FUN IN THE AIR
Published: 28/08/2013 - Filed under: Editor's Note »
It used to be much simpler: There were first class, business class and economy class, and that’s all. An airline would be an airline – some bigger, others smaller, but an airline.
Everything changed in 1992, when Virgin Atlantic and EVA Air launched premium economy. Today, this “fourth class” comes in all shapes and sizes, quite literally. But it’s a dilemma, isn’t it? How “premium” do you make it? If too much, the airline would end up losing business class passengers to it, when the whole point of it is to encourage economy passengers to “move up”. I suspect that is the reason why Turkish Airlines is removing its well-liked Comfort Class from its new B777s. But still, more airlines are offering this new cabin product, with Cathay Pacific having launched it last year (see review) and Lufthansa being the latest major player having announced plans to do so (see story).
Then all these low-cost carriers (LCC) began to pop up. At first, they were dismissed as a niche market, but now both Ryanair and Air Asia are two of the most profitable airlines in the world despite a rather tough business environment with high fuel prices. One after another, legacy airlines launch their low-cost offshoots, with Scoot, Peach and Germanwings being some of the examples, and Aeroflot the latest to announce the intention to follow suit.
And what is the future of first class? That is a subject many airlines are mulling over, with some of them actually having taken action to reduce the overall number of these top premium seats. Qatar Airways even at one point said it intended to phase out first class altogether, as its business class was already super premium. But it doesn't seem that first class will be a thing of the past just yet, with major carriers still investing in making the front end more decadent than ever (see latest offerings by ANA, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines).
As I have said, times are tough for airlines – Cathay has only just got out of the red but the overall profit is still far from ideal (see story) – so I take my hat off to them for working so hard in overcoming challenges and bringing passengers ever-improving experiences. They even make flying fun and creative sometimes – I look forward to trying out EVA Air's Hello Kitty flights to Los Angeles (see story) and adding another stamp to my Hello Kitty passport after my Taipei-Hong Kong experience last year. Even safety videos are not just the usual anymore – Air New Zealand's reel featuring Bear Grylls is simply hilarious – have a look here.
So thank you, all of you in the airline industry, for making my job always interesting and action-packed.
Editor, Business Traveller Asia-Pacific
pandancake - 28/08/2013 08:28
I am one flyer who is very thankful for premium economy. I have long legs and can't always afford to fly business so I choose premium economy for long haul flights. Have flown it on BA and Virgin and will fly on Cathay later this month. I really wish more airlines offered the product or then at least try and ensure bulkhead seats are allocated to those folk who actually need it.
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