Is First-Class On Planes Going Out of Style?

Sure, everyone would like to sit in a big comfy seat sipping drinks in the front of the plane. But companies are not necessarily paying for that luxury anymore – even for top executives – and now some airlines are cutting first-class seats in favor of cheaper alternatives.

"There's been a clear trend for long-haul international flights to reduce or eliminate first-class cabins on all but the most lucrative and competitive routes," Bryan Saltzburg of TripAdvisor, tells USA Today.

One example is Qantas. The Australian carrier said earlier this year it is dropping first class on most long-haul flights – exceptions are Australia to Los Angeles and London.

There's been speculation United too may eventually drop first class and fly only two cabins, business and economy, as part of its merger with two-class Continental.

United "is evaluating which configuration or configurations make the most sense based on customer demand," United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson tells USA Today.

Matt Daimier of SeatGuru says one reason for the cuts in first class is that business class has dramatically improved. Lie-flat seats, for instance, are now common in business class.

Brett Snyder of The Cranky Flier blog agrees. "Business class is better than first class ever was 20 years ago. You didn't have flat beds 20 years ago," he says.

AirTran will also be phasing out first class as part of its merger with Southwest. Southwest does not have first- or business-class seats.

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