Virgin Trains East Coast abolished the first class quiet coaches when the timetable changed in May. The messaging around this was quite patronising. On the quiet coach page of the VTEC website it said "We're listening" and then claimed they were getting rid of the quiet coach due to customer demand.
VTEC sent an email to passengers affected by this change. The email said
As a regular Quiet Coach customer we appreciate that this may not be ideal for you. However, research has told us that while most of our customers love the chilled out ambience of First Class, only 9% really value the Quiet Coach offering.
I suspect the 9% came from a survey that I received. It asked passengers to select what the most important aspects of first class were and it included items such as catering, extra legroom, more space to work, etc. One of the options in the list was quiet coach even though this feature was not exclusive to first class. If this was the survey they used to decide only 9% of people valued the quiet coach it was definitely worded in a way to produce the result they wanted.
The reason the official explanation for abolishing the quiet coach in first class is patronising is because those who travel regularly can see for themselves that there's a significant number of people who chose to use the quiet coach even if there's space in other carriages (if making a reservation they'd have had to choose the quiet coach option).
What's the real reason?
I can only speculate but all evidence points to preparation for the Azuma. If they remove the first class quiet coach now passengers won't associate the removal of the facility with the new trains. Why would they want to remove the quiet coach from the Azuma? The reason I suspect is because the Azuma will have a smaller first class area than current trains, this was decided by the government in order to make more seats available to standard class passengers. The 9 car Azuma will have a half sized first class section next to the kitchen, one full carriage and then a composite carriage with part first class and part standard separated by a door.
The 5 car versions will just have the first class section by the kitchen and the composite carriage. In the current fleet it was straightforward make L and M regular first class carriages and then make the one next to the kitchen the quiet coach but with the Azuma it would be awkward deciding how much space should be used for a quiet coach and it seems that they decided the easiest answer is just to get rid of it.
Is there a solution?
Where there's a will there's a way. According to preliminary seat maps on the Azuma fleet the standard class quiet coach will remain on the 9 coach vehicles, but on the 5 coach version there'll only be a quiet coach when it's doubled up. This could make signage on the 5 coach vehicles awkward unless they invest in electronic screens (the scrolling dot matrix displays that come with these trains will probably not be enough for people to notice) to indicate that the quiet coach is in operation.
VTEC (now LNER) will know how many people generally book the quiet coach in standard class, just like they'll know how many people book it in first class. It might be possible to make the composite coach the quiet coach for both standard and first class (this will only work if the current standard quiet coaches are usually less than half booked), the other option would be to have the first class quiet coach in the carriage nearest the kitchen but only when the set is a 9 car or a doubled up 5 car.
There'd be less need for a quiet coach if train operators published some what should be common sense guidelines that expect passengers to be more considerate. If passengers put their phone on quiet, turned off the noises made when you tap on your phone and wore headphones when listening to music/watching a movie then a lot of the need for a quiet coach disappears.
It's not just leisure travellers who appreciate having a quiet coach it's also business travellers if they don't need to take calls.
What should they do?
Have a look at historical reservation data for the quiet coach and work out whether they'd be able to accommodate it in the composite carriage or the kitchen carriage. They should then run a more honest survey among passengers to find out what they really think of the quiet coach. I've only seen complaints about the lack of the quiet coach on Twitter, nobody has said they appreciate the extra flexibility that removing the quiet coach provides!
Even if they do decide reinstating it is not possible (too much hassle) they should avoid pretending it was removed for our benefit, I doubt many passengers believe it!
British Airways had such a reputation for calling cutbacks 'enhancements' a lot of frequent flyers now use the term enhancement to mean a cutback.