option. The price point for Extra seats is marginally (~$15) higher than Legroom+ in spot checks of flights, suggesting the potential revenue is higher. Whether the costs of delivering the extra benefits outweighs the increased revenue remains to be seen. The company may also find itself giving the product away more often if its customers are not willing to stump the extra cash.
Drew Wells, VP of Revenue & Planning, described the nascent effort as delivering mixed results, “Nothing definitive in terms of overwhelming success and certainly nothing that’s an absolute train wreck.” Not surprisingly, the option sells better on longer flights.
The company continues to work on the merchandising efforts around the project, hoping to deliver better sales numbers as the test continues. Wells also noted that the reconfigured aircraft will likely be based in Grand Rapids for the winter season to help the carrier continue to experiment with the Extra product in different markets. At the end of the 2019-2020 winter season the company will make a decision as to the future of the program.
We’re forecasting nothing but better results on [Extra] moving forward. That said, if we come out of this winter and still can’t piece it all together, then we’ll have no problems on the plug on it. But I do think this is going to be successful.– Drew Wells, VP of Revenue & Planning
This is not the first time Allegiant toyed with premium seating opportunities for passengers. The prior iteration offered “Giant Seats” on the 757-200s serving Hawaii, driven by the need for those seats to accommodate pilot rest requirements. The efforts came up short and the Hawaii service was cut in 2015, taking the fancy seats out of service along the way.
Reliability beats cheap
One of the reasons Allegiant can easily experiment with new programs like the Extra seating concept is the fleet refresh that is now complete. The airline’s A320 family fleet is dramatically more reliable and efficient than the MD-80 family it replaced. This leads to increased utilization opportunities and reduced costs associated with operational failures. CEO Maurice Gallagher summarizes the situation simply, “While the capital outlay for an Airbus is certainly greater than we paid for our MDs, the increased cost has more than offset the fuel burn savings and the additional 20 seats in the A320.”
Owing to the increased reliability the carrier is now able to schedule more hours on each aircraft during peak demand times that justify such. In March and June 2019 the carrier ran its planes 9.7 hours per day, an increase from 8.3 and 7.8 in the same months of 2018. The company must still walk a fine line in terms of increased capacity versus demand. In the leisure travel trough of September the carrier intends to fly only 4 hours per day on its frames, a drop in capacity from the prior year. Gallagher continues, “Going forward, the combination of our improved operations, particularly in peak months and the enhanced flexibility this fleet provides, are going to be fun to watch.”
The new aircraft are also dramatically more fuel efficient. For the first half of 2019 the company operated 4,400 more flights than in 2018 carrying 600,000 more passengers. It did so with 9 fewer aircraft in the fleet against a steady total fuel consumption number. Fuel costs decreased YoY thanks to a drop in the per gallon price, while the company added $81 million in incremental revenue thanks to the additional passengers carried.