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236 seats in an A321?
Let's take a closer look at an AirbusA321 NEO (configured 3+3) for a low-cost carrier (LCC), fitted with superslim seats at 28in and SpaceFlex lavs in the tailcone. Suzana Hrnkova, head of aircraft interiors marketing at Airbus, contends that this configuration can accommodate 236 passengers, thus:
Above: LCC configuration for an Airbus A321 NEO with a 28in seat pitch (3+3) and with SpaceFlex lav complex at the rear. Does this equate to 236 passengers?
To TwinAisleFeeders, such is pure agony, a combination of inhumanity, a sardine-box environment likely to make passengers feel claustrophobic. It also has an excessive (unsafe according to TwinAisleFeeders) aisle passenger density, of 0.62 sqft/pax. We call upon EASA/FAA regulators’ consciences to require Airbus to demonstrate full compliance with the emergency evacuation test in 90 seconds. We also call upon the AFA to assess the compatibility of this 236-pax layout vs feeder in-flight service union standards. The irony is that seat pitch is shortened to a paroxysm without trading back an iota more transverse ease!
Whilst the creators probably hope to arrange the EASA/FAA certification of the vision through mere cabin compliance paperwork, there is no mention of its chances of groundworthiness compliance. What will be the airport turn-around performance of this layout for fleet schedule planning purposes, if the infamous “757 syndrome” is lurking with its string of inflight and ground service inefficiencies?
Above: TwinAisleFeeders' retaliation. They claim a greater passenger appeal for the twin-aisled H21QR NEO concept @ 28in pitch (1+3+1) = 199 pax
The aisle passenger density of the H21QR NEO concept shown above is 1.48 sq.ft./pax, or 240% better than the A321. Needless to say, whether with the current A32X Series’ 'Enhanced' interior (cabin carry-on OHSV - overhead stowage volume = 405 cu.ft. total in A321 or only 1.7 cu.ft./pax in Hrnkova’s 236-pax configuration) or with the ISIS (Zodiac Aerospace) cabin interior option, at peak-hour (around 100%) cabin load-factors, eight out of the H21QR NEO at 28in (1+3+1) = 199 pax
10 available underbelly AKH container positions are requisitioned for CIL (checked-in luggage), leaving only two AKHs free to carry pay-freight.
This compares with a total 580 cu.ft. available cabin OHSV for the much more carry-on-friendly H21QR (or 2.9 cu.ft./pax = 70% better, whereby five AKHs are left free to carry pay-freight; this difference can be turned into extra revenue:
The above R24h revenue-equations – apart from accounting for the effect of product differentiation upon main deck revenue – propose that single-aisle LCCs ignore airfreight marketing policy with a resulting low FLFcu of 50%, whereas the twin-aisle LCC applies a much more aggressive airfreight marketing policy, achieving FLFfc = 100%; whether or not that carrier will achieve a freight yield boost on top is debatable, but we’ll assume not.
On the main deck, the 76 singles of the twin-aisle cabin fetch a P.E.O.P.L.E.-generated ticket yield surplus of 7% average vs the less pax-appealing 3+3 alternative, while the HQR cabin triples will fetch a 4% average yield surplus vs ditto. Also, the HQR cabin proposal will attract a cabin load factor four points better, rising from average 0.79 for (3+3) to 0.83 for HQR (1+3+1); setting ULD/φ = 10:
Now let's discuss the 24h (daily) productivity, based on a non-curfew lapse of 17 hours from 06:00 till 23:00 and with a schedule slack of 60’: we’ll assume equal loads for the competing two operators: 118kg x 236 +1,134kg x 1 + 400kg* = 29,382kg vs 118kg x 199 + 1,134 x 5 = 29,152kg which is kif-kif.
