FLYING first class is a pipe dream for many of us — and becoming even more so as airlines do away with the most expensive seats on the plane.
Qantas’ new 787-9 Dreamliners will not have a first class — only business and premium economy, just as Virgin Australia opted not to include a first when it reconfigured its 777 and A330 aircraft.
Emirates also pulled out the first class seats in some of its A380 aircraft in order to pack in more economy rows, boosting capacity to 615 passengers.
Other airlines to scale back or remove first class seats particularly in new aircraft include Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Etihad and United Airlines.
Etihad’s decision to include First Class on some of its 787-9 Dreamliners but not all, was based on demand for the product in different markets, a spokesman said.
The shift comes as standards rise in business class, with one-two-one seating formats so every passenger has aisle access and their own private suite.
Regional sales manager of Cheapflights.com.au Australia New Zealand, Nathan Graham, said the improvements to business meant in was now as good as first class in many cases but less expensive.
“This has led to increased demand for business which airlines are responding to by removing or reducing first class,” Mr Graham said.
“Premium economy offers are also improving and can be sold at competitive rates.
“With no first class, more inventory can be added for the lower cost/higher demand products alongside economy, allowing planes to fly more regularly at capacity.”
He said it was mostly a positive move for travellers, because it meant more competitive prices on high end products.
“It’s also not uncommon for travellers with more premium tickets to be moved up classes, allowing airlines to sell the higher demand products,” said Mr Graham.
“Those not yet associated with a frequent flyer program should definitely get started now.”
In the longer term, Mr Graham predicted it was unlikely fares would increase to make up the first class shortfall, and to reflect the higher standard in business.
“For airlines it is more important to run full than charge higher prices and risk running empty,” he said.
“Plus raising prices could see an airline lose regular flyers, so travellers are unlikely to see increased fares for business and premium economy.”