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Question: Could F Class On US Carriers Be F Again?

Mon Oct 31, 2011 12:56 am

For the vast majority of flights within the US, i.e., excluding perhaps only JFK-LAX, first class has become a loyalty program. Few passengers in the F cabin pay F fare and many "elite level" flyers have developed a sense of entitlement for upgrades (see flyertalk.com). DL has a strategic imperative to "Monetize First Class." VX appears to be the only US airline not embracing the current loyalty model.

1. Do US airlines have any interest in changing the current model?

2. If US airlines want to change the current model, what would it take?

3. How successful has VX been in bucking the trend?

4. What would first class service on domestic flights be like if passengers actually paid first class fares?

[Edited 2011-10-30 17:57:07]
 
RamblinMan
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RE: Question: Could F Class On US Carriers Be F Ag

Mon Oct 31, 2011 3:36 am

Well, there is less premium demand these days as most companies just flat-out won't pay for it unless you're a top exec, and then you likely fly private so it doesn't matter. That being said, you can't help but blame the airlines for creating this situation IMHO. They started giving away elite upgrades, then started cutting back on F-class perks...justified, of course, because fewer pax are actually paying for it. In turn, even more pax started deciding that paying for F simply wasn't worth it, service was again downgraded, and the cycle continues. Domestic F is really nothing more than premium economy these days, and elites absolutely feel entitled to it.

I think the only way to go back to having an actual First Class, and actually selling tickets, would be to first eliminate it on most routes and use an improved version of UA's economy plus as an elite perk. Then re-introduce first class on a very limited basis, only on the routes where it is justified, and make it an actual premium experience: Lounge access, a minimum of 40'' pitch, and a 3-course meal on every flight. It wouldn't even be offered on the majority of routes, but on the routes where it is offered, it would not be given away to anybody.
 
57AZ
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RE: Question: Could F Class On US Carriers Be F Ag

Mon Oct 31, 2011 4:03 am

No. They cannot afford to charge the actual amount that first class is worth on most routes. The quality on domestic services is not usually enough to command a premium and very few people that would actually pay for it still fly commercial. Airlines simply are irrelevant to those companies that can afford fractional airplane ownership. The best general model would be for the airlines to improve domestic coach simply do away with domestic first class entirely.
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Cubsrule
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RE: Question: Could F Class On US Carriers Be F Ag

Mon Oct 31, 2011 12:36 pm

Quoting RamblinMan (Reply 1):
Well, there is less premium demand these days as most companies just flat-out won't pay for it unless you're a top exec, and then you likely fly private so it doesn't matter.

Not necessarily. If I'm buying close-in on AA, restricted F is often cheaper than flexible Y, and every client will pay for it if it's the cheapest ticket available.

Quoting 57AZ (Reply 2):
No. They cannot afford to charge the actual amount that first class is worth on most routes.

How much more than Y is it "worth?" In a typical setup on a narrowbody, F probably causes a 5-7 percent loss in seats, and the perks aren't all that expensive, likely not even $50 per passenger per flight. So a passenger on, say, an ORD-east coast flight who pays $200 or $300 more for F is probably covering all costs associated with F, and a passenger who pays $75 at the gate for an upgrade is probably covering the costs associated with the better service.
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RamblinMan
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RE: Question: Could F Class On US Carriers Be F Ag

Mon Oct 31, 2011 1:44 pm

Quoting Cubsrule (Reply 3):
If I'm buying close-in on AA, restricted F is often cheaper than flexible Y, and every client will pay for it if it's the cheapest ticket available.

I've seen that situation before, but I would think that's the exception rather than the norm. My point is that most domestic business travel these days is either in coach or a private aircraft. Far fewer folks actively seeking out F-class tickets. Now if you're in the entertainment industry, things are different...

Quoting 57AZ (Reply 2):
They cannot afford to charge the actual amount that first class is worth on most routes.

Right. What it boils down to is that space is worth more to the airline than to the customers. Something is only "worth" as much as you can get someone to pay for it. And domestic F isn't worth much.

Quoting Cubsrule (Reply 3):
In a typical setup on a narrowbody, F probably causes a 5-7 percent loss in seats

How are you figuring that? Because on a 737, even if you don't increase the seat pitch at all, having 2-2 in F as opposed to 3-3 in Y is a loss of 33%. However I don't dispute this:

Quoting Cubsrule (Reply 3):
So a passenger on, say, an ORD-east coast flight who pays $200 or $300 more for F is probably covering all costs associated with F

The problem, of course, tying back into what 57AZ was saying...is F even worth that? I mean, seriously, we don't even get lounge access on a domestic first class fare! And the quality of the meals is often lacking...if they're offered at all. So all you get is a larger version of a coach seat and some free booze, which is why it's no surprise so few people pay for it.
 
Cubsrule
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RE: Question: Could F Class On US Carriers Be F Ag

Mon Oct 31, 2011 1:59 pm

Quoting RamblinMan (Reply 4):
How are you figuring that?

