What Could Be Worse Than Economy Class? Airline Reportedly Considering "Economy Minus"

Can economy class get any more cramped? Yes, it can. (Photo: Ashley Buttle/Flickr)

The scene:  The headquarters of a major U.S. airline, where the brightest minds in the industry are gathered in a conference room.  At the start of the gathering, the airline bigwig who called the meeting begins to address the assembled troops. “Ladies and gentlemen,” the leader begins. “I’m about to task you with the hardest assignment I’ve ever given.”   

The leader pauses for dramatic effect: “I need you to find a way to make economy class even more uncomfortable.”

That scene is fictional, but apparently a similar gathering may have taken place for real. Travel site Runway Girl Network is reporting that a major carrier — whom the site does not name — is considering offering an “Economy Minus” class, which would be even worse than regular economy class. 

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RGN says it spoke to an undisclosed airline at the APEX Expo in Anaheim, California.

Under the airline’s proposed plan, economy class would come in a three-tiered system: “Enhanced Economy,” with a seat pitch (the length between one point on an airline seat to the exact same point on the seat in front of or behind it) of 35-38 inches; “Regular Economy” at 30-31 inches; and the new “Economy Minus,” which would be at a knee-torturing 30 inches and below.

what-is-seat-pitch
what-is-seat-pitch

Seat pitch is how legroom is frequently measured. (Illustration: Yahoo Travel)

RGN points out other airlines — primarily budget airlines like Frontier — already have some form of Economy Minus.  And another travel site, The Points Guy, recently reported Delta has quietly downgraded its Basic Economy class, with new measures that include no advance seat selection before your check-in window and no paid upgrades allowed.

While airlines probably aren’t holding meetings to brainstorm ways to torment passengers, they effectively are being encouraged to do just that. As AP’s Scott Mayerowitz pointed out, Wall Street is rewarding airlines for the profit-boosting practice of cramming passengers on planes. 

It remains to be seen whether this reported “Economy Minus” plan actually pans out. But it’s clear that airline efforts to add to profits by taking away from economy class is now the norm rather than the exception.

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