Bloomberg had a piece yesterday on its TV channel and has a long article up on the web about the future of the first class cabin on many airlines.
In recent years, the airlines have become wiser in adjusting their cabin mix (Economy, Premium Economy, Business and First) depending on the route they fly and the first class gets dropped if there is not enough paid demand.
You can access the Bloomberg article here.
The world’s top airlines are questioning the need for first-class cabins as flat-bed seats cradle corporate customers in once-unimaginable comfort, making the premium on front-row seats harder to justify.
With fully reclining business berths introduced this year by Air France-KLM Group, the corporate cabins of top operators in Europe, Asia and the Middle East now all offer an experience comparable to that available in first for almost two decades.
Among carriers that see limited demand for luxury seats are American Airlines, which is removing them from close to 50 jets, Deutsche Lufthansa AG, where 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) is being spent upgrading business class as capacity in first is cut 30 percent, and even top-end Gulf carrier Qatar Airways Ltd. Others are being bolder, with Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways PJSC adding private suites styled as “The Residence” with a double bed, living area and shower for $20,000 one-way to London.
“The post-recession economy is keenly aware of the cost of travel and airlines will only put first on aircraft where it’s economically justified,” said Henry Harteveldt, founder of Atmosphere Research Group, a travel advisory firm.
Of course this development of reducing the number of first class seats or getting rid off the cabin entirely is not good for the passengers that use miles to upgrade or redeem. We have to bear in mind, however, that the business class cabins with many of the airlines are as if not more luxurious than the first class cabins of yesteryears (not taking the service into account).
When I was researching my options of getting from Hong Kong to Amsterdam this past spring (using miles), I could have redeemed for CX F for little more but that would have ended requiring me to connect in Frankfurt or Milan which would have increased the travel time by close to a half day. Also, sleeping in the business cabin is almost as good as in first. I just couldn’t justify the extra transit time required to fly in F.