Hybrid airlines ‘edging out LCCs’


A new breed of ‘hybrid’ carrier is quickly overtaking traditional Low Cost Carriers (LCCs), according to a study by Sabre Airline Solutions, providers of technology solutions for the airline industry. The study reveals that more passengers travel on a new breed of ‘hybrid’ carriers than on traditional LCCs.
A global study of 540 airlines found that out of 123 self nominated LCCs, 59 per cent had added enough complexity to their business model recently that they had now evolved into a full service airline (7 per cent) or were part of an emerging breed of ‘hybrid’ carriers, which blend low cost carrier traits with that of full service carriers (52 per cent). 
Only 41 per cent retained true LCC characteristics including point-to-point routes, single aircraft types, single cabin configuration, simple fares with no interline or codeshare agreements and direct distribution usually through the internet, the study said.   
Furthermore, passenger numbers from 2007 show that these ‘hybrid’ airlines carried 64 percent of all passengers in the broader LCC segment. 
Maher Koubaa, vice president of Sabre Airline Solutions in Middle East & Africa, said there had been a lot of speculation about the evolution of the LCC model, but up until now no quantifiable research existed to show how these airlines were changing their businesses to stay competitive. 
“The LCC segment is one of the most competitive in the airline industry and this has spurred many pure LCCs to explore new ways of evolving their business to remain competitive and sustainable,” Koubaa said.
“For many, this has meant adopting some full service carrier business practices to help grow their passenger base and expand their reach in the marketplace, although they have often added their own twist on how these business practices are implemented,” he added. 
The study shows that full service carrier attributes being introduced by LCCs include: international routes, use of the global distribution system (GDS), code share 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 the Middle East, low cost airlines that may be considered ‘hybrid’ carriers include Air Arabia and RAK Airways in the UAE; Red Sea and Nile Air in Egypt; Nas and Sama in Saudi Arabia; Atlas Blue and Jet4U in Morocco; Jazeera Airways in Kuwait, and Bahrain Air.