Word on the street has it that international business class is so good that airlines don’t need to offer first class any longer. To a certain extent that is true, with both classes seemingly offering a similar experience.

Where the top class is available, seating counts are being reduced. British Airways used to have 14 seats in their first class cabins and nowadays this has been reduced to as few as eight.

You Need To Offer First Class

A quote from Cathay Pacific’s CEO from June 2018 mentions there are three segments for the first class market. Those are businesses that purchase it, demand from wealthy individuals and of course frequent flyer redemptions. It was noted at the time that the corporate demand was shrinking but that people with money to pay for it was buoyant.

Let’s look at a thing called market positioning. Pretty much every airline that operates long-haul routes offers a business class cabin. That means lie flat seats and decent on board amenities such as the food and entertainment. No matter which carrier you choose, you have a pretty good idea of what you’re going to get.

Generally, only the world’s top airlines offer first class. We are talking Qatar Airways, Lufthansa, Korean Air, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, SWISS, Japan Airlines, Qantas, British Airways, Etihad, ANA, Air France, Oman Air and a few others. These will be the carriers of choice for wealthy people in the future. Amsterdam airport has announced they plan to ban private jets from using the facility, and this type of regulation may force more of these people onto commercial flights in future.

Of course, first class always helps to keep frequent flyers loyal. It is an aspirational product and people will often save their hard earned miles for that once in a lifetime splurge up front on a long flight. There’s also the halo effect that a quality first class cabin gives. Business class has become so similar across airlines that it’s no real big deal in the great scheme of things.

Overall Thoughts

I think quality airlines need to offer first class. The airlines I choose to fly in the oneworld alliance, and those I consider to be excellent, tend to be the ones that have the top cabin. I’m talking Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qantas and British Airways here.

You might get the impression that I often gallivant around the world in first class and would like to see more of it. That is far from the truth – I’m a standard workerbee who heads off to his 9-5 job each day and saves his points hoping that someday even he will get to travel in the biggest seats at the pointy end. In actual fact, I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve actually flown international first class… with fingers to spare!

What do you think? Should airlines offer first class or is it dead? Is there a problem with differentiation? If you regularly fly first or business, what can be done to make first class even better? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Cathay Pacific.
Lufthansa by Konstantin von Wedelstaedt on Airliners.net via Wikimedia Commons.