The Decline of First Class


#1

David Brin in a recent blog entry
davidbrin.blogspot.com/2006/09/o … alism.html
made some interesting observations about the decline of First Class.
There are many members of FA who do a LOT of flying - more than I do certainly. I’d like to hear their comments on Brin’s speculations.
How much has First Class ceased to be worth the extra money?
Are the former users of First Class now using private planes more often, and why?


#2

I don’t think the notion of “caste” is a valid one in this case. In India you are destined to live your life in the caste you are born into. In North America, I may be a working class slob today, but at least I have the hope that through hard work and a bit of luck, I too will one fly on my own charter.

That point aside I agree the the lines between First Class and Coach are blured. Apart from maybe a warm towel and slightly more leg room, both classes get to the same place at the same time.

I agree as well that the points system has made it possible for just about anyone to fly first class. So you are no different than the person beside you. So if the service is only slightly better and the people are the same, why not choose a seat on the plane closer to an emergency exit or near the rear where in the event of a crash, these seats are at a distinct advantage in terms of survivability and safety.

One last point. When jet travel was first introduced, air travel was special. People dressed up for the occation in there finest. Today, if your airline does in fact offer first class service, the guy next to you is just as likely to have on jeans and work boots on.

So there is certainly a decline in First Class, but more due to perhaps a natural evolution of the service as opposed to some point grabbing consperacy.

note: no use of emoticons, making up for other silly posts.


#3

Not so much a decline in first class as a decline in airline service as a whole since deregulation. As you stated, “air travel was special” - not just first class. I remember my younger days (many years ago before deregulation), and I was treated like royalty - even though I was traveling in coach. Now I feel like a sheep on the way to the slaughterhouse when going through the system.

I also blame Airbus Industries! The name "AirBUS"just somehow demeans the experience! A BUS with wings moving the public to where they want to go. Even on a Boeing plane, the term “airbus” is somehow there on a subconscious level.


#4

How about a new LCC called “Skybus?”

(At least they don’t have that picture of a really icky paint scheme on the site anymore. :angry: )


#5

[quote=“planeaholic”]

Nope - never hear of SkyBus, so I can’t really blame them. Judging by the look of their Web site, I’m guessing they’re new. That’d be like blaming Jacques Chirac for the fall of France to the Nazis - although I’m sure he’d have let that happen too…


#6

They are new, based in Columbus, OH. Until recently, their website showed apicture of a 73G with a hideously tacky paint scheme (think Wonder Woman on LSD) with cheesy “Skybus” lettering on the side. Apparently, they’re going for the “Ultra” Low-Fare airline. I’m thinking of Europe’s RyanAir, for example…No food or bevs, safety cards sewn into the seatbacks, no IFE, just a seat and a seat belt. Pay your $44 for CMH-TPA, sit down, shut up, and enjoy the flight. :wink:

I love Columbus (born & raised there), and I don’t want to sound too skeptical, but I’d be surprised if they found enough investors to even get this “off the ground.” I’m not counting them out, I just think that air travel has become, like you say, like sheepherding, and I don’t know how happy I’ll be to see airlines make it even less glamorous than it already is in the name of lowering fares. I really don’t want the volatile guy begging for change at the corner sitting next to me for a 4-hour flight. Sorry if I sound like a snob, but that’s the truth of it.


#7

OK, it looks there is general agreement that the quality of First Class has declined severly - as has air travel in general.
What about the second question? Has there been a shift from many former First Class travellers to private flights? And if so, what does it mean?


#8

Since I don’t travel on my own private jet or charters yet, I can’t answer from personal experience.

In general, I think the cost of purchasing/leasing and operation of aircraft
has decreased in relation to the overall increase in wealth in western countries. The means to travel privately has become attainable to more people and corperations. 30-40 years ago private air travel meant you had to pilot your own Cessna or Piper and were resticted by the range of these aircraft. If you were in need of transcontinential or transoceanic business travel, you HAD to use the aircraft used by the large airlines.

With the availability of aircraft such as the B727 and the ever increasing numbers of used corporate jets and the large pool of pilots looking for seats, long distance airtravel has become an economical alternative to the large airlines, not so much in dollar amounts, but in the time save from gate to gate. Time is money.

Because of airport conjestion, short flights have been replaced by ground transport such as car or light rail.

So the answer is YES, many former first class customers now have many more options to choose from to get from here to there. Charters/Corperate jets being just part of this.

( as an aside, I coach high school basketball and we ( our program ) are seriously looking into charters when traveling as the cost of chartering isn’t much different than booking a scheduled flight and again the convinence factor comes into play. ( not every event but to regionals and nationals. ))


#9

Probably somewhat, but it’s a pretty big step (moneywise) from a first class ticket to a private jet. I think the introduction of VLJs is designed to intensify this changeover to “personal” charters to make it cheaper for business folks (and others) to do it.


#10

Just a quick addition here.

