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First Class, Past Or Present?

Fri Aug 23, 2002 11:07 am


I was wondering what is everybody's opinion of First Class in general? Do you think the First Class service of the 60's and 70's was better then the first class service of today's airlines? I remember my folks telling how on a TWA 747 flight to Rome before dinner everybody was invited upstairs for a special cocktail hour hosted by the Capt. Then when dinner was served the lights were dimmed in the First Class Cabin, arrangements of flowers were set out, and candles were set throughout the cabin. I was thinking to myself, wow that's more then just a flight it's an experience. I've flown First Class a few times domestically and it couldn't come close to that experience. Even on international routes, today's first class cabins seem cold and efficient with ergonomic seats, semi-private suites, and no real sense of class. Does anyone provide old world service anymore???

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RE: First Class, Past Or Present?

Fri Aug 23, 2002 2:19 pm

Virgin Atlantics new upper class seems to be the only "olden days 1st class" around anymore. But that isn't exactly a bad thing. On a 12hr flight would you rather have candles and flowers, or a flat bed with your own ptv and movies? I know what I'd want.

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RE: First Class, Past Or Present?

Fri Aug 23, 2002 3:31 pm

VS's Upper Class does not hold a candle to what F was in days of yore.

Tbird describes that we often find suites in F class. Perhaps our current need for privacy outweighs the older tradition of camaraderie. When is the last time stranger in F socialized with one another?

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RE: First Class, Past Or Present?

Fri Aug 23, 2002 6:16 pm

While we could make the case that the level of "service" in F/C today. versus the level of service in the past, is better, it is at the same time, ironically, worse. While lie-flat beds and PTV's are now the norm, the flair, style and panache of the old days is long gone - possibly forever. I really can't see DL, CO, AA, UA, NW or any of the other domestic US airlines giving a rat's a** about service any longer (nor have they for a long, long time). They are still under the misguided impression that they (the airline bigwigs) understand what their customers want. How can they when they don't even know what customers they're talking about to begin with - business and leisure passengers want different things and for different reasons.

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RE: First Class, Past Or Present?

Fri Aug 23, 2002 6:28 pm

well said mxctrlr...
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RE: First Class, Past Or Present?

Fri Aug 23, 2002 9:47 pm

Well I think things have moved on... for the better or for the worse is personal preference.

With premium airlines like Singapore Airlines offering luxurious flat seats clad in Connolly leather and premium drinks and food and service, First Class is definately the height of luxury.

However, it would seem that in the past there was more contact with the Captain and therre would be bars which would cover a whole upper 747 deck which obviously isn't available today.

Domestic US First Class is a farce. There are no beds which is the obvious factor. How can you call First Class, First if there is no bed / sleeper seat? Airbus and Boeing also concurr with US airlines by giving out dodgy seat maps of aircraft like the 747 and A380.
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RE: First Class, Past Or Present?

Fri Aug 23, 2002 10:42 pm

The times have also changed in those who occupy the seats. Even if an airline was to invite the entire cabin to "cocktail time", there are many businessmen who would stay seated and keep working. It has been my experience with international F that the cabin is generally filled by those who are working...not those that want to go meet and mingle. (Plus they're the only ones that can afford it  Wink/being sarcastic
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RE: First Class, Past Or Present?

Fri Aug 23, 2002 10:52 pm

People today value different things than those in the past. Today people (especially rich ones, the ones in F) are terribly busy and value rest above cocktails with the captain. Quality, quiet and privacy are what people want. Those can be served with Krug, noise-cancelling headsets and personal space. Flowers would be nice, but I think candles are a bit overkill.


RE: First Class, Past Or Present?

Fri Aug 23, 2002 10:53 pm

You also have to remember, when the 747 first entered service, the technology wasn't there for PTVs and lumbar massaging lie-flat beds, and besides, society as a whole was much more social back then, and, airlines were regulated as well (I don't know if that has anything to do with it though).

The Discovery Channel's "747 Jumbo Jet" sums it up perfectly...

"We've gone from piano bars and decks of cards to in seat, in-flight entertainment..."

I wish I could have experienced the lounges and service of the 70s, but I was born in 1982 along with the 767!
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RE: First Class, Past Or Present?

Sat Aug 24, 2002 1:04 am

Singapore_Air - a domestic first class for 1-4 hour flights is a lot different to a long haul first class for 8-14 hour flights. I do think that the US should take up the practice of pretty much the rest of the world (i.e. call it business class, because that is what it is most comparable to between short and long haul). But back to the point, there really is no need for a sleeper seat on such a short flight. If airline A has twice as many first class seats, at half the pitch (say 38" against 76"), than airline B, on a 3 hour flight, it can, provided the demand is there (and it usually is) , fill its first class, charging half the price of airline B. This is a rather simplistic analysis, but it pretty much holds true. It simply makes no sense to offer an extravagant product on a route where it is not as important as price or frequency.

