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The Power of the Market: A Better Business Class Seat

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Aug 6, 2013    •    TIME TO READ: 1 minute

The power of the market could be the reason that 50 or 60 people can comfortably sit, sleep, dine, work and enjoy some entertainment in a very small space.

Airlines know that they can charge global business travelers as much as $6000 for a business class seat and maybe more. Compare that to a $700 coach seat on the same plane and you get a lot of incentive to attract the corporate flier.

For Lufthansa, that has meant spending more than $1 billion on creating, manufacturing and installing the perfect business class seat. As a bed, it will be 78 inches long while as a seat it will have a rotating table and a foot ottoman. Using a “V” configuration, Lufthansa can install 92 business class seats. With its “yin-yang” layout where passengers look forward or backward, British Airways fits 70 seats and Cathay Pacific’s “reverse herringbone” (below) results in 53 seats.

In the United States, the battle for the high paying customer has accelerated. Jet Blue just announced it would create a business class section while American, Delta and United have each announced plans to invest in business class seating for transcontinental and international flights. Meanwhile though, to save on fuel, airlines are compensating for the heavier business class load with slimmer and lighter coach seats.

And that returns us to the power of the market. Low in coach, the market’s price says supply safety, punctuality and a slim, knee cramping seat. Meanwhile, high business and first class fares are investment incentives. And then finally, the power of the market can lead to the profits that generate jobs and shareholder returns from which everyone can benefit.

The herringbone configuration on Cathay Pacific. From The Australian Business Traveler

The reverse herringbone configuration on Cathay Pacific. From The Australian Business Traveler

Sources and resources: Articles here and here describe how airlines are focusing on business and first class while this site has great pictures of the different business class configurations and seats. By contrast, this Businessinsider picture series displays the coach experience.

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