While the vast majority of fliers are feeling the squeeze with tighter and tighter economy seats (we’re looking at you, American Airlines) and downright frightening customer-service disasters (United), we might well be witnessing the dawn of a new golden age of travel in the business-class section.
Now a standard fixture on most planes—both the jumbo jets that regularly traverse oceans as well as the single-aisle planes that make domestic short hops—business class first debuted a mere 40 years ago. British Airways created a “Club Class” between first and coach back in 1978, while Qantas coined the actual term “business class” a year later.
The new first class
So where is business class heading now? First off, it’s replacing first class on many airplanes and routes—it’s simply a less-expensive, less-expansive version of first class that still features lie-flat beds, multicourse menus created by celebrity chefs, and amenity kits stocked with spa products. It makes sense for airlines: There are more seats and more fliers who can purchase these seats, thus more money to be made.
Second, the seats in business class are getting innovative updates—both technological and ergonomic—that should impact the flight experience in large and small ways. And since airlines typically fly just a handful of aircraft types, you’ll see similar-looking seat styles across brands. There will be uniformity in the improvements. It’s shockingly expensive (think millions of dollars and several years) to develop a new business-class product, so once risk-averse airlines find a style that works, they stick to it.
The focus now is on refining the use of space and new technology within each seat to maximize passenger comfort.