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May 23, 2024
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Is Long-Haul first class alive or dead?  Several airlines have eliminated first class and are upping the ante on their business class offerings to nearly first class standards.  Other airlines maintain a distinction between the two, utilizing suites for First Class and lie-flat seats for business class.  One thing is certain, airline business class offerings are moving up, with United and Delta announcing new products in 2016.

Recently, United Airlines introduced its Polaris business class for international flights that includes enhanced business class suites, as well as exclusive lounges on the ground at key airports, upgraded dining, luxury bedding, and drinks.  The Polaris brand is focused on improving the sleeping experience in flight.

Not to be outdone, Delta is now introducing new suite seating for its DeltaOne business class, which already features upgraded dining, luxury bedding and drinks.  The new DeltaOne suites are shown below, and will debut on the carrier’s new A350 aircraft entering service in fall 2017.  Delta’s suites feature a full privacy door and divider panels for center seats.


These suite offerings will now compete with the first-class services of American and British Airways, whose business classes are very good, but do not currently offer full suites.  On the AA website, the link to American’s next generation Business Class is disconnected.  Is a rethink in strategy underway?

In the North American market, two of the big three have eliminated First Class internationally.  Will American follow suit with an upgraded business product that bridges the gap between first and business.  Time will tell.  In the meantime, international first class remains both alive and dead, depending on the airline.


2 thoughts on “Schrödinger’s Long-Haul First Class – Alive or Dead?

  1. Like clockwork, every few years, the “death of First Class” articles appear.

    I don’t think it’s that hard to understand. There are clearly a few major markets where specific economic conditions support a market for first. Airlines which serve those markets (BA, CX, EK, EY) will continue to provide it, some airlines will shrink first to those markets (AA, QR, QF) and a few in peripheral markets will continue trying to balance the halo effect first creates with the cash it consumes (AF, LH, SQ).

    And as comfy and private as some J-class seats become, a cabin with 30-50 seats will never be first class. The service won’t nearly as attentive and the food will be grim (QR catering being the possible exception to that rule). Indeed, arguably, once the “flat and enabling sleep” threshold has been crossed, all the additional investment in J is meaningless to those of us who actually pay for it.

  2. In my opinion, this isn’t business class. They have no higher class of service and the amenities are in the same ballpark of other first class offerings. It’s more like a budget version of first class, but looking at Delta and United’s prices, budget is clearly a relative term.

    The real question is about the death of business class. When the only business travelers who are allowed the 300-500% cost increases they sell these seats for relative to economy pricing are top-level executives, the product is irrelevant to the vast majority of business travelers.

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