I think it is more of a case of the classes re-evolving. No company wants to send people in first class, but happily pay for business class. Likewise there are companies that will only pay for economy and not business, but will pay full fare and hence premium economy. If you look at Virgin Atlantic's premium economy, it is probably at the same comfort level that business class was 10 years ago.
First is disappearing, business is getting significantly better and a new class is developing in premium economy. One of the only airlines that still offers 3 classes on all long haul aircraft is UA
. In order for their first suites to be worth the cost they have to be significantly better then their business seats. However in order to do this they must have outdated business seat product which ends up hurting them. Most other carriers have eliminated First class altogether or do not have in on every plane and have replaced it with premium business class seats. It is all a marketing ploy.
In the end first class will probably disappear except for certain premium high yielding routes, and the rest of the routes will have lie flat business and a premium economy. UA
is the only airline in the US currently offering premium economy, but I see others likely to join in the future. Both BA
have done it and others are following suit. Planes will probably stay 3 class, but the such high end business and first class products are causing problems.
An airline can't justify F on every route, but still wants high yielding passengers. The seats today are almost too good. No one can afford to pay for them. First class across the Pacific is $10,000, which is too high for almost any companies' wallet. Classes are evolving with time and eventually first class will be replaced with premium business and passengers will think they are getting a "great" deal, but in the long run, the airlines will gain.
If you have never designed an airplane part before, let the real designers do the work!