Upgrd 39: Thai Airways Land Of Miles

Join us for episode 39 of the Upgrd Podcast, as we’re joined by listener David. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it (darn redeye got in the way!) and I’m having a hard time listening to even the first ten minutes of this (at which point I gave up from banging my head against my desk).

Here’s a thought, Hunter — three cabin planes aren’t just there to actually be sold as first class. US airlines are behind “premium” foreign carriers in almost every respect. One of the main reasons for three cabin first is to incentivize flyers to pay full fare business fares and upgrade. United would be happy if someone paid $12,000 for business class to Singapore and upgraded to first, while they may have otherwise flown a higher quality airline like Singapore Airlines in business class. So in many respects it’s first class on US airlines vs. business class on airlines like Cathay Pacific, Singapore, etc.

Of course I would never expect Hunter to understand that. Oh, and sorry Hunter, but trying to use fancy “consulting” terms (out of context no less) doesn’t help your case.

Either way, David did a good job….


  1. I really like the “birthday award” thingy. That’s something worth listening all the way through for!
    (I am a different Hunter than the one in the podcast…I fly UA all the time and haven’t been on Delta since the L-1011 was the queen of their fleet. I did love that aircraft though. Also once flew a TWA L-1011.)

  2. If I understand you right, what you’re saying is that US-based airlines need to offer a First class product so that people will buy Business class and somehow upgrade (cash, miles, status, luck), instead of buying and flying Business on the other airline? I don’t totally agree with that opinion, I think people will buy what’s most affordable and comfortable, but its an interesting perspective and I don’t have data to prove or disprove it.

    Still, assuming you’re right, what is the non-US-based airlines’ rationale for offering a first class product? To compete with one another for the rare, super-elite-person who pays for first? Is that profitable?

    The way I see it, it’s hard for companies to justify paying for first class where business class is offered. Most companies that allow it, only do so for top-ranking executives, or they are small (often privately owned) companies where they don’t have to worry as much about public opinion. I hear a lot of speculation that when the market recovers, business class fares will not rebound to their levels from 2-3 years ago. business class travel will rebound, but at a much lower price point.

    I think where the market will land is that “one-above-coach” is what companies will justify for long trips. I suspect that if Premium Economy becomes more common, companies will normally reimburse most employees for “regular” coach, and occasionally for Premium Economy.

    When that happens, First Class will go away, and even Business class may fade away. There will be competition between airlines over time to improve premium economy cabins – like how business class comfort today is better than first class comfort was ~10 years ago.

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