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