by Hugh Morris, The Telegraph, October 30, 2017
Emirates is scrapping first class on a number of its London services this winter, sacrificing luxury seats in an effort to sell more fares at lower rates.
By dropping from three tiers of seating (first, business and economy) to two on the airline’s Airbus A380s between Gatwick and Dubai in November and December, the UAE carrier will be able to increase capacity from 489 passengers to 615. With the service operating six times a day, that's an additional 756 customers daily.
The A380, of which Emirates has 96, more than any other airline, is the world’s largest passenger jet, with the potential to carry up to 853 people. But it is usually configured into three classes, reducing the overall number of seats but allowing carriers to sell first class fares for thousands of pounds. An Emirates first class ticket departing London Gatwick tomorrow, the last day the class will be available until January, costs from £2,800.
Guests flying in Emirates’ top-end cabin can expect their own private suite boasting a “shower spa”, as well as fine dining, luxury Bulgari amenity kits, and clothing that it claims will keep skin hydrated .
In an apparent nod to the increasing popularity of winter sun getaways in the run up to Christmas, Emirates is also adding more flights between Dubai and Heathrow, meaning its total number of services between the UK and the UAE capital will peak at 11 a day.
There will, however, still be room for a lounge
Tim Jeans, the former managing director of recently defunct airline Monarch, told the Independent: “It shows that Emirates is no more immune from pressures on yield than any other airline.
“Fares are only going one way - down - and the pressure to reduce unit costs is intense. So whether it’s [British Airways] going 10 abreast on their 777s or a ‘cattle class’ A380, the root cause is the same.”
Jeans said that Emirates was cutting first class at Gatwick rather than Heathrow as the west London airport remains the hub of choice for luxury travellers.
“Whatever Gatwick would like people to think, premium passengers still tend to use Heathrow,” he said. “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.”
Emirates has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Telegraph Travel reported in September on BA’s decision to add an extra seat onto each row on its newly-configured Boeing 777s flying between Gatwick and New York, increasing the aircraft’s capacity by 52 passengers.
Qantas, which has a partnership with Emirates on a number of routes, has said it will not include a first class on its London to Perth service, set to launch in March as the world’s first non-stop flights between the two cities .
In 2014 Alexandre de Juniac, then-CEO of Air France-KLM and now the director of the International Air Transport Association, said in an interview that first class was “little more than a costly marketing gimmick” and “no one makes money out of it”.