Topic Author
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Joined: Thu Apr 15, 2004 8:26 pm

Is First Class Going To Disappear?

Thu Dec 16, 2004 8:26 pm

Feel free to correct me or contribute, but from a lay perspective it seems that:

1) Overall quality of Business class is moving closer to what we might think of as First Class

2) Economy Plus concepts may fill the gap for money-conscious business travellers

2) Many airlines are phasing out First Class on certain aircraft/flights

Just some examples off the top of my head:

*BA has reduced First capacity in favour of Business seats on many routes
*AF has scrapped First on many leisure routes, and offer Business instead
*VS don't offer a dedicated First Class, but have Upper Class instead, which fuses business and first

Can anyone supply more accurate information - which airlines still prefer to offer full 3-class configurations? Which direction is First heading in - up or down?

Finally - with the quality of many business classes, does anyone really need First Class? Do the airlines need First Class to break even? Will we ever see the end of proper First Class?
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RE: Is First Class Going To Disappear?

Thu Dec 16, 2004 8:35 pm

I think your question could be anhanced to ask if there is a need for a Domestic First Class versus an International First Class.

On a two class domestic leg e.g. US or UA or AS, etc, they call it First Class, and it is. Same type of trip, seat, etc for CO or NW is called Business First. Which one is it? Business or First? (It's first class with a fancy name, that's what it is).

International First on the other hand is an entirely different animal. It is truly First Class. A totally different cabin, seat, level of service than international Business Class (which is sometimes comparable to true domestic first).

Will a true and proper first class ever disappear? No, I don't think so. Not internationally anyway. Not USA to Europe, not USA to Asia.

Willa true and proper first class ever disappear domestically? Sure - it did a long time ago on most routes. Exceptions of course are UAs new PS, and other three class configured aircraft. Still, domestic first is not comparable to Internatational First.

Gee, did I make a mess out of that answer or not? Does it make any sense?

I'll have another drink and try again.  Big thumbs up
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RE: Is First Class Going To Disappear?

Thu Dec 16, 2004 8:46 pm

I guess that on many routes (many routes US-Europe, Europe to Mid East, Mid East to certain Asian destinations and Asia to US/Europe), there will remain a demand for First. Whilst BA do seem to be eliminating First on some routes (PEK, Vancouver, Caribbean etc), most routes still have 4 classes.

However, I think you are right that the difference between J and F is smaller than it was and I think we will see upgrading of F to maintain the differential -- rumours elsewhere on this site suggest BA will improve F soon and Emirates 345 product looks fabulous.
cabin crew: doors to automatic and cross-check...
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RE: Is First Class Going To Disappear?

Thu Dec 16, 2004 9:38 pm


Could be the drinks that got to you on that post. CO's BusinessFirst is very, very different from a domestic first product. It's not a true International F product either. The cradle-seats are nearly lie-flat, amongst the widest of all international J seats, and the service is excellent. Even with the new lie-flat J seats in its A330's, I think the NW WBC product is inferior to BusinessFirst, as the seats are very narrow. The J cabin of a NW A330 looks and feels more cramped than a CO 777 or 767. Does anyone know if AA and UA are making money with their international F product, or is it all ff upgrades from J in those seats? In any case, I would very much like to see the american skyteam airlines introduce a premium economy product for long hauls. BA tempted me with a ridiculously low $800 fare in WTP from IAH-EDI via LGW...so I'll be straying from the skyteam fold, briefly.
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RE: Is First Class Going To Disappear?

Thu Dec 16, 2004 11:02 pm

Short haul First went away with de-regulation and was officially killed by the RJ. Now it's more Business class, kind of a half breed. Domestically on any flight under 3 hours, I'd say yes.
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RE: Is First Class Going To Disappear?

Thu Dec 16, 2004 11:07 pm

Whiskeyhotel: ""CO's BusinessFirst is very, very different from a domestic first product.""

Agree completely. My reference to COs B/F was strictly in the domestic realm. CO and NW and some others refer to their front cabin as Business both domestically and internationally, so one must understand the reference - domestic or int'l. Apologies for not making that clear.

