In a move that validates the huge demand for long-haul escapes among UK travelers, Emirates is abandoning first class on some winter services to and from London — instead of deploying planes that have more seats than any other aircraft in the world.
Currently, Emirates flies three Airbus A380 jets per day between Dubai and Gatwick, each having a business, first, and economy class.
However, Routesonline, the scheduling data provider, says that some of the flights in November and December will be substituted by a high-density version of the “superjumbo” with only economy and business class. Instead of 489 passengers, the current configuration has 615 seats or a 26%increase.
The European editor for Air Transport World, Victoria Moores, stated: “With fares cheaper than ever before, it is great news for customers, but it also means airlines have to work harder to keep fares down.
“That means airlines have to stay flexible with their products, in this case swapping aircraft layouts to suit market demand.”
John Strickland, the aviation analyst, stated: “Emirates will have done the maths to show that the revenue benefit they can achieve on these Gatwick flights in a pretty price competitive market is far greater in the higher-capacity two-cabin A380 than anything they may lose from not having a small first-class cabin where they probably wouldn’t sell out anyway.”
A former managing director of Monarch, Tim Jeans, stated: “It shows that Emirates are no more immune from pressures on yield than any other airline. The ‘big three’ Middle East carriers – Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways – have huge capacity through their respective hubs.
“Fares are only going one way — down — and the pressure to reduce unit costs is intense. So whether it’s BA going ten abreast on their 777s or a ‘cattle class’ A380, the root cause is the same.”
British Airways is “densifying” its Boeing 777 fleet at Gatwick, adding 52 extra seats to every plane — slightly by adding a seat to every economy row of nine.
Jeans stated that the Sussex airport has less demand for first-class flights: “Whatever Gatwick would like people to think, premium passengers still tend to use Heathrow. Gatwick is fine for lower-yielding leisure passengers, but overall airlines will have a better and more profitable mix of premium and leisure traffic on Heathrow services.”
First class passengers on Emirates are called to “Savour ‘gourmet meals whenever you please” and “Indulge in a refreshing shower at 40,000ft.” However, the decision of the airline to ditch first class on some Gatwick services did not surprise the editor-in-chief of Business Travel News, Malcolm Ginsberg.
Ginsberg said: “Emirates is following the airline trend to drop the exclusive first class on less prestigious routes. It is more profitable for the carriers to increase business class than fill the front end with upgrades at a high cost. Emirates’ next move will probably be to introduce Premium Economy.”
Qantas, which is in partnership with Emirates regarding a number of routes, will not offer first class tickets on its non-stop service between Perth and Heathrow, which launches in 2018.
Three years ago, Alexandre de Juniac, the chief executive of Air France-KLM, stated: “no one makes money” from first class.
Emirates has also received slots at both Gatwick and Heathrow for some additional services over the Christmas peak.
Eleven pairs of slots have been discovered at the busiest airports of United Kingdom, each allowing for an extra arrival and departure of a Boeing 777 that is capable of carrying 364 passengers.
During key pre- and post-Christmas dates including 16 December and 7 January, Emirates will be operating a total of 11 flights every way between Dubai and London, providing over 5,000 people each way. Most of them will connect to or from Australasian and Asian services.
The Independent has requested Emirates to show how it obtained the sts, but has yet to have a response.