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How Airlines Target First Class Flyers

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As the 70th Anniversary of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), occurs and a new era of technology and travel begins, many new advancements are happening in the world of flying. Peter Greenberg recently sat down with several airline CEOs, including John Slosar of Cathay Pacific, Dave Barger of JetBlue, and James Hogan of Etihad Airways. They discussed major travel hubs and what airlines are doing to ensure the most comfortable—to an outright lavish experience—for their guests. The emerging trend for passengers is to always upgrade and avoid coach. Read on to find out more, and click here to listen to the interviews on Peter’s Travel Today Podcast.

With more and more travelers hitting the international airways, Hogan stated that Etihad transports 11 million passengers per year. With Abu Dhabi quickly becoming a major international travel hub—taking passengers to coordinates all over the world—there is a big focus on what can be done to give passengers a more fun and luxurious experience. Hogan went into detail about going above and beyond first class with the new Residents and Apartments being added to the A380.


Hogan explained that these new accommodations are designed to feel more like a private jet, rather than an airline. Apartments are complete with a bed, shower, vanity unit, a 24-inch TV with six On Demand channels, and over 600 hours worth of inflight entertainment. As if that’s not enough, there is also the newly added Residence. The Residence is complete with a sitting room that two people can sit in for take off and landing, and it has its own TV, dining area, and bedroom with a bed suite. Passengers have their own butler, and in some cases, a nanny. As Hogan put it, it is the only flight where children exit the aircraft having their faces painted.

Etihad is not the only airline making things more upscale for its passengers. Dave Barger, CEO of JetBlue, explained that, while JetBlue has never had a first class section of their aircraft before, due the demand from loyal JetBlue passengers, they have recently been persuaded to add a premium experience, the Mint product, to their airlines. According to Barger, this is one of the few routes where the passenger actually pays for the ticket as opposed to being upgraded. Barger explains that often a first class ticket with other airlines runs about $2,500 to $2,800 one way, whereas JetBlue will allow passengers to have the Mint product for between $599 to $799, which includes WiFi in the cabin.

hong kongJohn Slosar, Chairman of Cathay Pacific, described Hong Kong as the hub for the high-priced traveler. He explained that the airline is doing better than ever with up to five flights per day from Hong Kong to New York. China suddenly had a surge in building airports, starting in the 1990s when over 70 airports were built. Slosar estimates that there will be another 50 to 60 built within the next year.

Slosar explained that there is a massive amount of traffic coming through Hong Kong, the majority of their passengers fly first class or business class, and they travel through Hong Kong to well-off places. He explained that these passengers “are famous for shopping at high branded stores and we would like them to consider Cathay Pacific a high branded airline.”

It seems that passengers are finding flying first class, or at the very least, having a flying experience that is more accommodating than simply flying coach, to be a priority in their travels. From what we learned at IATA, this trend is only growing and will be here to stay, creating new and different ways to make flying a relaxing and rewarding experience rather than just a way to get from point A to B.

To learn more about new changes in travel, check out:

By Kandice Martellaro for