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RE: First Class, Past Or Present?

Sat Aug 24, 2002 5:11 am

I am not sure what is better, present, or past. The past had lots of flair and style while today has lots of comfort and technology. Personally, I think if you combined the style and flair of the past with the technology and comfort of today, you would get the ultimate first class. AA has combined that a little bit with their "swivel seat" so 4 people can have dinner together and then turn their seats and have some privacy and time to work/rest.

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RE: First Class, Past Or Present?

Sat Aug 24, 2002 1:51 pm

A couple of things:

First, the top cabins in those days were open only to those who could afford to pay the extraordinarily high fare, and as such, first class was mainly traveled by only the rich and famous. No FF programs existed in those days to reward repeat customers with complimentary upgrades, so whoever sat up there was no doubt paying for it, or worked for the company.

And a second: History tends to repeat itself in some form or another. Aviation is still a rather new science, but my theory is that if we stick around long enough, it will come full-circle, and everyone will experience once again what it was like to fly in the early Jet Age, a marvelous experience, especially in premium cabins.

So, lastly, with the development of new technologies in speed and aircraft design, we will see a return to those good old days. When these new aircraft come into service, who knows, maybe flights will be as elegant and exclusive as they were once were. We will have to see.
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RE: First Class, Past Or Present?

Sat Aug 24, 2002 4:22 pm

that sure would be nice if today's first class product was as good as yesterday
s, but unfortunately, it isn't. Too bad.
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RE: First Class, Past Or Present?

Sat Aug 24, 2002 8:20 pm

I don't think anything today - Spacebed, Upper Class, Ultimo, Dreamtime, et al, could compare to the flying boats of yesteryear.

Just imagine, on your 9 hour Tasman Empire Airways flight from Auckland to Sydney, adjourning to the dining cabin, sitting down at your tables (facing each other across them, of course!), and looking out the 2 foot high windows at the sea 6000 feet below, as the stewards created your 5-course meal from scratch. Perhaps then, you'd make your way back to the 'lounge' for a cigar, a port, and a quick game of cards.  Smile  Smile  Smile
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RE: First Class, Past Or Present?

Sat Aug 24, 2002 10:52 pm

I think that US domestic first class is really more of a business class product. Personally, I wish they would just ditch it and do the European business class thing. It would make far more sense.

I started flying up front just after deregulation, so the good ole days had already left. But even in coach, pre-deregulation travel was a much more glamorous experience. When I was little (ages 1-4) my parents and I would fly NW to Hawaii at least once a year. This would have been in the late 70's. While I don't remember much about the flights, my parents tell me of being greeted at the door with a leigh and a Mai Tai.

Of course, you paid a lot more for travel in those days.
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RE: First Class, Past Or Present?

Sat Aug 24, 2002 11:07 pm

Oh yes, and lets not forget that in those flying boats, you would endure 15 hours of turbulence, noise, and vibration!
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RE: First Class, Past Or Present?

Sun Aug 25, 2002 4:06 am

With repsect to current 1st class services...how is the service on HA from SFO-HNL?

What are the new cabin interiors like on the 763s, in F & Y?


RE: First Class, Past Or Present?

Sun Aug 25, 2002 4:22 am

I guess in those 'golden oldies' days, very few people could actually afford to fly-especially in the First Class cabin-the flight was an event in itself-the rarity of flying made it an exciting experience.

I guess today, flying has merely become just another mode of transport-a bus service in the skies-everyone flies, cause it's become dirt-cheap.

Out go all the bells & whistles (and government subsidies), and in go all those seats (and the mad scramble for profits).

Still, flying on International First Class today is still something special-especially with airlines who do it with style, like BA. The thing that struck me when I flew on BA's 'FIRST' cabin to Kenya, was just how quiet it was-the only thing to be heard was the gentle sound of air rushing past us-very little engine noise, and not a word from the pax.

I guess that leaves the Cruise ships.....

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RE: First Class, Past Or Present?

Sun Aug 25, 2002 1:11 pm

Seat comfort and space have increased today. I think the quality and freshness of the food on international flights has improved. The overall experience has declined.

The airlines don't even seem to train the f/a's how to offer it anymore. The increased ratio of passengers/attendants has also hurt.

Midwest Airlines, please expand!
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RE: First Class, Past Or Present?

Mon Aug 26, 2002 12:21 am

I think UAL1837 hit the nail on the head - deregulation. Prior to deregulation air fares were set, not competitive. So the only way to compete was service. The money was there due to the set air fares. Today competitive environment simply would not allow anyone to succeed with the service of that era.

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