First Class travel is dying. There is no doubt about it.
If you dream of flying First Class on a once-in-a-lifetime trip using points, you should act quickly. Because it’s probably not long before First Class is gone entirely.
Some airlines do not have First Class at all and instead prefer to just have a very good Business Class product. Virgin Atlantic are an example of this. That’s one of the reasons their flagship cabin is called Upper Class rather than Business or First. Although it is closer to Business nowadays than First. They called it Upper Class originally because it was a blend of Business and First. Back in the day, Upper Class passengers enjoyed chauffeur-driven cars to the airport, hairdressing and massage facilities in the lounge and pyjamas onboard. All innovations that other airlines were quick to replicate.
Airlines that did have First Class, didn’t even have it on the entire fleet. British Airways, for example, had First on most of its long haul aircraft until it started refreshing the fleet with the newer 787 aircraft. BA was the largest commercial operator of the 747-400 in the world. That fleet was retired early during the pandemic. With its retirement, BA lost a huge number of First Class seats. This is reflected in the number of Avios seats available for First redemptions too.
Even now, BA’s fleet is a mix of aircraft. Some have First (A380, 787-9, 787-10, some 777) and some do not (A350-1000, 787-8, some 777).
Put simply, airlines just aren’t buying planes and fitting them with First nowadays. They’re opting for larger Business and Premium cabins instead. You generally only find First on flagship routes like London to New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong.
Travel policy changes
One fact often overlooked is that company travel policies have changed too. Back in the 90s and 00s, First Class travel policies for executives at large companies were a thing. Nowadays, companies are opting for Business Class only (or even lower cabins!) for cost savings. First is often reserved for personal leisure travel for wealthier individuals (or those with a ton of points).
Business Class changes
Here’s something most people don’t realise. Airlines do not build their own seats. They buy them from seat suppliers. That’s why, a lot of Business seats look the same… because they are. One of the most common Business Class seats in current use is the Super Diamond. The Super Diamond is the basis for both the new British Airways Club Suite and Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Suite. As well as countless other airlines.
Airlines buy this base product and modify it for their needs by adding, changing and removing things.
The technological innovations in seat design in the last 20 years mean the difference between First seats and Business is fairly minimal. The difference between the two cabins is really exclusivity and “soft product”. The soft product is the facilities and services offered as part of the cabin. Different lounge, boarding ahead of others, better onboard wine options – things like that. But essentially it’s all marketing fluff. The Business products offered today, compete with the last generation First offering.
When Business Class is as good as it is today, First just isn’t needed.
Super Diamond Seat
If you want to do that dream in First, get on with it! The cabin is a dying breed and it probably won’t be around forever.
Check out our Reward Flight Report to see which routes have the most First Class Avios seats available.