Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and American Airlines make a lot of their money at the front of the plane. A strong economy and industry consolidation has allowed the airlines, in recent years, to invest in more fuel efficient planes with better cabins focusing on premium classes. One focus has been rethinking business class. First class internationally and on some key domestic routes has become a hybrid of first and business class.
As of November 2019, if you wanted to book a first class round trip flight on Emirates from JFK to Dubai at the last minute it could cost you over $23,000.
Flying from New York to Mumbai? Etihad Airways offers a three-room luxury suite called The Residence which features a private bathroom, a private living room and a personal butler. Flying round trip on Etihad for that flight could be over $36,000.
And, for about $3,000, American Airlines Flagship First fliers can go from New York to Los Angeles with access to an exclusive check-in area and premium wines in the flagship lounge.
While the airlines make a significant amount of money packing people into coach like cattle, premium cabins like business and first class are still a major source of income for U.S carriers.