Regardless, COs B/F is among the best in the business . . .

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RE: Is First Class Going To Disappear?

Fri Dec 17, 2004 6:25 am

It's all about cost. The more classes you have the more defined the service gets and that costs money. Money you would save by consolidating.
- Different seats
- Different IFE
- Different menus
- Different fares
Not to mention the space onboard the aircraft the F/C's take,
And so on.

It exactly like having to operate different type aircraft in fleet, the more similar product you have, the cheaper it is to operate. Each airline will make their own decision based on cost effectivness but overall (and this is a generalization), you can see there is a move into consolidating F/C's with Business to creat a Business/First class with the rest being coach.
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RE: Is First Class Going To Disappear?

Fri Dec 17, 2004 7:11 am

One reason for the end of First Class, or to a Biz First and to premium coach, is due to increasly tighter rules by many companies, small and large, limiting the use of First Class by name and classification of seats by their employees. Sometimes this is due to rules, often dictated from their clients, limiting the use of First Class service, except for very senior executives or very long flights (USA-Asia, USA-Europe). By calling it a different name (Business as part of it) and more reasonable fares, then works for all parties.
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RE: Is First Class Going To Disappear?

Fri Dec 17, 2004 9:42 am

Let's face it. Travel is now a commodity, and there is an ever increasing focus on cost [for both airline and passenger].

I think we will see the majority of carriers, particular second tier carriers [ie, excluding BA/EK/CX/SQ etc], that will move toward a 2 class product.

TG for example, will have flat bed business class, and upgraded economy with improvded IFE, while maintaining 34 inch pitch in Y class. VERY smart move i think...

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RE: Is First Class Going To Disappear?

Fri Dec 17, 2004 1:42 pm

True first class is called Gulfstream G-V, Cessna Citation, Lear jet, etc. In the near future, the only business travelers will be the corporate staff who don't warrant business aircraft use or those whose companies cannot warrant complete or fractional ownership. Airlines lost the true first class traveler many years ago and the emergence of fractional ownership and modern business practice (especially post WTC) is only making things worse for the majors. The business market is becoming more competitive with the introduction of the low cost carriers and ever dropping executive aircraft prices as Cessna is introducing a whole line of moderate performance, entry level Citations. The airlines that still offer first class may slowly see their business disappear as those who can afford the transition free themselves from the inconvienances and horrors of the flying buses.
"When a man runs on railroads over half of his lifetime he is fit for nothing else-and at times he don't know that."
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RE: Is First Class Going To Disappear?

Fri Dec 17, 2004 2:19 pm

I see first class going bye bye on domestic U.S. flights. Some LCC's are developing their "Business Class" strategy where you get all of the comfort of first class, at prices cheaper than coach on the average legacy. Food is ok, nothing special, just fancier brands of pretzels and cookies. A good deal if you ask me, better than $500 for a FC ticket.
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RE: Is First Class Going To Disappear?

Fri Dec 17, 2004 3:33 pm

You are right on the mark about BizJets taking over the FC market. Lots of companies are upgrading from Citations to Falcons and Hawker or even to Gulfstream equipment. Another concern major corporations have about air travel is security. When you have your own aviation department, you control this as well, and at the company I fly for it is very, very tight. When you are carting around your top management, you don't want anything happening to them.
Plus lots more work can be done on the private jet by the execs. Very few of them just sit back and relax during the flight. We often have meetings onboard, presentations are made, etc. They like the higher productivity and the lack of interruptions and most of all the privacy.
At some larger cities it is not uncommon to see 4 or 5 NetJets moving around on the field at one time or another.
Fly North Central Airlines..The route of the Northliners!
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RE: Is First Class Going To Disappear?

Fri Dec 17, 2004 3:53 pm

According to reviews over at Skytrax, a significant percentage of the PAX in UA First are not even upgrades but Non-Revenue employees. Hell, if I was a UA employee who qualified for an international F NR seat I'd take it NOW.
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