Why airlines are spending billions on a better business class

Summary:An previously all-coach airline is adding an innovative business class, part of a larger industry trend to capture a higher share of high-end customers.

This week, JetBlue Airways, the U.S.-based low-cost airline, unveiled its new business class seating. Beginning in 2014, JetBlue will be the first airline in the market with a separate single suite seat with a closable door on its popular New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco routes. But it's also noteworthy because JetBlue was previously an all-coach airline and is part of a larger industry-wide trend to build a better business class, The New York Times reports:

“Business class is where competition really is serious,” says Björn Bosler, the airline’s manager for passenger experience design, business and premium, who led Lufthansa’s team of dozens of seat designers and engineers. Bob Lange, senior vice president, head of market and product strategy at Airbus, the European plane maker, agrees: “There’s an arms race going on among carriers.”

Billions are being spent on research and development, architects, industrial designers and even yacht designers to pack seats with engineering innovations and fancy features. Just fabricating a single business-class seat can cost up to $80,000; custom-made first-class models run $250,000 to $500,000.

Why such a focus on this relatively small portion of the airplane cabin? Because, as the Times reports, first and business class passengers can account for as much as half of revenue for airlines even though only 10-15 percent of passengers on long-haul flights are sitting in business class.

Read more: New York Times

Photo: JetBlue

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Topics: Innovation

About

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter.

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