The Suite Life
While CAL may be eliminating first class soon, its CEO noted that it was cautiously looking into the possibility of introducing a new suites class standard.“Many airlines have eliminated first class, and changed to business, premium economy and economy class,”said Sun.“The talk that we’re having now is whether we should launch a suites class with much more luxurious amenities and service. But we do not anticipate very high demand for such an offering.”
Singapore Airlines (SIA) was the pioneer of the suites class, which it introduced on the A380 in 2007. However, the airline’s CEO Goh Choon Phong recently revealed that demand for the luxury class has been lukewarm, and SIA will be reducing capacity accordingly once the next batch of superjumbos is delivered.
“Going forward, you can expect we will be reducing the number of suites on the A380s,”said Goh.“What that number is, we’ll announce in due course. But the idea is to always better match demand and supply.”
One area on the map that appears immune to the quandary of first class is the Middle East. Etihad Airways’A380, which it received in 2014, features The Residence. A super-luxury threeroom suite, it consists of a living room, bedroom and bathroom and is accompanied by a dedicated Savoy-trained butler service. Despite a hefty $32,000 price tag for a one-way flight between Abu Dhabi and NewYork, the product has been a hit.
“We have experienced an overwhelmingly positive response to The Residence within the US – beyond our expectations, in fact,” Etihad’s chief executive James Hogan said last year.“We are seeing healthy forward bookings.”
The reasons for the continuing success of first and suites class in the Middle East include the large numbers of super-wealthy businessmen, politicians and royalty who regularly connect through the region, and the fact that the big three Gulf carriers – Emirates, Etihad and Qatar – have built their reputations and brands largely around their luxury in-flight products.