Cajet Airline just recently shifted its corporate focus from scheduled flights in Eastern Canada to Corprate and Charter flights with it fleet of 737’s. It was making a healthy profit with high load percentages on all routes. Seems more to be made in charters these days.

canjet.ca/en_home.aspx

I’m not in sales with this airline but flew it alot. Sorry to see it move on.


#11

If you really want to experience first class service and perks, I’ve been told the best airline to fly is Midwest Express. The food is supposed to be awesome, and they BAKE chocolate chip cookies onboard. Their 717s are in a 2X2 (leather) layout, which makes for more comfortable seating as well.


#12

My friend Ryan decided to fly RyanAir while he was in Europe, because it was cheap and he had a “good feeling about the name.” He said it had plastic seats and it was “a public bus with wings.” He said he was scared it was gonna break down in the middle of the sky and it would get stuck up there (like my county’s public bus system, ours break down, overheat on an 80 degree day, and if the bus runs every half hour, the replacement bus takes an hour.)

Coming back to the states, he was upgraded to first class and had to sit behind a guy who smelled like he hadn’t showered since U2 got popular, and he talked to a flight attendant and traded seats with someone in coach. He said the only difference he saw was 1st class got served snacks first.


#13

well it so happens that I will be flying Midwest for the first time next Friday from KMCI to KMCO. Look forward to “the best care in the air” and that nice 2+2 leather seating and of course those baked onboard chocolate chip cookies! While I will be flying after dark I shall still attempt to pick out landmarks enroute and so have reserved window seats both ways!


#14

Hello all - first time member, first time responder!!

First class has lost its class due to lay-off’s and cut backs. The younger, enthusiastic, energetic employees that actually loved their jobs are all gone. The older disgruntled, annoyed employees are back in the airplanes. You will never get the great service like it was before. I really miss flying up front instead of with the cattle.

Have a great weekend
GO STEELERS!!


#15

Who you calling cattle bucko?


#16

What does that mean? The last time I flew First Class was on a round trip from London to Jo’burg on South African. I had a lie flat seat, a flight attendant who gave me a set of pajamas to wear once she had literally arranged and set the sheets for the bed. Other than that, the food was mediocre, the wine list abominable, and the movie selection was awful (and on the way back the video/music system did not work). Some may say, drink on a plane? It’s a long flight! Even popping an Ambien won’t cover the whole trip. However, First Class does exist on some airlines, and, yes, you can still see the movie stars on them. I am speaking strictly about British Airways and Emirates. Consistently, they are the best. Yes, Thai and Singapore are very good, but the private cabin can only be experienced on BA and Emirates. If you fly from JFK to LHR or LAX to LHR you will see a superstar, guaranteed. This is not to say that some superstars are not flying on GV’s, but it is doubtful that many are flying them from these destinations. The reason has nothing to do with range or cost, but rather what is required to be able to land a private aircraft at LHR, Lutton, Gatwick, London City, and Stanstead. It is a one for one slot system. If a plane does not leave it’s berth at the exact time you are landing to take it, you cannot land. You must then fly to an airfield quite a distance away from London. These are the facts: People who say they fly their private planes across the pond are landing them at least an hour or more (on a Sunday) away from London. If that airfield is fogged or rained in, you could end up landing in Paris or Dublin. Many superstars learn this the hard way. I have taken a flight from Miami to Gatwick only to be diverted to a smaller airfield far north of London, only to be diverted again to Manchester and that might as well have been on the North Pole. Flying on a GV is one of the great pleasures of life, 40thousand feet plus in the air! The flight is as smooth as glass. Finally, as for domestic First Class or Business Class, if you’re buying the ticket, you’re getting ripped off. The seat is not worth it, but the private lounge is.


#17

The problem is that expectations have gone down, so the airlines have diminished the product as a result - I took Virgin’s Business Class back before they started nickel and diming the service. They USED to have limo pickup anddrop off, a separate check in lounge with cocktails and real food that has since declined to a few soft drinks and a a buffet or fruit and nuts. I mean, this is a $5k ticket from most markets and you’d think that they could maintain a few amenities.

Air travel is a BUS now, but for people who actually pay for F class, it is only marginally more to get a private jet if you are actually paying for F class. This is why the airlines have destroyed the premium products, everyone in F is actually on a coach ticket, either FF miles or a free upgrade from Y to F. Once the airlines lost the special amenities * it was all over and I just started flying Y - you are never on a plane for more than 2.5 hours any more with hubs in DFW/ORD/CVG/ATL etc., except on the Hawaii flights and those are ALWAYS F or C class. You are not crammed into a seat long enough to get truly uncomfortable domestically. And if you fly enough domestically you’ll have the FF benefits to upgrade internationally for free.

Just get on the bus and then get off when you’re done, and don’t let us old battleaxe flight kick you in the ass on the way off the plane.

I am old enough to not only remember good service but actually partying with the ‘stewardesses’ on layovers if they thought you were cute - now most flight attendants are two baggers with the men sometimes more attractive than the women. Times have changed,.*