What’s the Value of Business Class… to the Passenger?

The International Air Transport Association reported earlier this month that premium ticket purchases fell 21% globally in February — which follows January’s decline of 16.7%.  Part of the drop is due to falling air traffic, but a good bit of it is from tighter corporate travel policies that are pushing mid-level executives to the back of the plane.  Not good for the airlines because, according to one analyst, it can take up to 10 coach fliers to replace the revenue of one business-class flier.

The question that no one seems to want to ask is — is a seat in the business-class cabin worth a 10x price premium?  I flew business class on the three international legs of my recent trip between to Johannesburg, South Africa — South Africa Airlines on the outbound New York-to-Johannesburg leg, and then returned on Lufthansa from Johannesburg to Frankfurt, and United from Frankfurt to Chicago.  It’s a long trip, and so should highlight the value of business class.  But for me, it didn’t — it just reinforced the question.

None of these flights were particularly memorable — the service was marginal, the food was at best just OK, though the wine selection wasn’t bad (SAA was the best).  The big difference was the seat reclines — full flat on SAA, almost flat on Lufthansa, and Lazy-Boy recline on United — which certainly made for a much better night’s sleep than the 3-4 inches of recline provided in coach.  So, the $5-7,000 premium is really about a shorter check-in line, 3-4 free glasses of wine, and a night’s sleep.  Can you justify that in these economic times?  The airlines certainly hope so.

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  1. Of course! For an international flight business class is the way to go.

    Firs what kills it is JET LAG. A report says that flying in coach class with less recline and harder sleeping environment is one of the leading causes of JetLag. While you are in business class or first and have that recline you get more sleep which nearly prevents the entire “sickness” that can ruin the first 2 days of your vacation.
    Source: http://www.rd.com/living-healthy/jet-lag-and-sleep/article54848.html

    Second, saving that time is amazing. Why wait to check-in. At most major airports the check-in queue is about 20-30 minutes. That to me is worth it. Plus you may get access to priority security.

    The extra room in business class and service you get is well worth it.

    Consider looking for a business class ticket. Now-a-days airlines are offering big discounts. I just booked at roundtrip flight from SDF – DTW – LHR . . . Nice – Amsterdamn – DTW – SDF all First/Business Class on NWA for a little under $2,000.