““First class will not exist.””
— Vasu Raja, chief commercial officer at American Airlines
is getting rid of first-class seats on international flights due to a lack of demand.
“The first class will not exist … at American Airlines for the simple reason that our customers aren’t buying it,” said Vasu Raja, the airline’s chief commercial officer, during the company’s earnings call on Thursday.
Some of the current first-class seating will be converted to what the company is calling “Flagship Suites” on long-haul flights, instead. These suites will feature a privacy door and seats that can be adjusted to lie flat.
But other first-class sections on international flights will be turned into more business-class seating, instead. And Raja suggested that one reason passengers may have been passing over buying first-class tickets in the first place is because the airline has upgraded its non-first-class seating.
“The quality of the business class seat has improved so much. And frankly, by removing [first class] we can go provide more business class seats, which is what our customers most want or are most willing to pay for,” Raja said.
Rivals Delta and United have also scrapped or scaled back their first-class sections on international flights to offer premium business-class seats, instead.
The American Airlines news was first announced in September, and the new seating designation will begin rolling out in 2024, according to a company press release.
The announcement from American Airlines comes as the airline industry has continued to rebound after the tumult it felt during the COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding travel restrictions. Many airlines have bounced back to pre-COVID revenue numbers, or flown even higher.
After several carriers including American, Delta Air Lines Inc.
and United Airlines Holdings Inc.
recently reported healthy earnings, Christopher Raite, a senior analyst at Third Bridge, wrote in a note on Thursday that airline carriers are currently experiencing “robust demand.”