Number of seats in Air France long-haul J and P vs competition

Old Jul 30, 2023, 6:40 am
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Number of seats in Air France long-haul J and P vs competition

Here is an interesting analysis of premium and First class capacity and offerings by airlines. Click here for the article

Excerpt of the summary, from the article, focusing on long haul First and Premium seats:
  • On widebodies, first class accounts for 0.6% of seats, and business class for 12.2% of seats.
  • On widebodies, Emirates leads by total seat numbers and by premium seat numbers and has the highest number of widebody first class seats.
  • SWISS has the highest share of widebody seats in premium cabins and highest share of its widebody seats in first class.
One analysis that is interesting is the absolute number of "true" First Class seats (=on widebody planes), and AF is quite low in that ranking:
  1. Emirates
  2. British Airways
  3. Korean
  4. Lufthansa
  5. Saudia
  6. Etihad
  7. Air China
  8. Swiss
  9. Singapore Airlines
  10. China Eastern
  11. Cathay Pacific
  12. American
  13. Japan Airlines
  14. ANA
  15. Qantas
  16. Qatar Airways
  17. Thai
  18. Air France
If you look at the share of First Class seats of all seats on widebody planes, AF is similarly low - i.e. First Class is a product that is much more niche for AF than for many other airlines:
  1. Swiss
  2. Korean
  3. Emirates
  4. British Airways
  5. Etihad
  6. Saudia
  7. Lufthansa
  8. Qantas
  9. Xiamen
  10. China Eastern
  11. Air China
  12. Japan Airlines
  13. Asiana
  14. Air India
  15. Singapore
  16. Condor (sic)
  17. Thai
  18. American
  19. ANA
  20. Cathay Pacific
  21. Air France
Looking at both First and Business Class together, Air France is also significantly lower than its main European competitors (share of First/Business seats in widebody fleet), and it's sometimes surprising who has a higher premium-focus:
  1. Swiss
  2. British Airways
  3. Lufthansa
  4. Singapore
  5. United
  6. Korean Air
  7. Emirates
  8. China Eastern
  9. Qantas
  10. Japan Airlines
  11. ANA
  12. Aeromexico
  13. Cathay Pacific
  14. SAS
  15. American
  16. Etihad
  17. Finnair
  18. Air France
  19. Delta Airlines
FYI, KLM is ranked #33

I know many (including me) have argued since years that AF feels more like a leisure-oriented airline and does not really understand the needs of business and premium customers and where it does focuses more on the "pleasure" part of its product. These numbers support that argument.

I am sure there'll be a lively discussion based on this... (moderators, feel free to split off into a separate thread)

