Airbus A350-1000 signals rise of business class, demise of first

By David Flynn, January 12 2017
Airbus A350-1000 signals rise of business class, demise of first

Qatar Airways is on track to take delivery of the world's first Airbus A350-1000 jetliner in the second half of this year, but the big new bird is another pointer to the rise of business class at the expense of first class.

Airbus president Fabrice Brégier reiterated the delivery schedule during the company's annual press briefing, held overnight in Toulouse France, with the Gulf airline and Oneworld member standing as the prestigious launch customer for this larger and longer-range version of the A350-900.

However, Qatar Airways has opted not to fit first class into the A350-1000 – leaving the upmarket seats as exclusive to its Airbus A380 superjumbo fleet – and will instead offer its new 'super business class' suites with sliding doors as the jetliner's highest-grade cabin.

And Qatar isn't flying solo: of the nine airlines which have signed on the dotted line for the A350-1000, only two – British Airways and Etihad Airways – are likely to include a first class cabin at the pointy end.

Also read: Is this British Airways' Airbus A350 Club World business class seat?

Cathay Pacific has already ruled out first class for its A350-1000 fleet, choosing to mirror Qatar Airways with a much larger premium cabin featuring new international business class seats.

United Airlines is phasing out its 'Global First' offering in favour of the new Polaris business class, while Asiana Airlines – like Qatar Airways – intends to retain first class only on its flagship Airbus A380 fleet.

(The wild card is an order of 29 jets from Air Lease Corporation, which has leasing agreements with over 80 airlines who can then configure the aircraft as they choose.)

Also read: Revealed – Airbus' own innovative A350 first class cabin concept

The A350-1000 will carry an estimated 366 passengers in a three-class layout compared to around 325 passengers in the A350-900, although that of course depends on how each airline configures its cabins.

While sales of the Airbus A380 superjumbo have stalled, the double-deck aircraft is becoming a more likely choice for airlines wanting to not only offer a first class cabin but tempt travellers with something that's well above the business class experience.

Singapore Airlines and Emirates set the standard with their A380 suites, while Etihad Airways raised the bar with its spacious first class Apartments.

Singapore Airlines is now set to reveal its second-generation superjumbo suites in the middle of this year, with Emirates to follow by year's end.

The Singaporean flag-carrier plans to reduce the number of A380 suites from 12 berths to between six and eight, but they'll be much larger and could move to the upper deck; for his part, Emirates CEO Tim Clark has teased his airline's new suites as "fully enclosed rooms with all the touches and amenities that you’d expect in hotel or a private bedroom on a luxury yacht, room service and so on."

Also read: The Airbus A380 first class concept cabins you never saw

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Nov 2014

Total posts 368

I thought Asiana is also phasing out first class. Interesting to know they are likely to fit F in A350-1000

THR
THR

20 Sep 2012

Total posts 71

You seem to have misread the article. It states that Asiana are not going to fit F in the A350-1000.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Nov 2014

Total posts 368

It got edited.... 

Mal
Mal

14 Jun 2013

Total posts 360

This seems to be the way it's going alright, keep first class only if it's a big leap up from business class, which will be a quandary for Qantas if it decides to refit the A380 to include the Business Suite, given how much better the Business Suite is compared to the Skybed II.

Business Suite is actually slightly denser than Skybed 2, so whilst it is in fact a superior product it is also a denser one and QF would be mad to not upgrade the A380 Business Class to it.


In addition, First Class has better amenities, the First lounge, a larger suite and seat, no foot cubby over the bed, better bedding, better booze and better food. QF's First is not going to be cannibalized by the Business Suite, but if there's a risk of that happening they can always increase the level of amenity in QF First when the product gets a refresh (add a door, maybe a minibar, problem solved).

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

Best business is so damn good nowadays that First does not make sense anymore unless it fully enclosed suite with private bathroom.

Not sure that every first class suite needs its own bathroom but access to an Emirates-style shower is certainly on the list of things you'd want to have.

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

Having shower at 10k above the ground will not be dealer-breaker to me. I value route convenience, airline and airport of transfer much more. IMHO above certain lever (perhaps like CX business) all "extras" just perks that would be nice to have if they for free. YMMV though.

14 Oct 2016

Total posts 12

Qatar Airways also has First Class on some 332s and 333s.  (It also has "domestic" first class on the A320s, but they really don't count.)

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2502

True, but there'll no first class fitted to any new members of the Qatar Airways fleet – we've been told by QR CEO that from here on, first class is only for the A380s. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Jun 2013

Total posts 367

thanks for the review Steve


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