Why Business Class Is Flying High

 The new Business Class seats in Air France afford more privacy and easier aisle access.

The new Business Class seats in Air France afford more privacy and easier aisle access.

Business Class air travel generally affords comfort and amenities just a notch below the more pricey First Class, while being far superior to Economy. Completion for your clients’ dollars is not limited to corporate frequent flyers (it’s a good upgrade option for honeymooners and other celebration travelers, for example) and it ensures that airlines will keep upping their game on this front. Here are some recent developments of note, beginning with some news from Europe.

Last month, airberlin and Etihad Airways unveiled an Airbus A320 aircraft in specially designed joint livery, symbolizing the close ties between the two airlines and marking the launch of a new Moving Forward media campaign.

“Partnerships are vital in today’s aviation industry,” says Wolfgang Prock-Schauer, airberlin’s CEO. “[Ours] provides significant benefits to Etihad and airberlin, as well as to our guests. Not only do we provide an expanded offering of destinations and services, we also have developed synergies through the entire value chain. This means an increasingly attractive offer with numerous benefits for customers, and continuously improved productivity and lower costs.”

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The duo’s growing worldwide joint network includes new destinations in India, South Korea and Australia, as well as an increase to 49 weekly flights between Germany and Abu Dhabi. In another development, airberlin has introduced its new Business Class, limited to 19 seats to ensure privacy and optimum personal service.

Air France has unveiled its new business-class seat that folds flat and has a shape that offers privacy from other seats—and all have full access to the aisle (no need to climb over sleeping neighbors when you want to get up and stretch). The seats will offer some cool tech touches as well: Business Class customers will get a personal 16-inch HD TV for entertainment or information. Each seat will also have both a traditional plug and a USB port for charging electronic devices, and guests can use noise-canceling headphones.

In total, over 2,000 seats will be installed between June 2014 and Summer 2016 on 44 Boeing 777s—the majority of Air France’s long-haul fleet.

Last month, Finnair began installing new fully lie-flat seats in most of its existing long-haul aircraft. Once the installation program is completed by the fall, all of Finnair’s long-haul Airbus fleet will have fully flat seats in Business Class, with the exception of three older aircraft. These latter planes will be the first to be removed from the fleet with the arrival of A350 XWBs in 2015.

Meanwhile, Business Class passengers, Finnair Plus top-tier loyalty card holders and other customers entitled to lounge access at Helsinki Airport can now get an upgraded range of complimentary wines, beer and spirits in both Finnair Lounges at Helsinki Airport.

In the U.S., American Airlines is adding the new, more fuel-efficient Airbus A321 Transcontinental aircraft to its fleet. The airline took delivery of the first plane in November. Flights between JFK and LAX began last month and JFK-SFO service will take off in March. The A321T has fully lie-flat First and Business Class seats, in-seat entertainment and in-flight air-to-ground Wi-Fi. The Business Class cabin’s 20 lie-flat seats are arranged in a 2-2 configuration.

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