(Sorry for the horrible formatting of this post, but that is what a numbered list does on this forum)
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Old Jul 31, 2023, 5:44 am
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Interesting analysis. Not surprising to see Swiss feature at the top, seeing as they are pretty much the only airline around with 100% fleet with some F availability. Surprised to see BA so high and I would have also expected LH to be lower.
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Old Jul 31, 2023, 5:55 am
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Lufthansa has brought back the A380, has kept some A340-600s with First Class, and First Class Seats on all Boeing 747-8i. There are eight seats on each one of those planes. A total of 33 planes, compared to AF's 19 planes with only four seats each.
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Old Aug 1, 2023, 1:30 pm
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I'm not sure about your conclusion:
1. Unless I am missing something, this analysis talks about size of F/J cabins. I guess I don't see why the size of the cabin matters vs. the experience in the cabin.
2. From an airline perspective, a bigger F/J class may not be better if the seats can't be sold. In other words, if most people in F/J are upgrades, that's really not what the airline wants (I know that's what passengers want, but that's a different story). AF may be "right-sizing" F/J based on true demand.
3. Frankly, a big J cabin is a turn-off for me. I find it tends to become an assembly line service from the flight crew (and that's not a dig on the flight crew, it's more a dig on these airlines that increase the size of J class without increasing the staff).
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Old Aug 1, 2023, 2:48 pm
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Doesn't LH still run 2-2-2 on most of its J aircraft ? With the few exceptions of aircraft taken over from other airlines. That's inherently more seats. Plus, AF has to offer high density, lower J-count aircraft on certain routes to accomodate the higher Y demand at a reasonable price, I'm thinking the DOM/TOM obligations.
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Old Aug 1, 2023, 4:56 pm
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Originally Posted by EBiafore99
I'm not sure about your conclusion:
1. Unless I am missing something, this analysis talks about size of F/J cabins. I guess I don't see why the size of the cabin matters vs. the experience in the cabin.
2. From an airline perspective, a bigger F/J class may not be better if the seats can't be sold. In other words, if most people in F/J are upgrades, that's really not what the airline wants (I know that's what passengers want, but that's a different story). AF may be "right-sizing" F/J based on true demand.
3. Frankly, a big J cabin is a turn-off for me. I find it tends to become an assembly line service from the flight crew (and that's not a dig on the flight crew, it's more a dig on these airlines that increase the size of J class without increasing the staff).
Whose conclusion? Mine? its not based on the size of the cabin or the number of seats. Its based on the share of P/J capacity vs. overall capacity.
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Old Aug 1, 2023, 5:40 pm
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Originally Posted by San Gottardo
Whose conclusion? Mine? its not based on the size of the cabin or the number of seats. Its based on the share of P/J capacity vs. overall capacity.
At the end of your post, you stated you argue AF is focusing more on the leisure customer and doesn't know their premium customer. I should have stated "your argument..."
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Old Aug 1, 2023, 6:12 pm
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I do not share the "conclusion", "argument" or whatever we want to call the statement that: "I know many (including me) have argued since years that AF feels more like a leisure-oriented airline and does not really understand the needs of business and premium customers and where it does focuses more on the "pleasure" part of its product. These numbers support that argument."

I think that the 2nd and 3rd data points are not relevant to that conclusion/argument (share of analysis). The first data point is no surprise, only 4 seats (and the 380s grounded) -- but I would argue that limiting it to 4 seats means it's even more premium. Eg AA has about 20 777-300 with 8 "first class" seats (which by the way they are getting rid of) -- does that make AA more of a premium focused airline than AF?

Turning to my experience, AF is quite the opposite of that "conclusion"/"argument". Flying between NY and Europe, AF is better than LH, LX etc. in premium cabins. AF has the best F of any European carrier. AF J is way better than LH (which is subpar, at best) and better than LX. Also, AF deploys wide bodies only on certain routes where LH and LX used to do so and are now squeezing 200 people in a crappy 320 in fake business class. Prime example is TLV. So again, this shows consideration for premium routes/passengers.
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Old Aug 1, 2023, 10:50 pm
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Agree with NYC1.. There may not be many seats but La Premiere is top 2 or 3 of all first class that I have flown and #1 hands down in Europe/North America IMO.
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Old Aug 2, 2023, 4:31 am
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An airline can be both less premium-focused in size of offer, and have better premium product at the same time. Those two ideas are not in conflict.
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Old Aug 2, 2023, 6:05 am
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Originally Posted by NYC1
I do not share the "conclusion", "argument" or whatever we want to call the statement that: "I know many (including me) have argued since years that AF feels more like a leisure-oriented airline and does not really understand the needs of business and premium customers and where it does focuses more on the "pleasure" part of its product. These numbers support that argument."

I think that the 2nd and 3rd data points are not relevant to that conclusion/argument (share of analysis). The first data point is no surprise, only 4 seats (and the 380s grounded) -- but I would argue that limiting it to 4 seats means it's even more premium. Eg AA has about 20 777-300 with 8 "first class" seats (which by the way they are getting rid of) -- does that make AA more of a premium focused airline than AF?

Turning to my experience, AF is quite the opposite of that "conclusion"/"argument". Flying between NY and Europe, AF is better than LH, LX etc. in premium cabins. AF has the best F of any European carrier. AF J is way better than LH (which is subpar, at best) and better than LX. Also, AF deploys wide bodies only on certain routes where LH and LX used to do so and are now squeezing 200 people in a crappy 320 in fake business class. Prime example is TLV. So again, this shows consideration for premium routes/passengers.
Yes, I agree with you, the onboard product in J is better than on LH (not difficult), arguably as good/bad as LX (some things better than LX, others not so good). However, "premium focus" is not measured only by the quality of the onboard product. Unless your point was that AF is "better" than all the other 17 carriers listed ahead of it in the ranking (Singapore? Qatar? JAL?) - but I don't think that is your point.

