A recent study by Sabre Airline Solutions revealed a new breed of “hybrid” carrier is quickly overtaking traditional low-cost carriers and that more passengers travel on this “hybrid” carrier than on traditional low-cost carriers.
The global study of 540 airlines revealed that out of 123 self-nominated low-cost carriers, 59 percent had added enough complexity to their business model in recent years that seven percent have now evolved into a full-service airline, or were part of an emerging breed of “hybrid” carriers, which blend low-cost carrier traits with that of full-service carriers and amount to 52 percent. Only 41 percent retained true low-cost carrier characteristics including point-to-point routes, single aircraft types, single cabin configuration, simple fares with no interline or codeshare agreements and direct online distribution. Passenger numbers in 2007 showed these “hybrid” airlines carried 64 percent of all passengers in the broader low-cost carrier segment. The study shows that full-service carrier attributes being introduced by low-cost carriers include international routes, use of the global distribution system (GDS), codeshare agreements, connecting services, multiple fares available at any time, advanced ticketing procedures, multiple aircraft types, multiple classes of service, interline agreements and long-haul destinations. Within this context, in North America low-cost airlines that may be considered “hybrid” carriers include Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, WestJet and AirTran Airways. Globally, according to the survey, the trend is just as strong with European carriers like easyJet, Germanwings, Norwegian Air Shuttle, bmibaby, Sterling Airlines, KDAvia, Centralwings, Blue Panorama Airlines and Flybaboo taking on “hybrid” characteristics. In Asia-Pacific, Virgin Blue and AirAsia also fall into this new category.