Most of us have never flown first class, though it’s probably a dream of yours to do so someday. Some airlines have mastered the first-class experience.
However, too many people who give first-class seating a try often find themelves underwhelmed by the experience. Airlines often receive such feedback, which highlights the need for improvements in various respects. Because the cost hasn’t necessarily matched the experience, data shows that many budget airlines have decided to cut back their first-class capacity.
“Many airlines may either not fill all the first class seat capacity or use them to upgrade business class fliers. It’s hard to say it will disappear but it’s definitely being significantly reduced,” says John Strickland, director of an air transport consultancy.
However, the carriers that will keep first-class as an option will have to step up their game to make it the experience consumers want to buy. “There is still a lot of value,” Strickland says, “especially if your airline does not have a long history. First class can provide a lot of marketing and brand cache.”
As luxury airlines and those who want to get into this game start to adopt the copious amount of tech involved in air travel, the future of first-class flying could deliver a truly incredible experience for which travellers will excitedly line up.
Let’s take a closer look at what that could look like.
Airbus recently imagined the potential for aircraft in 2050. Among other details, the company’s first-class seats were treated to a holographic screen that would make flights pass in a breeze.
“Say goodbye to being holed up in a rigid tin tube in the sky and hello to a leisurely journey on a beautifully designed aircraft,” an Airbus spokesperson shared with GQ Magazine. “Inspired by avian anatomy, the concept has a super-strong skeleton that supports a membrane that can become completely transparent, enabling stunning views of landmarks on take-off and landing, as well as stargazing at night.”
This hologram allows passengers to see outside without having to peer through a tiny porthole window. They’ll also have access to entertainment systems that appear on a holographic screen. Best of all, it’ll all be touch activated, so passengers have full control over their in-flight experience.
A Hotel on the Plane
Singapore Airlines recently unveiled a new concept that it hopes to broaden in the future, which allows first-class passengers on long flights the option of staying in a virtual hotel suite while they’re in the air.
“The new concept that we have developed for Singapore Airlines is really our vision for the future,” says designer Jacques Pierrejean, chief designer behind many first-class projects for the airline. “We can imagine a full enclosed suite with an individual washroom in the next few years.”
If you’ve ever been on a cruise ship, the size and quality of these suites will be similar. There’s not a lot of space on these jets, to be sure, but cramped quarters or not, the ability to sleep in a bed and use a private toilet is a luxury for which some overseas fliers will undoubtedly pay good money.
Customized Cabin Systems
Luxury airlines will offer incredible innovations with the help of technology, so budget airlines can’t hope to compete with that level of first-class sections. However, the latter can offer a few nice perks that the rest of the cabin won’t have, such as customizable cabin systems.
The typical airplane cabin system controls basically everything electronic in the cabin of thee plane, from the PA system to the lights. The future of first-class flying will no doubt include individual controls in each seat, in contrast to most cabin systems that control music, climate, power, lights, entertainment systems, communication systems, and the rest through an attendant control panel in the hands of the flight crew.
They may also come with seats that are spaced further apart so passengers can enjoy their own climate, lighting, and other comforts without bothering the people around them.
In Some Cases, Less Privacy
Another change we’ll likely see on everyday commercial flights is a reduction in privacy for both business class and first-class sectors. Hugo Jamson, director of a London-based firm that specializes in airplane design, argues that the uncommunicative, overly private first-class passenger experience is on the way out.
“As business class gets younger, with companies with less hierarchy, less of an executive feel, we’ll start to see a different kind of design ethos,” Jamson told Fast Company. “The privacy of the seat is reduced, offering more of that serendipity.”
Airlines are offering greater flexibility to passengers, so they can choose whether they want to socialize or keep to themselves with customizable options for privacy and other features.
Unfortunately, the cost of each of these upgrades, even on budget airlines is going to rise. But we can all hope the experience the various air carriers have promised will be worth it because you’ll be paying a premium for it.