* 400kg is a conservative estimate of the OWE disadvantage of A321 vs the lighter H21QR
Therefore we’ll assume identical flight time and trip fuel; for the ground rotations, we’ll set (as a proposition, debatable) the airport slot time to 65’ for the Airbus LCC model vs 35’ for the TwinAisleFeeder LCC,from which we calculate with the equation 960’ = (NLsa – 1) x 65’ + NLsa x 90’ (for ‘L’onger feeder route networks), giving NLsa = max six flights in each 24h-period, vs the equation 960’ = (NLh – 1) x 35’ + NLh x 90’, which gives NLh = 8 flights in each 24h-period. For ‘S’horter feeder networks (average flight time = 60’), the results are NSsa = 8 (resp. NSh = 10).
All-in-all, we find that our comparison does not depend on the average ticket price ATP and shows respective 24h-revenues of 1,178.64 x ATP for the single-aisle LCC vs 1,789.35 x ATP for the twin-aisle LCC, or 52% better revenue generation for the twin-aisle feeder solution, mostly due to the higher daily productivity from the more efficient airport ground rotations, partly also due to good use of the H21QR’s better pay-freight potential, product differentiation and cabin pax-appeal.
In terms of 24h net yield, if C24h = [∑(Hourlyi +Cyclici + Fueli) + NSOC] are the costs of operating all legsi in a day, then the twin-aisle LCCH spends Cyclic7 + Fuel7 + Cyclic8 + Fuel8 on top of whatever the costs are for single-aisle LCCs; the extra cargo activity also occasions additional costs. The summations of hourly personnel costs add up to proportional figures for single-aisle LCCs vs twin-aisle LCCs, each of whom's operative personnel having worked for the same active period.
Note that in proportion to the respective cabin crew complements, whereas the H21QR cabin with 199 seats hits MOL’s famous ‘sweet spot‘, the 236-seater needs extra cabin personnel, increasing the costs of operating the A321 type vs the H21QR.
Going into more detail, subdivide Hourlyi into hourly costs as a function of time (eg personnel costs) vs those that are a function of the actual flight time of the aircraft, of 6 x 90’ for single-aisle LCCs vs 8 sweet spot x 90’ for twin-aisle LCCs; in a comparably detailed register, NSOC (Night Stop-Over Costs) are not strictly identical, as cabin crew per diem and hotel costs, for example, are less for twin-aisle LCCs vs single-aisle LCCs.
Concerning other revenue categories (CIL, COL (= ancillaries), frills, IFEC, etc) the situation is either systematically favorable to twin-aisle LCCs vs single-aisle LCCs or neutral: ancillary sales for example depend mostly on the psychological nature of the pax-to-CA direct interface, with much better empathy at work in the 1+3+1 configuration than for 3+3, while the crew also have more time to serve. Also, home cinema-sized video flat-screen advertising, a twin-aisle LCC exclusive, is a totally new source of feeder IFE revenue, which is inaccessible to single-aisle LCCs due to adverse cabin geometry, not permitting installation of 44in x 25in flat-screens.
The above examples are given only to comfort observersthat if H21QR gives 37 fewer seats than Hrnkova’s proposal, in the reality of actual LCC service, or for feeder service in general, the yield challenger is the twin-aisle feeder H21QR, not Airbus’s A321. A paradox come true? Not really, there’s no trick: if you can fly 33% more trips per day, and if in doing this you gain 52% more revenue while keeping crew costs constant, it has to show up in your yields at the end of the day.
The twin-aisle LCC vs single-aisle LCC cargo story holds: if a twin-aisle LCC takes out 37 seats to shorten ground rotations whilst concurrently freeing five of its ten underbelly AKH positions to accept additional payfreight, you’d expect it to do something about line freight strategy, in a way to compensate for the lost revenues on the main deck. The twin-aisle LCC is genuinely interested in airfreight, whereas for the single-aisle LCC, the more pax the better – unreasonably many, given the available cabin OHSV. The single-aisle LCC makes too many pax check in hand-baggage, and those travelers will be frustrated at needing to queue at check-in counters or baggage belts, envying the much more pleasant airport 'walk-in/walk-out' travel experience of fellow travelers opting to fly with twin-aisle LCCs – clearly single-aisle LCCs are unconcerned by airfreight, but it’s their choice.
