As the world starts to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for travel has taken off again. According to RDC Apex Schedule module (powered by OAG) overall capacity in Europe for the IATA summer 2022 season is around 92% of the number of seats in summer 2019. However, the industry has faced staff shortages, especially cabin crew, forcing some airlines to cancel hundreds of flights at short notice.
To tackle this issue, easyJet has recently announced that it will remove one row of seating from its UK A319 aircraft, allowing them to operate flights with one fewer member of cabin crew. According to the UK’s CAA regulations, one member of cabin crew is required for every 50 physical seats (not 50 passengers!). As easyJet’s A319 aircraft is currently equipped with 156 seats it therefore needs 4 cabin crew - removing just 6 of these seats means that the airline will be able to assign only 3 cabin crew per flight.
Looking at easyJet’s schedule from Jun-Oct 22, 37% of the total seats to and from the UK are planned to operate using an A319 aircraft. Removing one seating row from the low-cost carrier’s entire UK A319 fleet will see around 470,000 fewer available seats during the summer season (1.5% reduction in capacity) and equivalent to more than 3,100 flights.
Reducing the number of cabin crew on board will help reduce the overall operational cost of providing the service and we can use RDC Apex Route Performance module to model the impact of this. We’ll analyse the overall impact on cost on a flight from London Gatwick (LGW) to Amsterdam (AMS), a route commonly operated by easyJet with an A319.
Using the carrier’s pre-pandemic load factor of 91.5%, there would be 143 passengers on average on each flight before the seating row is removed. Assuming this same number of passengers travel on the reconfigured A319, the crew cost would be £46 cheaper per rotation with only three cabin crew onboard. This is lower than the weighted average fare that easyJet was charging during the 2019 IATA Summer season £51 as shown by our Apex fare module.
All things considered, instead of continuing to axe the schedule flights during the height of the IATA summer season, easyJet have decided to address the issue of staff shortages by removing 6 seats from its UK A319 fleet. In a statement released by the low-cost carrier, this measure is “an effective way of operating our fleet while building additional resilience and flexibility into our operation”. Whilst this will result in a reduction in capacity (by 1.5% Jun-Oct 22) and deliver negligible reductions in operating costs, it is clearly a better outcome than axing flights for both passengers and easyJet themselves.