(Bloomberg) — Allegiant Airlines, a discounter known for squeezing budget-conscious passengers into seats, is trying to entice customers to pay for a new amenity: extra legroom.
The unit of Allegiant Travel Co. removed a row of seats on three of its Airbus SE A320 jets to offer 30 spots with six inches of extra space. The challenge is to persuade travelers to spring for the additional room.
“It’s been good, but hasn’t been great,” Chief Executive Officer Maury Gallagher said Monday in an interview at the International Aviation Forecast Summit in Las Vegas. “Do you go put it in your entire fleet? We’re not there yet.”
Allegiant isn’t giving up. In fact, it’s converting a fourth aircraft now, echoing a push at other carriers to persuade some coach passengers to pay more for amenities even as others pay less for stripped-down basic economy.
Spirit Airlines Inc., another deep discounter, offers the “Big Front Seat” with extra space and leg room. Allegiant sells its “Extra” package as a bundle, with priority boarding, designated overhead bin space and a free drink, as well as the additional legroom.
Allegiant, which makes most of its money from optional fees and services, tested the amenities over the summer on 85% of its departures out of Los Angeles. The offering will be shifted to its base in Grand Rapids, Michigan, this fall and through the winter, Gallagher said.
The CEO said he was surprised the product didn’t sell better, but he’s willing to give it more time. The airline wants to make sure revenue from the expanded room makes up for the six seats taken out.
“It’s a big investment to go change out the whole fleet,” he said.
But he also voiced a note of caution in remarks to conference attendees, including representatives of airports and airport developers. In some cases, customers just don’t want to pay more, he said.
Passengers “don’t give a damn about your airports and they don’t give a damn about the inside of my airplane.”