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Some International Airlines Cut First Class Seats and Add to Business Class/Premium Economy Now Widely Available, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

Many carriers have altered strategies to emphasize business class and premium economy seats instead of first class.  United cut one-third of its first-class seats on international routes, while American was eliminating up to 90% of its international first-class seats.  At the same time, these airlines seriously upgraded their business class cabins and service, with an emphasis on lay-flat seats and better food.  Some non-U.S. carriers have followed suit, including Qantas Airways and Deutsche Lufthansa.
Business class tickets sell for considerably less than first class—often 50% less.  While much roomier and more comfortable than coach or economy class seats, business class still takes up a lot less airplane space per passenger than first class, so more seats can be added.  It is often easier for business flyers to justify the cost of business class travel than the cost of first class.
Some corporate decision makers still argue that the rest and relaxation afforded in business class cabins on airlines and in upscale hotels are worth the expense on long-distance trips, since employees are better rested and better able to do their jobs on the road.  Others resist the expense and expect employees to use their own frequent flyer miles to upgrade when they want higher levels of service.  Employers are likely to authorize business class travel for their staff than first class on long-haul flights. 
To make the hours in the air more bearable, all of these carriers have instituted perks such as roomier seats, expanded business class cabins, private first-class seating, expanded flight crews and food and entertainment on demand.  There are even private double-bed suites for couples.  At British Airways, its Club World business class introduced lie-down seats that are 25% wider than before.
First-class luxury is being taken to a new level on Emirates’ flights to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).  The United Arab Emirates carrier offers 12 first class “suites,” each with 5’6” louvered doors that can be closed for complete privacy while in flight.  First class passengers may choose from 500 channels of on-demand entertainment.
Etihad raised the bar with miniature three-room suites called The Residence with a private bath with a glass sink and shower as well as dedicated butler, with service between Dubai and London.  The flight takes about 6 hours and 55 minutes outbound from Heathrow to Dubai, and 7 hours 45 minutes of pure pampering on the return.
Premium economy class service is available on most long-haul carriers.  The class typically offers slightly larger seats than standard coach (about six inches more legroom, four to five inches more recline and one to two inches in seat width), separate bathrooms and flight attendants, larger entertainment screens and upgraded food service.  The cost of premium economy is much higher than coach.

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