Airlines have used the A380 and 747 for a long time to showcase their flagship first-class amenities. The large cabins onboard allow airlines to become creative and make iconic products reserved just for the first class, such as the Singapore Airlines first class Suites or Etihad’s Residences. However, with the A380 and 747 now heading towards the direction of retirement, what will airlines do with first-class on the smaller twin-jets?. So here is a blog that would give you a basic and better understanding of the future of First class and the superjumbos.
Why only the A380 and 747?
Both the A380 and 747 have come to represent the elegance of airline luxury, featuring top-class suites, showers, and more. The main reason for this is one: space onboard. The large cabins of these planes allow airlines to add a lot of extra amenities and still have enough space for more passenger seats. This is also the reason most airlines offer first class on their larger planes in their fleet, but not all their smaller ones.
Both the A380 and 747 are also usually flown on high-demand routes which are very profitable for airlines. These routes also attract VVIP customers who book first-class flights, making it economical for airlines to add the cabin to these planes.
An example of this would be the New York to London route, where British Airways made over $1bn in profit in 2018. British Airways generally uses aircraft which offer first-class on these routes (747s and 777s), due to the demand in-between the financial hubs.
The 747 served as the airline’s flagship aircraft until the early 2000s. Once the A380 was introduced, airlines quickly diverted to the newer plane, which was more extensive and more efficient than the Humped Queen of the Skies. The A380 has now become the hub for first-class products.
What will happen now?
As we might now know, airlines are looking to retire their jumbos for more efficient, twin-jets. Air France has already retired all its A380s. Meanwhile, Emirates, the largest operator of the A380, is reconsidering the plane’s future. Meanwhile, the 747 isn’t going much better. Virgin Atlantic recently scrapped all of its 747s, while British Airways is reportedly contemplating on doing the same soon.
With airlines now trying to get rid of their A380s and 747s, the future of first-class could be in peril. In a lot of cases, airlines introduced first-class only on their A380s and never expanded it to the rest of their fleet. Both Qantas and Qatar Airways did the same, and both were now forced to ground their A380s.
However, some airlines are still invested heavily in their first-class products—both Emirates and British Airways both feature first-class cabins on their A380s and 747s, respectively. Considering the number of aircraft they own, it will be a long time before the first class disappears from the sky. The more considerable fear is that airlines could stop innovating in first-class, focusing on the profitable business class instead.
The future of first class
All hope is not lost for the cash rich! Qatar recently announced that it is reconsidering the first-class cabin on its new 777X fleet. Although it is not confirmed that the airline would install the cabin, especially considering the success of its QSuite business class. Airlines could also see demand for first-class slowly return as travel demand rises, making a case to keep the cabins around.
A very likely possibility is that more airlines will opt to scrap first class altogether. The US airlines were the first ones to do this, removing first class along with their 747s. British Airways recently opted not to install this cabin altogether on its A350s, choosing a new business class instead.
The future of the first class will be led by demand in the coming years. Although considering the market right now, we might be seeing the end of the superjumbos and first class.