Essentially, an airline’s hard product is the plane itself, and the airline’s soft product is the service, food, and the drinks.
Hard product can also be non-airplane constituents, such as lounge amenities. Consequently, the food and drinks in the lounge is soft product, while airline lounge showers are hard products.
The real differentiation is that hard product is hard to alter (requires construction), while soft product can be changed in 5 min with a phone call. Accordingly, limo service is a soft product for the airline (and a hard product for the limo company, at least as far as the car goes). For airplanes, the actual cost of the hard product is the airplane’s downtime during fit out (often greater than the cost of the hardware being added).
Travel consultant and blogger Ben Schlappig (“Lucky”) provides a rule of thumb:
A first/business class hard product is anything physically attached to the plane, which doesn’t differ from flight to flight. For example, the seat, onboard amenities (shower, bar, etc.), size of the entertainment screen, etc.
A first/business class soft product is anything which can differ from flight to flight. For example, food, drinks, service, amenity kits, etc.
One thought on “The Difference between Airline Hard and Soft Products”
Thanks for the explanation!