As others have stated, as long as the travelling public wants the absolute rock-bottom fare for any route they wish to fly, the airlines will continue to find ways to make the Economy Class experience barer, and less comfortable. Nonetheless, flying is cheaper today than it ever has been before (when one factors in inflation).
Flying also, should one wish to pay the fares that they used to pay for Y today, be as comfortable as it was, if not more so. On some airlines, Premium Economy Class allows passengers to have 'economy-geared' products with some extras. Indeed, these extras where included in a normal Y fare in days gone by, but Y fares where also somewhat more expensive then. If one goes back as far as the 1970s, for the price of a Y BOAC or KLM ticket one could easily find themselves in Business Class today. The premium cabins today are more luxurious, and more comfortable than they have ever been. Those who have travelled in First Class in the 90s and continue to travel in First Class today will certainly attest to that.
I have travelled in Y with Emirates twice, and twice in J- while both times I was not really impressed, that is a different story for a different time. Airlines that provide comfortable Economy Class experiences, like EY
will ultimately have to 'downgrade' these products to be able to compete on the matter that drives most Y passengers, and that is price. If a roundtrip flight on an 11 abreast A380 is £700, and £850 on a imaginary 6 abreast Y A380, I can almost certainly say that the vast, vast majority of passengers will book the £700 flight, and pocket the extra £150. This may be attributed to the lack of knowledge of many of the travelling public- on EK
's most dense flights there are 427 Economy Class passengers aboard- I personally doubt that many are aware of the different comfort levels available on various airlines, and are more likely to book on convenience + price alone. For the passengers that are aware and want a slightly better experience, then Premium Economy Class is offered at a slight premium. I believe First and Business Class passengers are very aware of the different products offered by each airline, for they do ultimately pay thousands of pounds more than anybody else on the same aircraft for the experience that they receive (consequently airlines are doing much to better as well as differentiate their First & Business Class products).
This is common in any industry- take clothes for example. The vast majority of people buy from 'fast-fashion' high street brands, such as Primark, Next, H&M, etc. As long as these brands can downgrade quality and still sell at the same price, they will do so. Nonetheless, companies that offer quality clothes to a discerning clientele (such as Seville Row tailors, Jermyn Street shirtmakers, etc.) know that they must keep a quality product to be able to attract an individual who is willing to spend £1,200 on 6 shirts (as opposed to the £100 the vast majority of people would).[Edited 2013-11-08 20:33:45][Edited 2013-11-08 20:34:45][Edited 2013-11-08 20:36:18]
[Edited 2013-11-08 20:38:56]