Economy class cabins on international flights are shrinking all the time. Business class is getting larger and premium economy has encroached on the space as well. Will airlines eventually ditch economy class altogether?

Of course, I am specifically referring to long-haul services, as there is no hope of it going on short-haul or domestic flights. So who might be first to take the plunge?

Economy Class In The Past

Before we come to that though, let’s go back to the past. When you look at old seating plans, you can see that the majority of the plane was taken up by economy class seating.

Virtually everything rear of the first set of doors on the main deck of a Boeing 747 was economy class. Referring to the passengers as “those down the back” really didn’t mean much then.

All the way through to the 1990s and 2000s, the picture is pretty much the same, no matter what the airline happens to be.

The Modern Era Shows Changing Consumer Demand

The 21st century has seen some changes. First, lie flat business class seats are now the standard across most airlines and second, the introduction of premium economy. Premium economy caters to a growing segment of the market, the retired boomers with cash to burn.

It is also attractive to those business people who have an economy class only travel policy. Both the lie-flat business class and premium economy class seats take up a lot of room and that comes from what was formerly economy class.

Who Might Be First To Ditch Economy Class?

Airlines with large long-haul networks who offer four classes of service would be the contenders here. Examples would be airlines like Lufthansa and British Airways, as you can see below.

Less than one third of these aircraft are configured with economy seating, which is completely the opposite of the trend in the past. Singapore Airlines have gone one further and removed economy class from their ultra-long range Airbus A350s.

The reason for this is solely so the aircraft has enough range – and economically makes sense – on the chosen flights. It does again support the argument that economy class is gradually becoming less relevant.

Overall Thoughts

With a population that is growing richer as time passes, people are able to pay more for better seats when travelling. This translates to more money for the airlines and there is definite shrinkage of economy class cabins as a result.

Whether any airline will ditch economy class altogether will depend on economics. If they can fill an entire aircraft with first, business and premium economy, then there won’t be any need for the deeply discounted cheap seats.

That being said, it will take a brave CEO to drive such a change and make a success of it. However, I do feel it will occur and probably within my lifetime.

What do you think of all this? Poppycock or is there some merit to it? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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TWA Seat Map via Airlines Past & Present.
Air Canada Seat Map via Airlines Past & Present on Pinterest.
United Seat Map via Frequently Flying.
Qantas Seat Map via Pinterest.
Lufthansa and British Airways modern seat maps via the respective airlines.
Singapore Airlines seat map via