Topic of the Week: First Class Disappearing


Lufthansa has said it will pull First Class off all A340s and a handful of 747s. This isn’t the first time an airline has ditched First Class. It’s happened over and over again. But when does it stop? Will first Class disappear completely? Should it?

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28 comments on “Topic of the Week: First Class Disappearing

  1. I’ve never thought it made sense to have more than 2 main classes of service on an airplane: cheap class and fancy class. Why do you need “fancy” and more “fancy”? There’s already a large premium for “fancy.” If you must differentiate, the “economy plus” level (basic, but a little more room) makes the most sense to me.

    1. I think we’re moving to a different three cabin standard — economy, economy with a slightly bigger seat and more legroom (think domestic first in the USA) and flat-bed “truly” fancy.

      1. Ironically, this is pretty much the same as before. The new Business Class is what used to be First, Economy Plus is what used to be Business, and Economy is still economy..

  2. I’m with David — with lie-flat beds in Business Class, I’m not going to spend thousands more (miles or dollars) to have slightly nicer foods/wines/amenity kit. Space and comfort are what’s important to me, and Business Class is just fine.

    1. I’ll add a third to that. I’m willing to pay for comfort on a longer flight, ie wider seat, more leg room, lay flat, etc etc.

      I really don’t care about being waited on hand and foot and honestly I think most people are the same way. Other than being kept hydrated, I mostly want to be left alone to my book because honestly, that’s some quality reading time I don’t normally get….

  3. And anybody who would normally choose intl first class over business class is probably already flying a private jet instead…

    1. Pretty much. In a few months, my wife and I are flying Cathay Pacific First Class from the USA to Bali and returning from Bangkok. We did this route a couple of years ago, and the sticker price was $8k in business class. The sticker for this one is $15k. Seriously? A flat bed is a flat bed. Do the bean counters really truly expect that enough people can and want to pay the fare difference for better food and drink, and a slightly bigger seat? There seriously can’t be that many… because those that can and will are flying on a private jet.

  4. To address the question itself, F may never truly disappear, but it will likely be available on select routes only. Perhaps if there’s an important corporate client with a lot of $ who demands the product be available on its regular routes.

  5. The First/Business cabins are getting closer alike on long haul international flights. Some major international carriers may have a first class, but the seat count is small compared to the seat count for business.

    So airlines that go for the private ‘cabin’ feel in first class may keep them, for the rich elite and Hollywood -A- list types that might actually paid for first or at least have the studio pay for it while they make a movie.

    A good question might be why is there still a ‘first’ class on domestic narrow bodies? They should just call it that economny plus type seats and not even insult the First Class of the hey days of flying.

  6. I dont even know naymore what is first calss and business on some carriers. On Delta I went to PDX on Businnes class and it was nice, on the way back to JFK it was calles first class, same seat, same meal, less entertainment, and much less follow up service. No additional drink, second cup of coffee, no can we get you anthing elase. Onley difference was a few hundred dollars more

  7. In a deregulated environment, barring a sentimental or competitive reason to keep first class, it comes down to an economic decision that comes down to how carriers can maximize their margins… Many carriers are finding they can increase revenues to the bottom line by onboard sales and “ala carte” pricing for seat selection, boarding priority, baggage, etc. more effectively than charging higher prices for fewer seats.

  8. I’m with Dan. Econ, EconP and Fancy. I always manage fly up front; terminology makes no difference to me, my only concern is early boarding, no hassel with luggage weight or number, a comfortable seat, lie-flat on a flight more than 5 hours, something to eat and drink. Friendly, professional flight attendants are a nice bonus.