The cabin isn't all F. You lose 2 seats per row plus a row of Y, usually. So for a 12 seat F cabin, it's something like a loss of 12 seats on a ~150-160 seat airplane.

Quoting RamblinMan (Reply 4):
I've seen that situation before, but I would think that's the exception rather than the norm.

Depends on the route. I see it a lot on routes like BNA-MSP or CHA-LAX where you have one leg on an ERJ and one on mainline/CR7.
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RamblinMan
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RE: Question: Could F Class On US Carriers Be F Ag

Mon Oct 31, 2011 5:40 pm

Quoting Cubsrule (Reply 5):
The cabin isn't all F.

Oh ok you mean the total cabin, I was talking about seats/unit area. Thanks for clarifying.

Quoting Cubsrule (Reply 5):
I see it a lot on routes like BNA-MSP or CHA-LAX where you have one leg on an ERJ and one on mainline/CR7.

Interesting...and also quite telling that they feel the need to sell first class cheaper than unrestricted coach.

The simple fact of the matter is I've never had a flight in F where I felt it was worth paying any sort of meaningful premium for it. Don't get me wrong...If I get an elite upgrade I don't expect the world and I have always been quite satisfied. I just wouldn't pay for it.
 
Cubsrule
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RE: Question: Could F Class On US Carriers Be F Ag

Mon Oct 31, 2011 5:54 pm

Quoting RamblinMan (Reply 6):
The simple fact of the matter is I've never had a flight in F where I felt it was worth paying any sort of meaningful premium for it.

I will pay - and have paid - $50 or $75 for F on AA at the gate. I probably wouldn't pay it for some other carriers (e.g. DL).
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RamblinMan
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RE: Question: Could F Class On US Carriers Be F Ag

Mon Oct 31, 2011 6:21 pm

Quoting Cubsrule (Reply 7):
I will pay - and have paid - $50 or $75 for F on AA at the gate.

Exactly. Fifty bucks for an upgrade is one thing, especially if you have a middle seat or something. Actually buying a first-class ticket...that's something else. And you said it yourself- you wouldn't even pay the fifty on DL.

Maybe NK has it right- keep it all Y class but have a few nicer seats up front that can be reserved for a fee.
 
blueflyer
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RE: Question: Could F Class On US Carriers Be F Ag

Tue Nov 01, 2011 8:44 pm

Quoting RamblinMan (Reply 1):
I think the only way to go back to having an actual First Class, and actually selling tickets, would be to first eliminate it on most routes and use an improved version of UA's economy plus as an elite perk. Then re-introduce first class on a very limited basis, only on the routes where it is justified, and make it an actual premium experience

I think it's an excellent idea for the domestic market, but it doesn't address the international market, which often relies on a domestic connection. Say I have to fly from DFW to CDG, a trip I have done several times. Right now, I fly with CO through EWR. Take away F and put me in E+, and I'll switch to AC via YYZ or to our preferred European carrier that'll put me in international C straight out of DFW with just a short hop of an hour or less in "European C" at the end of the TATL leg. Either option is much more comfortable than over two hours in E+.

I wasn't being sarcastic when I said your idea was excellent, but I believe it will not be implemented because the domestic market is also an extension of the international market, and E+ simply isn't good enough. US carriers will lose a lot of customers bound for Asia and Europe, in my opinion.

To a certain extent, it's already happened. I've flown regularly from LAS to CDG. Lately, it's been on AC. Their upfront product to YUL is much better than what any US airline can offer between LAS and their hub.

[Edited 2011-11-01 14:05:28]
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RamblinMan
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RE: Question: Could F Class On US Carriers Be F Ag

Tue Nov 01, 2011 9:38 pm

Quoting blueflyer (Reply 9):
I think it's an excellent idea for the domestic market, but it doesn't address the international market, which often relies on a domestic connection.

Well, this is true, but I don't see the problem as there are lots of possible itineraries that already involve a domestic leg on a single-cabin RJ. DL has that 750-mile rule, but UA/CO runs ERJs on some pretty long routes already.

And even if a flight to a hub has insignificant premium O&D demand, if there is enough connecting traffic in J or F I'm sure the carrier will figure out to put a bird with F on that route even if it's just for one of several daily flights.

Quoting blueflyer (Reply 9):
"European C"

Is basically Y+. IIRC KL doesn't even block the middle seat like LH does. On the whole I doubt we would be worse off than putting up with the pseudo-premium product that currently exists. There would of course be some disgruntled fliers with this system, and you may be one...but as you've pointed out, you have other options such as AC. And as you also pointed out, AC's shorthaul F is already way better than domestic F on any U.S. carrier.

Our personal preferences aside, I wonder how much leakage of this sort actually exists? I personally try to fly foreign carriers no matter what class, and others on here do the same, but what about your average J-class flier?

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