Over the past 60 years, there have been a variety of configurations and options presented to
premium passengers. As the offerings (for seats, in particular) for First Class became more
luxurious, there became a need for another class. Situated between the exclusive First Class
and the budget-oriented Economy Class, this new cabin took older-style First Class seats
with upscale food and drink and provided a more relaxed and upscale travel experience at a
price point that was acceptable for most international corporate executives: Business Class
Initially, First Class was approximately double the ticket price of Economy Class. With the
Deregulation Act of 1978, competition drove the price of Economy Class down and
exacerbated the price gap between Economy and First Class. This difference in price could be
as much as a factor of eight times! Businessmen needed to reach their long-haul destination
refreshed and ready to work, but booking an entire team in First Class for an international
flight was cost-prohibitive. Companies simply could not rationalize the premium to fly First
Class. The answer, of course, would be the relatively cheaper Business Class fares.
The first Business Class products were a significant step up from Economy Class for seat
pitch (the distance between two rows of seats), recline angle, and seat width. The service
was noticeably more attentive than Economy Class. Meal service was better than in Economy —
served on a tray, with linen table coverings and napkins, glassware, silverware, and
porcelain dishware. And the meal choices were more varied in a Business Class seat!
By the late 1990s, Business Class seats started to encourage better and better sleep. Flying
Business Class meant that the seats reclined farther and there was an extendable leg rest.
By the start of the 2000s, some airlines even started offering lie-flat seats that formed
beds. The first airline to offer these lie-flat seats were British Airways, and the
configuration of these seats meant that half the passengers had to sit facing backward, a
small sacrifice for the chance to sleep eight hours of your 10-hour international flights to
and from Europe! For some time, in order to save seat pitch, the fully-flat beds were mostly
the now-dreaded “angle-flat” seats. In these seats, your feet would be low down and usually
below the seat in front of you.
As the first decade of the 21st century progressed, more and more Business Class cabins were
set with fully-flat sleeper seats that converted to a full bed. As the second decade
(2010-2020) came to a close, the new buzz words about Business Class changed from “
fully-flat bed seat” to “direct aisle access.” Later, the conversation around the seats for
Business Class flights progressed to “fully enclosed suites” — once a feature only provided
to the exclusive First Class passengers.
Another trend over the last 15 years is that Business Class flight deals are starting to
become the top offering of an airline, as the First Class cabin has been phased out. For
example, consider one of the three major airline alliances: Oneworld. Oneworld has 13 member
airlines, and in 2020, before COVID19, only six were offering First Class, and most of these
only offer the once-exclusive First Class cabin on very few, select flights.
The general trend is that the relatively cheap Business Class is reaching the seating quality
levels of older First Class offerings again, while the food and service are remaining at the
Business Class levels of the past 20 years. There are exceptions to this, of course, and
those who have chosen to provide premium class passengers better seating options, food
options, and additional services are offering the best Business Class amenities!
Your Travel Manager at Business Travel 365 can suggest the most luxurious and cost-effective
options for your Premium Class travel in Business or First Class. Let us share our knowledge
and experience with you!