  9. Here is my drill on flights to Europe- two bottles of water at the ready.

    1. One glass of white whine chasing a tylenol PM tablet – afterwards tell attendants no more drinks food- leave me alone until we start descending
    2. Insert ear plugs
    3. Upon reaching cruise altitude place sleeping mask on, pull blanket up to chin
    4. Lower seat to lie flat (unless I am flying Lufthansa and am stuck at 30 degrees)
    5. Go to sleep
    6. Wake up about every 1.5 hours- take a shot of water and go back to sleep

    Other than a lie flat- or almost lie flat bed- why would I care. Like the Red Roof Inn Commercial (I think) used to say “All hotel rooms look exactly the same when the lights are out”

    On the way back- same ritual- except for tylenol pm. Take out E-reader and read or take out lap top and work. Give me no noise, a comfortable business class seat and a fold down desk.

    I could give a rats A** about the food- with the exception of ANA which I must admit serves better Japanese food than any US restaurant on the ground!

    I will pay extra for lay flat. But other than ANA I have never met an airline meal in Business Class that I would spend more than $ 2.50 for.

    For PACRIM Flights- a bit different routine for me- but not much! (other than ordering the ANA Japanese meals!)

  10. On long haul and/or overnight flights all I want is a lie flat bed, decent meals and good wine. I get that in business class. Can’t rationalize the upcharge for First. Domestic flights, up front only if I am using upgrades.

  11. In some ways it already has – cereal as a first class breakfast entree – but we can’t live in the past. . .

  12. “Business class” should be renamed “first class”. That’s what it is, a higher class of service. Not everyone there is traveling on business.

    1. Not a great idea from a marketing perspective. Businesses feel inherently obligated to cover the expense of “business class” tickets for their employees, but not “first class” – even if it was the exact same service. In fact, I’d bet most airlines wish they could go back in time and rename domestic first class “business class” to get the same effect…

      1. Uhhh, I work for a Fortune 500 and my company certainly doesn’t feel obligated to pay for “Business Class” for everyone’s business travel.

  13. I will take a somewhat contrarian view in that while F looks like an endangered species in the short-term, I could see it making a comeback longer term. The reason – the ever longer flights being opened up by the 787 (and possibly the A350). I could see something like SQ’s first class having some appeal on a 17-hour flight from IAH-AKL, as an example, because being able to freshen up with a shower and/or get wined and dined a little might actually have some value on a flight of that length. I sleep like a baby on planes, but even I don’t think I could sleep that long.

    The negative, of course, is that while big companies will pay for biz class for their employees on long flights (> 6 hours at my company), they won’t pay for first. I don’t really see that changing, unless F comes in at a lower price point. And I don’t see too many folks ponying up $15k of their own money to fly in F, unless you’re Carlos Slim or something (and if you were, you probably have your own fleet of jets at your disposal).

  14. Thinking about international long-haul, what we now call business class and premium economy 20 years ago would have been termed first and business class.

    We’re witnessing the combined impact of “product creep,” bad pricing strategies, and the dilution of product quality/integrity through frequent flier upgrades.

  15. I only fly First. Why? Because Business of the 2000’s is what Economy used to be in the 90’s. Over crowded, less and less space. The lounges are no more than souped up cafeteria’s full of bogans. First gives me the quiet and the space and the lounges and on-ground service that I need without credit-card points people.

  16. To be quite frank, I never understood the concept of “first class” flying. Sure, it’s nice to sit in comfier seats and have slightly better in-flight service. I’m sure the extra leg room is nice, though walking through some airplanes the first class seating space does not look substantially different from coach. I’ve always been of the mindset that one should spend the money on something more useful (or at least something that lasts longer). Even if you’re flying across the world, you probably won’t spend more than half a day on an airplane. Why not spend the extra money on something fun to do at your arrival destination? Then again, I realize that many of those who travel first class do not need to be so concerned with how they budget their money. My verdict? Get rid of first class–it’s a bit excessive.

    1. Well, Ruth, if you had legs as long as mine, you’d understand why I will spend the money and/or the miles for legroom. If you had shoulders as wide as a linebacker like mine, you’d understand as well. And I’m a girl! I agree with most posters that offering a 3-class service airplane is dumb. Those of us up front need the extra room and have grown used to the extra service, but biz or first – makes no matter what they call it.

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