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Why Do Airlines Get Rid Of International F Class?  
User currently offlineSighMN From Australia, joined Sep 2011, 19 posts, RR: 0
Posted (2 years 7 months 2 days 14 hours ago) and read 4555 times:

I am just wondering what drives airlines to remove their First class product internationally? There seems to be a lot of advantages of a first class cabin:

1) Marketing for the airlines. A lot of airlines showcase their flagship first class cabin in their advertising
2) Airlines with F class cabins are attractive to business travelers. As they can use their miles to upgrade from business to first (a nice frequent flyer perk).
3) It usually has a max of 12 seats and therefore takes up a small amount of the cabin (despite the usually large size of the individual seats). Most business classes have similar seat pitch anyway.
4) It attracts the really high end customer (= high revenue passengers) like celebrities, CEOs etc not only because of the luxury afforded but the privacy of the small cabin.
5) A good way to absorb frequent flyer miles. A lot of people may not pay for a first class seat, but they would certainly use miles or upgrade from business.
6) An airline that doesn't offer first class may find it harder to compete for premium passengers on competing routes.
7) It would avoid disgruntled passengers (i.e. people on RTW first class tickets who inadvertently book a leg on an airline that does not offer first class)

It seems like airlines that don't offer first class internationally are sacrificing a lot for higher loads. I know my personal experience is that even though Air New Zealand is a wonderful airline I kind of avoid flying them for the most part because of their lack of first class. I can really relate to number 7, as I usually luckily enough get to fly in international first class mostly nowadays, and there is nothing more annoying than booking a trip where one section of the trip doesn't have first class. You still pay relatively the same fare, but are getting a relatively inferior product.

Just to further the dicussion here is a USA today article about this from a different perspective with comments:

http://www.usatoday.com/travel/fligh...s/2010-10-18-firstclass18_ST_N.htm

[Edited 2011-09-16 14:35:30]

6 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineRamblinMan From United States of America, joined Oct 2010, 1138 posts, RR: 1
Reply 1, posted (2 years 7 months 2 days 12 hours ago) and read 4539 times:

1.) A high-quality business class product can be just as effective in marketing materials.
2.) see above. A high-quality J product is even more attractive to business travelers. Not many company policies allow paid F these days, so J is where you sit- and that's if your company hasn't gotten really stingy and started buying Y!
3.) It's more often fewer... do you have any idea what a yield-management nightmare it is to have such small numbers of seats?
4.) There's only so many of those types, and there are only certain routes that will have many paid F tickets at all. If an airline only flies 3 or 4 routes that could justify having an F cabin, is the additional revenue worth a subfleet?
5.) The whole point of award tickets is that you're only "giving away" a seat that would otherwise have gone unsold. Quite a horrible use for a valuable first-class seat actually. Besides, an even better way to absorb miles is to systematically devalue them, a la DL.
6.) Again you have to weigh the actual number of expected PAID F bookings against the cost of providing the service and the cabin space it takes.
7.) I have no idea how many RTW tickets are sold, but I do know that they are the minority of premium-cabin bookings, and that they aren't the highest-yielding tickets anyhow. Not really a market segment worth worrying about too much.

Space on an airplane has a huge opportunity cost. In the space of 12 F seats you could have perhaps 20 J seats, or 40Y. If you're going to have 12 people taking up the same space as 40 others, you had better be generating a damn good yield on the 12, or it just doesn't make sense.

It's not that airlines have a grudge against the first class cabin, it's that when the seats are mostly full of upgrades and non-revs you need to find a better use for that space.


User currently offlineDL_Mech From United States of America, joined Feb 2000, 1906 posts, RR: 9
Reply 2, posted (2 years 7 months 2 days 9 hours ago) and read 4525 times:

Quoting RamblinMan (Reply 1):
It's not that airlines have a grudge against the first class cabin, it's that when the seats are mostly full of upgrades and non-revs you need to find a better use for that space.

When DL had International F, employees could not non-rev in F and could only sit in C class until it was 75% full. Otherwise, you sat in Y. This policy changed sometime in the mid '90s.



It's not going to the Moon.....It's just going to California
User currently offlineSighMN From Australia, joined Sep 2011, 19 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (2 years 7 months 2 days ago) and read 4464 times:

Quoting RamblinMan (Reply 1):
It's not that airlines have a grudge against the first class cabin, it's that when the seats are mostly full of upgrades and non-revs you need to find a better use for that space.

Yeah I always wonder about this statement. I know some Airlines like United are full of non-revs and upgrades (but the upgrades from business to first was a huge draw for many a business traveler including me). Other international airlines don't have as generous of staff premium cabin or upgrade policy, and their product is sometimes worth paying the extra money. I know I check seat loads in F class quite a bit on expertflyer and there are tons of seats taken months before the flight is due. These can't all be due to award tickets and even less likely upgrades. A lot of international airlines also make award tickets in F a closer match to the monetary value of the actual seat. The discounted award F seats are few and far between.


User currently offlineRamblinMan From United States of America, joined Oct 2010, 1138 posts, RR: 1
Reply 4, posted (2 years 7 months 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 4430 times:

Quoting SighMN (Reply 3):
Other international airlines don't have as generous of staff premium cabin or upgrade policy, and their product is sometimes worth paying the extra money. I know I check seat loads in F class quite a bit on expertflyer and there are tons of seats taken months before the flight is due.

You're clearly talking about airlines like EK. 2 things... different home market, and even these carriers don't offer F on all routes. There clearly is a viable market for first class on certain routes, I never said otherwise. But it's clear that such routes are the minority, which is why you'll find certain carriers offering F some of the time, and others offering it none of the time. UA had a policy of having 3-class service on every international route, which is senseless for any carrier, especially one based in the U.S.


User currently offlineViscount724 From Switzerland, joined Oct 2006, 24061 posts, RR: 23
Reply 5, posted (2 years 7 months 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 4404 times:

The simple answer is that very few routes have enough true F class demand to justify offering the product. And where there is demand it's usually highly seasonal and varies widely by day of week. I've been on many longhaul international flights where the F class cabin was either completely empty or only had one or two passengers out of 15 or 20 seats, and they could well have been non-rev employees or FFP redemptions. On many of those flights they could have sold the 40 or 50 Y class seats that could have been installed in the same space.

User currently offlineFlyboyOz From Australia, joined Nov 2000, 1969 posts, RR: 26
Reply 6, posted (2 years 7 months 1 day ago) and read 4351 times:

Yeah...also why the airlines want to add premium economy class and to get rid of first class. I guess it's because they want to have more pax in the Y+ (helps airlines to have more profit) rather than only one pax in the first class cabin.


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