The conclusion I was trying to draw is a different one, and your argument actually supports it: Air France is good when it comes to making things "pleasant", "feel upmarket". They do that well, their onbaord product is decent, which is why we prefer them to some of the airlines on the list. But a much larger proportion of their capacity and their travelers are not in premium classes, so their operation and their thinking is geared towards processing large numbers of leisure travelers. For AF, premium classes is mostly about a nicer flying experience. But they are not so good in understanding the needs of a frequent/business traveler beyond the onboard product. Try to find working space in one of the lounges - nada, already their PR pictures show people lounging and drinking champagne. Or figure out why the pre-flight dinner service exists only for a handful of flights from the US East Coast - no, only for some late flights. The idea of having dedicated boarding/unboarding buses for J class customers from tarmac positions: doesn't cross their mind, they rather stuff the masses in as few buses as possible. AF doesn't get the concept of people having to be in a certain place at a certain time and are ready to pay top EUR/USD for it - but AF does not offer booking guarantee to its top frequent flyers. Internet on board is patchy. And so on.

It's not because the small number of Premiere seats and the product is nice that AF is a premium-oriented airline. If Monoprix or Safeway were selling a few Vuitton bags in a corner that would still make them a mass-market mid-segment player, not a luxury player.

Originally Posted by FenwayTim
Agree with NYC1.. There may not be many seats but La Premiere is top 2 or 3 of all first class that I have flown and #1 hands down in Europe/North America IMO.
As said, this is not about how good or bad their product is. This is about how important premium travel is for AFKL. Clearly less than for others, it's more of a niche than for others.

Originally Posted by Fabo.sk
An airline can be both less premium-focused in size of offer, and have better premium product at the same time. Those two ideas are not in conflict.
Exactly. Thanks for putting it so succinctly.
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Old Aug 2, 2023, 6:47 am
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I'd also add that being premium focused and being business focused are also not the same things, despite the monicker of business class.

Premium leisure is a thing (and increasingly so in the last years), and the issues San Gottardo mention are exactly what shows that AF is more leisure focused even in Premium.

The needs of "business" customers differ from "premium leisure" despite both being premium.
Focus on one or the other is orthogonal from focus on eco/premium by scale, and also to a point independent of level of quality of premium product; with the caveat that premium leisure customers are much more sensitive to quality of direct product, and particularly soft product, than premium business customers. Premium business customers OTOH look more at auxilliary offerings like onboard internet, consistency of product, and reliability.
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Old Aug 2, 2023, 7:50 am
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Originally Posted by San Gottardo
The conclusion I was trying to draw is a different one, and your argument actually supports it: Air France is good when it comes to making things "pleasant", "feel upmarket". They do that well, their onbaord product is decent, which is why we prefer them to some of the airlines on the list. But a much larger proportion of their capacity and their travelers are not in premium classes, so their operation and their thinking is geared towards processing large numbers of leisure travelers. For AF, premium classes is mostly about a nicer flying experience. But they are not so good in understanding the needs of a frequent/business traveler beyond the onboard product. Try to find working space in one of the lounges - nada, already their PR pictures show people lounging and drinking champagne. Or figure out why the pre-flight dinner service exists only for a handful of flights from the US East Coast - no, only for some late flights. The idea of having dedicated boarding/unboarding buses for J class customers from tarmac positions: doesn't cross their mind, they rather stuff the masses in as few buses as possible.
Well... don't you think that there might be more than a spoonful of confirmation bias in this analysis? You thought that of AF before you had seen those figures. You then see the figures and make them fit your pre-established view. If one applies your analysis to other airlines on the list, one would have to come to the conclusion that BA is one of the more premium-pax focused airlines, with an especially strong focus on F pax service. One would also have to conclude that Korean is heads and shoulders above, say, Singapore, JAL or ANA on its focus on 1st class pax... mmm.... I am not convinced. I fail to see a strong systematic correlation between proportion of pax between classes and actual product focus in the airlines in this list. For some airlines, there could be a prima facie plausible correlation but for others, there is not. In other words, it seems to me pretty random rather than strongly correlated.
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