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Airlines scale back first class seating due to the coronavirus

Published Jun 27th, 2020 12:05PM EDT

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  • In response to the coronavirus pandemic, some airlines have stopped offering first class seating options to travelers.
  • The move comes as many airlines are starting to shift to smaller planes in response to a drastic reduction in air travel.
  • Airlines may not financially recover from the coronavirus until 2022, some experts say.

The airline industry has been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus. And with good reason, traveling is probably one of the last things people want to do these days. And while traveling by plane — in and of itself — is a lot safer than you might imagine, going to a heavily foot-trafficked airport just isn’t a smart move in the middle of a global pandemic.

Airlines, meanwhile, have been trying to adjust to air travel in the age of COVID-19. To this point, The Points Guy reports that a number of international airlines have recently stopped offering first class seating options for passengers.

There are a few reasons behind this strategy. For starters, with fewer people flying than ever before, it’s possible for travelers to buy a coach ticket and still enjoy a lot of room. To this point, a friend of mine recently flew from Denver to Boston and said that the plane was at about 20% capacity at the most. In other words, there’s not even much of a need to secure a first class ticket when most flights are quite empty.

What’s more, The Points Guy notes that many airlines with international routes have been “been shifting from double-decker jumbo jets like the 747 and A380 to smaller and more fuel-efficient aircraft with less space onboard to justify offering it.”

All that said, the airlines that are no longer offering first class seating options include El Al, Etihad, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Qantas, and Qatar Airways.

TPG adds:

International first class was already beginning to go extinct in recent years and the sudden drop in demand due to the pandemic is certainly not helping. While there’s a good chance Qantas will never fly planes with first-class cabins again, hopefully, Etihad, Lufthansa and Singapore are only temporarily blocking the cabins because they don’t know which aircraft they’ll operate in the coming months. They are likely trying to avoid selling seats they can’t deliver on.

As to the overall financial impact the coronavirus is having on airlines, the Wall Street Journal recently reported that the industry at large could lose as much as $84 billion in revenue this year. In North America alone, that figure could reach as high as $23.1 billion when all is said and done. Barring the development of a new vaccine anytime soon, the Journal adds that the airline industry may not be able to firmly recover from the coronavirus pandemic until 2022.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.