British Airways Re-committing to First Class, Converting Remaining 747s to New First!

Conventional wisdom is that international first class is a thing of the past. A dinosaur.

Back in October I explained the reasons that international first class is disappearing.

And yet the data actually suggests there’s more first class than ever before, naturally led by he Middle Eastern mega-carriers.

One of the big data points used to suggest that first class isn’t a broadly sustainable product is the way that British Airways has de-emphasized it. BA is one of the world carrier’s most dependent on premium cabin travel, and when they’re eliminating first class from a variety of routes that’s a strong indictment of its economics.

British Airways had decided not to convert some of its final remaining old-style 747s to offer their new first class, and they stopped selling first on their London – Vancouver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Capetown flights.

Buried in my post about amazing non-stop first class award availability between the West Coast and Europe was the news that British Airways had reversed course.

They’re converting those final 747s after all and that means returning first class to those routes — Vancouver at the end of March, and the other cities at the end of October.

That doesn’t change the underlying dynamics of international first class. Lufthansa is still reducing the routes on which they offer the service. US carriers are in the process of eliminating it almost entirely (American will offer it on Boeing 777-300ER routes only, United can’t wait to be rid of it, and Delta no longer offers it).

British Airways, Lufthansa, Swiss, Emirates, Etihad, Singapore, Cathay, JAL, Air France, Korean and Thai are the primary operators who appear squarely behind first class as an ongoing part of their product mix. There are others, too, like Asiana and ANA on limited routes and like Air China that offer the product.

It’s not something every carrier sees as a core offering. But it’s great to see British Airways fully committed, fuel surcharges and all.

See also: The True Ranking of the Very Best First Class Airlines — And Which Are Overrated!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Considering BA packs *FOURTEEN* F seats in the nose of the 747 and on their 777, I’d imagine the “underlying dynamics” are a bit different for BA, than for someone CX who has only 6 seats in the same space.

  2. with the past and coming changes to Mileageplus (now dollar minus), I am adjusting my activities to increase collection of oneworld points (through BA and AA). This will mean flying one world airlines when historically I would have flown *A. Thank goodness UR offers options to select both BA and UA as needed. Paid first class is also becoming an option on some routes this year, which puts UA out of the running.

  3. “British Airways has de-emphasized it. BA is one of the world carrier’s most dependent on premium cabin travel, and when they’re eliminating first class from a variety of routes that’s a strong indictment of its economics.”

    …or of their product offering. Everyone else that serves London (a massive built-in advantage for premium cabin travel) with a first class cabin — Singapore, Thai, Cathay, ME-3, Qantas, even AA — is putting their flagship product on their London routes, so why fly BA if you’re price insensitive?

  4. Additionally, I would argue that they might capture some of that London based traffic going elsewhere if their lounges and frequent flier program offerings were stronger.

    Concorde Room isn’t even the best lounge in London (honestly, I think business class passengers on Virgin or Emirates have it better, and the Star Alliance F lounge is nice because it’s always so empty)… among others.

    And why stay “loyal” to BA when the frequent flier program is so unrewarding? I’d much rather just fly the better product than earn a pile of hard to use well (particularly ex-UK) miles.

  5. I can only hope their first class product is better than their business class product which is not nearly as good as Qatar airways. I flew first class on a Qatar A380 and it was very very good. BA seems to have lost the plot

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