The End of First Class on Flights?

By | Category: Travel rumblings

Last week Air New Zealand announced that they were introducing 22 almost flat beds for economy class passengers. BMI said that they were doing away with first and business class flights on some routes and Qantas says it is scrapping about 20% of its first class seats. Are we beginning to see the end or the decline of first class seats on flights?

 Certainly over the last twelve months or so, when I’ve walked through first class cabins there have been few people in them. In business class, numbers have been light. In the US it is hard to tell how popular first class is (they don’t have a business class on domestic flights) because so many people on economy tickets but with gold or higher frequent flyer status get upgraded leaving the airline the ability to sell more economy class tickets. But flying on BA, BMI, Lufthansa and Aer Lingus recently seems to suggest they aren’t flooded with business class bookers.

Ryanair, easyjet and the other low cost airlines have attracted lots of business passengers away. Some companies have changed in-house rules restricting the use of business class for its employees. Last year, the then First Minister in Wales, Rhodri Morgan, had to admit that, contrary to rules , some civil servants did not fly in economy class as was supposed. So if even civil servants are being restricted, then can it be any longer before more airlines swap some seats in the upper classes for economy seats.

The same happens on trains. Coming down to Swansea yesterday, the first class carriage that I walked through to get to my economy class seat had 3 people in it. As a regular user of the London to Leeds and York rail services, three or four first class carriages are usually 75% empty. 

Will the numbers rebound as the economy improves? Who knows but I bet a lot of airline CEO’s are praying that they do? Or will all airlines become Ryanairs?

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