Real First Class Is Alive And Well on Transcons

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Travel' started by JSpira, Sep 25, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. JSpira
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    JSpira Silver Member

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    While this review is AA specific, it does show that real first class travel does still exist domestically.

    American Airlines First Class Flight 181 New York JFK Los Angeles Review
    By Paul Riegler

    Review continues here.

    [​IMG]
     
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  2. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    This is my favorite way to fly to the west coast.

    What isn't mentioned is the price of "real first class" in the US. Round trip runs about $6,000.
     
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  3. JSpira
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    JSpira Silver Member

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    Mine too.

    Everything has a price but if you have to ask ...
     
  4. NYBanker
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  5. tommy777
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    I would really like to know if someone actually pay 6K for it. That's a bit out of control
     
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  6. JSpira
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    In my various conversations with executives and managers at a variety of airlines, ranging from AA to AF to LH u.a., all have told me that they do sell first-class tickets at the asking price. However, I also know that there are numerous corporate contracts with airlines such as AA u.a. where first-class seats are contracted for at discounted rates (although the price is still relatively high).
     
  7. eponymous_coward
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    Then buy a VX F roundtrip on the same route for a bit under $3200. ;)

    And if nobody is willing to pay for a service, why should an airline provide it? :confused: This is always the problem with the upgrade party of cheap tickets to C/F and huge discounts award tickets represent on retail price that many of us chase after on MP: one can't expect to be a free rider unless someone is at least occasionally willing to pay for the ride.
     
  8. violist
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    Author sounds like an excited child. Probably is.
     
  9. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    I've paid for it (or my company - where I was a partner - has). That money hit our bottom line, not a pie in the sky corporate budget.

    Right now, the fare is $2,993 each way (plus a few misc fees), bringing the total to slightly over $6,000 round trip. We were a small company, and didn't have a negotiated rate on AA.

    I usually only pay for F, however, if I'm on the redeye coming home to NY and upgrades from business aren't confirmable at time of booking. The extra room to me is valuable, at least when trying to sleep.

    Generally, I use my SWUs to upgrade to F from business. Right now, for travel the week of October 10, I fares (discounted business) are $1,574 each way, or a little more than $3,150 round trip with fees. For at least a handful of flights each day, A inventory is available (the category you use SWUs to move into) - so if I were booking now, I'd buy the I fare then confirm the upgrade on the spot. That's a good value - at least on a relative basis. For me, most of my OW travel is on partner metal, so while I get my SWUs (a/k/a eVIP upgrades) for EXP, I rarely have a chance to use them otherwise. For those who care, miles upgrades from I are 15,000 miles + $150.

    Beyond the I fare, the other fare on offer on AA.com right now is "flexible business," which is $2,587 one way, or $406 less than F (13.5%). This is over $5,000 for a round trip. I don't view this as a good relative value versus paid F. To put in a bit of perspective, this J fare is about $1 per mile round trip, roughly the same per-mile rate as a business class ticket to Europe.

    Let's look at the alternatives for this space as well. Economy super saver is $254 one way right now to LAX. In a 2-3-2 767 configuration, AA could presumably fit three rows of 7 in front (versus the 2 rows of 5). Assuming those incremental Y seats sold for $254 each, they'd pick up $7,434 in additional revenue. It takes roughly three (out of ten) sold F seats to make up for this lost revenue. The economy saver fare is $676. If the 21 incremental Y seats were sold at that fare, they'd generate $14,196 of additional revenue, which would require selling five (out of ten) F seats. I don't know if they could fit a third row of J in (I doubt it), so I didn't do that analysis. I fly this route often (5x a year minimum) and I suspect they sell at least three paid F seats on most flights, and on some I suspect it is eight+ that are paid (judging by the demographics of the pax). If they were to sell 8 seats at that price, that would be almost $24,000 in revenue - probably roughly equal to what the entire Y cabin generates. While there are some additional costs to operate an F cabin, there's a fair bit of synergy between the F and J programs (read: F isn't that much better than J in terms of food/drink) - so I don't think the added cost is as much as it would seem.

    For better or worse, the "transcon," service from JFK to LAX and SFO, has always commanded a premium. This is why AA, UA and DL each have a special product offering for this route. The special product is not altruistic, the carriers get a much higher yield on these routes than they do a JFK-SAN or JFK-PDX. One of the big drivers (but not the only driver) of volume has been Hollywood traffic. The SAG contract required that for flights over some specified distance (I don't remember the exact amount, but it was less than 2,000), studios had to pay for "first class travel." While you'll often see more famous, seasoned celebrities in F, you'll also see cutie young actresses (young ladies boarding for in back ooh and ahh at them) that seem likely to be there thanks to the largess of Hollywood. Against that, [last] year, SAG agreed to business class travel for flights over this distance threshold where business class was available. Now, all but the top stars (who can negotiate additional benefits) are going to be back in J.

    In light of the SAG change, and UA moving PS to a two class plane in 2013, it will be interesting to see what AA does. AA's J is already the most dated product, and once UA goes flat in J, AA will be well behind the competition - coupled with the age of the metal they fly on this route - it seems likely that something will have to shift. There is a more private feel in F than AA's J on this route - so perhaps being the only three-cabin F will remain a competitive advantage for AA - or maybe this too will go the way of the dinosaurs.

    A few final thoughts...

    (a) More often than not, saaver business awards are sold out - leaving only aanytime j awards. It's worth checking out if F is available in saaver. More than once, I've found F in saaver to be less than the J award available. While you give up some flexibility, if it's less miles, it's probably worth it!

    (b) Whereas flying JFK-LAX in F is $2,993 (one way), flying JFK-LAX-HNL (3-class F to LAX, 2-class F to HNL) is only $2,899. So, if you were thinking of trying this out, you might bolt on some time in HNL (KOA, OGG have similar fares) and save a few dollars. Playing with hidden city ticketing probably isn't worth it to save 3%...but a trip to Hawaii might be a nice benefit.

    I know on day flights in F on the transcon I get to meet a lot of interesting people. Both actors and actresses, as well as business leaders. It's a nice little club up there. Let's enjoy it while it lasts.
     
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  10. gleff
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    One minor note, NYBanker, UA SWUs upgrading C->F book into NF, not A.
     
  11. NYBanker
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    This post is about AA, not UA. AA books into A.
     
  12. gleff
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    Sorry, came on this ... saw SWUs :) and assumed UA. An eVIP I'd ahve understood ;)
     
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  13. NYBanker
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    Very fair. They do call them SWUs on their website now...but old hands would use eVIP (as the EXP agent did tonight when I booked an upgrade!).

    AA will have to make a move on these routes in the next 2-3 years...its J hard product is already the worst of the lot on the transcon (<50" pitch, narrowest seats, etc). Once UA goes to flat beds in J, AA will need to do something to catch up (or maybe get ahead?).
     
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  14. JSpira
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    Nice new avatar, NYBanker! (Although I am admittedly not a licorice fan myself, I like the idea conceptually)
     

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