Did you know that Business Class as a separate cabin hasn’t been around for that long?
At first, Economy Class started to separate from First Class and later, within a few years, the air travel industry started to feel higher pressure and competition between airlines. With the large gap between the two, First Class travel was not accessible to those who usually traveled with Economy. And for those who would agree to pay a bit more than Economy to get better seats had no options. Business Class, in simple words, was created to offer something in-between for those who would pay more to travel in comfort, but not as much as for First Class.
In the late 1970’s airlines began separating full-fare and discounted economy passengers.
In 1969 – Boeing 747 makes its first flight. The plane promised more space and more passengers. Long story in short, in the early 70’s rising fuel prices increased and airlines had too many free seats, for too few passengers.
Airlines needed to draw more customers for aircrafts with more free space and sell for higher prices. The “sweet spot” was met in developing new product for air travelers – Business Class cabin.
In 1976, KLM introduced a new class to passengers – Full Fare Facilities. Which allowed them to sit somewhere in between First and Economy class. The seats were placed behind the First Class passengers and at the front of Economy class.
Eventually, this strategy started to be adopted by other airlines. In 1978, Air Canada and United Airlines started to include such seating choices for their passengers.
In 1977 – 1978, British Airways introduced “Club Class”, a separate premium cabin with extra amenities for passengers.
Therefore, British Airways officially announced an Executive Cabin for 747 flights on 1 May 1977. The Executive Cabin was immediately behind First Class. Hence, there were no movies, no children, but – fast bar and meal service, duty-free, hot linen towels after meals, separate boarding pass.
Next, Air France launched a ‘Business Class’ service for full fare passengers in 1978. Typically French, the benefits included free champagne, cognac and French cheeses.
One year later, in 1979, Qantas claims to have launched the first ever Business Class in the world.
In the early 1980s, Delta improved the product and called it “Medallion Service”, with a segregated section of the main cabin, where wider seats with cabin dividers appeared.
Today’s Business Class passengers already expect the highest standards with the most innovative technologies on board. Let us bring you back to the 80’s and show you how Business Class developed since then.
The 1980s: Armchair
The competition between airlines has always been high. Based on the fares, mainline carriers in the US decided to place more economy passengers in the back of planes and fill in the rows in the front with other classes. Companies often could not get the higher prices for First Class. Therefore, creating a new product – the Business Class seat, became the most reasonable solution. While First Class passengers were still the first who received lie-flat beds, Business Class passengers had to wait till the end of the decade to receive it.
The 1990s: Cradle Seat
By the end of the 1990s, Business Class seats became wider, which later became known as “Cradle Seats”, as they had a completely adjustable head and foot rest, and even in some lucky situations – a massage function. The Cradle seat was the first wider Business Class seat type after the original seat.
The 2000s: Completely Flat
With increasing demand, the product for Business Class improved rapidly in the next years. British Airways was the first airline that offered completely flat beds. Specifically, overnight flights received their first lie-flat Business Class seats. As fully flat seats required increased floorspace, and hence a higher cost, therefore, Business Class passengers were satisfied with the flight experience.
The 2010s: Comfort in the sky
Airlines and seat manufacturers started to update their Business Class products and provide other seat configurations. As the result, Zodiac (United Airlines); Yin-Yang (British Airways) and other Business Class seat types started to appear. And soon those configurations come under other Business Class seat improvements we can see today. See – Business Class Seat Types
2019 -…: The Future is Here
Also, with the appearance of the Premium Economy Class in the latest years, Business Class seats started to develop more unique designs to stand out. Adding extras for Business Class passengers became more and more popular. For instance, Emirates added a private bar and Qatar developed the unique Qsuite cabins. Thus, for now, Premium Economy is still at the level of early Business Class evolution, the constant improvement and re-development can make the separation less visible for others.
To sum up, it is hard to predict what will await Business Class seats in the future, although it is 100% sure, that the seats and service will get only better and better. As 2019 started with LATAM Airlines Unveils New Business Class Interiors . However, let us make a guess and take you into the nearest future of Business Class seats in our next blog posts.