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In the News

Flying first class?

Penny Brooks

15th November 2017

Flying first class is something that few of us will ever have the privilege, or luck, to experience - and the opportunity is getting more and more rare.

The first class experience costs a lot. For instance, a return trip from Heathrow to Dubai leaving on 20th November and returning on 27th would cost you £434 in Economy, £4,433 in Business Class and £5,489 in First Class. But the sort of facilities needed to attract customers to the First Class cabins take up a huge amount of space - the individual enclosed cabins and hotel-style bars need not only constant refurbishing, but also more floor space and also extra safety arrangements. 

Looking at the differential between the Business Class and the First Class fares might explain why many airlines are shifting their attention to Business Class, where customers still demand premium services like premium menus with fine wines, and flat beds for long-haul trips. However these can be offered while taking up far less space than First Class, so the return per square foot of the very limited cabin space is much greater.Therefore, evidence suggests airlines are beginning to devote more space to lucrative business-class passengers, who fly more frequently, cost less to serve and take up less space than the occasional elite First Class traveller. 

The article reporting this in the FT is a good read for considering the impact on break-even point. Randy Tinseth, vice-president of marketing for Boeing Commercial, confirms this.“We are finding that first-class is going away in more and more markets.” Few of Boeing’s 787 twin-aisles, for example, have a first-class option, he says, while the luxury service is provided on just 20-30 per cent of the Boeing 777 wide-bodies in operation. “They tend to be on the most lucrative markets . . . like New York, London or Dubai,” he says. 

On the other hand, 'Rubbish' says the president of Emirates. “The notion that we would eliminate first-class in fullness of time? Not on my watch,” he concludes.

Penny Brooks

Formerly Head of Business and Economics and now Economics teacher, Business and Economics blogger and presenter for Tutor2u, and private tutor

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