Summer 2022 was, at least in Europe and North America, supposed to be a banner season for travel. On both sides of the Atlantic carriers sought strong summer schedules to capitalize on the rebound in travel demand after two years of drought. As staffing numbers come up short, however, operational reliability plummeted and many airlines were forced to admit that perhaps their summer dreams were too grand.
For most of the carriers that means shrinking the schedule. JetBlue, Spirit Airlines, British Airways, Ryanair‘s Lauda subsidiary, and many others cut flights up to 10% from planned summer operations, hoping to deliver more reliable operations against the smaller schedule.
Regulations require one flight attendant for every fifty seats on board, whether occupied for the flight or not. The EasyJet A319 cabin today carries 156, requiring four flight attendants to work each trip. By dropping a row of seats, however, the company can also drop a flight attendant from the cabin. Even as the carrier continues its hiring push, the move should relieve some staffing pressure.
For July 2022 the A319 is scheduled to operate just more than 18,000 departures for the carrier according to Cirium. That’s about a third of the company’s total flights. And a lot of travelers who are now more likely to find a flight operating without staffing issues.
EasyJet benefits from this being a relatively easy changeover to the cabin. Removing a row can be a quick change, and virtually no customers already holding tickets for the summer are at risk of displacement. At worst, a seat assignment might change. But given that those seats typically sell last, odds that any flights are already booked to more than 150 passengers are near nil.
It does mean that the company might miss out on a bit of extra revenue, but it should be able to adjust revenue management processes to mostly cover the shortfall. And, at the end of the day, most travelers should get where they want to be, which is the most important part.
Plus, as the flight attendant ranks return to full staffing levels the seats can be returned to the planes just as easily as they were removed.
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