I have been traveling regularly to the south and I would love to know the benefits of upgrading to first class because to me it seems like there is none
There's the improved probability of a seat during rush hour and (in my opinion) the likelihood of quieter, or indeed absent, companions outside of rush hour. That's pretty much it; there's no difference in the hard product, and there's no soft product to speak of.
This is now counterbalanced by the very small first class section, which means if you have a random distribution of first class passengers, it doesn't take many people to fill it up even on a quiet service, and sometimes you may as well move to an empty part of the standard coach.
For many of us, the prospect of a quiet place to sit to read or work is well worth a few extra pounds on a journey of an hour or more. Yet, even I, who value this enough to travel almost never in standard class on a long journey, think Southern's first class is a bit of a joke, and I have stopped buying first on Southern services. (I am similarly displeased about the new carriages South Western Rail have introduced, with the 2-2 non-reclining first seats. I think it is a big downgrade.)
As I remember the operator would prefer to remove the first class section altogether but is forbidden by its franchising agreement.
This video did a review of first class and here are the advantages:
- Reading lights
- Power sockets
- Increased privacy
- More space
- More luxurious experience
- Better presentation
But to be honest, on shorter journeys and even on longer ones it isn’t really worth it in my opinion.