Tag: Ryanair

The pricing model for low-cost airline seats seems simple. As the seats get booked, so the price rises. Thus the later you leave it to book, the more expensive it will be. But, in fact, it’s not as simple as this. Seat prices sometimes come down as the take-off date approaches. So what is the pricing model?

The general principle of raising prices as the plane fills up still applies. This enables the airline to discriminate between passengers. Holidaymakers and those with flexibility about when, and possibly where, to travel tend to have a relatively high price elasticity of demand. People who wish to travel at the last minute, such as businesspeople and those facing a family emergency, tend to have a much lower price elasticity of demand and would be prepared to pay a higher, possibly much higher, price.

With relatively high fixed costs for each flight, low-cost airlines need to fill, or virtually fill, their planes if they are to make a profit. And it’s not just about the direct revenue from ticket sales. Low-cost carriers also rely on the revenue from selling extras, such as on-board refreshments, hold luggage, hotels, car hire and travel insurance. With variable costs being tiny, the pricing model is about maximising revenue for each flight. So the fuller the plane, the better it is for the airline.

The airlines are very experienced in estimating demand over the period from a flight coming on sale and the departure date. If they get it right, then prices will indeed rise as take-off approaches. But sometimes they get it wrong. If, as time passes, a given flight is filling up too slowly, then it makes sense to be more flexible on prices, cutting them if necessary. Pricing may be easy in principle; but not always easy in practice!


Low-cost air fares: How ticket prices fall and rise BBC News, Erica Gornall (21/6/13)

Pricing strategies of low cost airlines Air Transport Group, Cranfield University, Keith J Mason (2002)
Pricing strategies of low-cost airlines: The Ryanair case study Journal of Air Transport Management, 15, Paolo Malighetti, Stefano Paleari and Renato Redondi (2009)


  1. Does a low-cost airline always charge lower prices than a traditional scheduled airline? If not, why not?
  2. Identify the various reasons why holidaymakers may have a relatively elastic demand for a particular flight?
  3. Explain the system of ‘buckets’ of seats?
  4. Are low-cost airlines engaging in price discrimination and, if so, which type?
  5. Are there any variable costs of operating a particular flight (assuming that the flight does actually take place)?
  6. If demand for a flight becomes less elastic as the date of departure gets nearer, why might a budget airline choose to lower the price, at least for a few days?
  7. Why can Ryanair operate with lower costs than easyJet?
  8. Would it be in low-cost airlines’ interests to charge more (a) to overweight people; (b) for using the toilet?

There has been talk for some time about the possibility of standing room on flights, but it is hardly surprising that this has been rejected by the Civil Aviation Authority. Not the safest option, you might say, nor the comfiest – certainly not for a long haul flight to the other side of the world! However, this could be coming closer to reality, as we see The Skyrider, which is a new saddle-style airplane designed by Avioninteriors. It has yet to be snapped up, but Ryanair could be top of the list with their plans for a new style of flying.

It may not be quite what you imagine – you don’t literally stand up in the stalls at the front of the aircraft. Passengers will have seats, but these seats give a completely new meaning to ‘upright seats’. Seats would be 23 inches apart (some 10 inches closer than we’re used to), but they would only be available for flights up to 3 hours. Despite the publicity, the design is yet to be approved. Ryanair believe that such a design would increase passenger capacity by some 40%. However, passengers remain rather skeptical, as many struggled to fit in to the seats when it was unveiled in New York.

Technological development is vital in any dynamic industry, but is this one step too far? One day, it could be a game of sardines when packing passengers into a plane!

New airline seat for Ryanair resembles a saddle Irish Central, Molly Muldoon (18/9/10)
New plane ‘saddle’ would pack in passengers Edmonton Journal (19/9/10)
Ryanair one step closer to fulfilling dream of getting more people on each plane Travel News, Natalie Cooper (16/9/10)
Budget airlines love bad new stories about how cramped their planes are Telegraph, Harry Mount (15/9/10)
Behold! The world’s most cramped airline seat Reuters, Charlie Sorrel (13/9/10)


  1. Is it a rational decision for a passenger to travel in a new upright seat?
  2. Is it a cost-effective strategy for Ryanair or any other airline to adopt? Explain (a) why it is, but also explain (b) why it may not be cost-effective.
  3. Using a diagram, illustrate the opportunity cost to an airline of providing more upright seats.
  4. If successive airlines adopt the new saddle style seats, what is likely to happen to the price of such seats?
  5. As passengers become aware of these cheaper seats, what is likely to happen to the market price? Illustrate this on a diagram.
  6. If Ryanair were the only airline to offer such seats, does this mean it would have a monopoly? Explain your answer.