But let’s assume there is no airfreight demand in the market. “Think realistically” is how defenders of bulk-loaded aircraft usually qualify this assumption. OK, so let’s look at the two competing alternatives through impartial eyes: assume the demand supports 179 pax for a given TODD (time-of-day departure). With the respective CLF = 75.9% for single-aisle LCCs vs 90.0% for twin-aisle LCCs, who’s making more money? Assume now the demand raises to 189 pax : CLF = 80.0% for single-aisle LCCs vs 95.0% for twin-aisle LCCs... again, who’s making more money? Revenues for 199 pax (CLF = 84.3% for single-aisle LCCs vs 100.0% for twin-aisle LCCs) are :
Only when TODD demands exceed 210 pax (CLF ≥ 89%), does the single-aisle LCC start collecting greater revenues vs twin-aisle LCCs – in theory! We contend that things turn out otherwise: the pressure to find a seat onboard the twin-aisle LCC‘s more pax-appealing H21QR just increases, whereas the single-aisle LCC‘s sharp retail psychologists will collect (through their HQR-dedicated CRS-loop = P.E.O.P.L.E.) even higher ticket premiums. Why? Simply because for these peak time flights, passengers – always on a tight schedule – appreciate the 'walk-in' boarding freedom of H21QR (1+3+1): when all aisle-seat passengers are seated (that doesn’t take long), 80% of the cabin traffic is cleared in the twin-aisle cabin, vs only 33% for A321 (3+3), with an adverse EMF (excuse-me factor) of six for the latter, vs only 0.5 (one half) for the former. In the event of a late boarding A or F passenger this means havoc, especially as there is no more stowage room available for their hand luggage... in the end the H21QR passengers will feel the relief of the push-back 12 to 15 minutes before the A321. And upon arrival, the happy H21QR passenger leisurely walks out with his or her carry-on luggage directly onto the next Flybus, gaining another 15 minutes of precious time – a world of a difference in well-being, which feeder travelers will certainly pay more for!
If you ask me to be “realistic”, I’ll tell you this: the greater cabin capacity of A321 beyond today’s 220 pax only exists on paper. In the real world, an A321 (3+3) @ 236 pax is a mirage that nobody will go for; of all the current A321 operators, who ever actually installed 220 seats (the current exit limit of this aircraft type)? Pushing up the seat count for the same cabin floor surface to 236 doesn’t make sense, as such a configuration kills the A321 with excessive cabin density, unbearable aisle jamming, excuse-me havoc, an improper lavatory coefficient and lack of galley volume.
We have established full economic resilience of the H21QR vs the A321 in a ‘zero cargo’ scenario; we have also shown 236 seats is an exaggeration: one cannot hope to pack in passengers pitch-wise to that extent without giving something back in compensation in terms of well-being, transversally speaking validating the equivalence axiom:
The correct capacity gap for H21QR vs A321 at the highest practical cabin density ends up near below 20 seats; we’ve used Δ = 19 seats before!
Based on this rectification, with or without line freight revenues from the lower deck, with or without the revenue complement of product differentiation on the main deck, H21QR (ceo or NEO) on a per trip or per 24h basis proves a resilient yield challenger vs the A321 (ceo or NEO), establishing the end-user-friendly TAO (Twin Aisle Option) as the optimal contemporary feeder, legitimately restoring cabin safety, service ergonomics and passenger well-being aspirations at the very center of feeder service strategy decision-making, in full harmony with equally legitimate operator business objectives.
Indeed, if the trip cost side of the trip yield equation weighs markedly in favor of H21QR (from the quicker airport rotations) and if on top in terms of trip revenue, H21QR is superior to the A321, whatever the market context.
Submitted by TwinAisleFeeders
Tel: +33 6719 81212 or +33 5615 35743
9 December 2014