Business class flights offer ultimate comfort, convenience and privacy to passengers which makes these flights perfect for business travelers. They offer a variety of great perks and amenities. One of them are the comfortable seats.
There is no doubt that business class seats offer ultimate comfort for airplane passengers. Business class seats allow travelers to rest, sleep or work in a convenient and private way during their flight. They are manufactured according to the latest technological advancements and modern seat standards.
The business class seat has undergone considerable changes in the past few years to become the version we know today. In fact all airplane classes evolved in their own way.
Now some air carriers even completely removed their first class cabin and united first and business class into one class.
Historical facts about the evolution of business class seat
In the past class divisions didn’t existed on passenger aircraft and all passengers sat on the same cabin. Back then airplane cabins were usually smaller than the modern ones we know today.
The World War II Era brought big and fast aircraft. And these improved airplanes set the aircraft manufacturing standards for the future. Airlines chose to model passenger version airplanes after the war aircraft after the end of World War II when the aviation industry was booming.
This was also the moment when air companies recognized the need for a development in the quality and variety of air services and also the need to serve a larger number of passengers. There was a future for those who manage to serve more people in one airplane.
Consequently, first class and economy class were born. But as most of us know there are major differences between the two in terms of services.
First class was too expensive for the majority of people while economy class wasn’t enough for those who were willing to pay more for a few additional amenities and better seats.Those people wanted more comfort during their flight but couldn’t afford the price of first class tickets.
But because there was a huge competition and high pressure between the airlines, the airline industry was urged to add an air travel class between these two. Business class was created to be something between economy class and first class.
The beginning of 1970s was marked by a recession and there was an increase in the fuel prices.This led to the situation in which air companies had less passengers than the number of seats available and they were losing profits.
In 1969 air carriers started having flights with few passengers but with many seats. So in this moment they decided that they need to attract customers to those flights that had more free space available and sell them tickets that were more expensive than the regular economy class tickets since they offered more comfort.
Because they didn’t want to increase the ticket prices for first class, their decision was to offer new tickets at new prices but keep the old ones at the same time.
So, by the end of the 70s air companies started separating discounted economy class flights and full fare flights. And that’s how business class appeared. It offered great solution to the situation.
This led to the birth of business class in 1970. The development of business class helped airline companies fill the gap between economy and first class flights and offer a different class of fare.
In 1979 airlines started to sell for the first time tickets for seats that were different from economy and first class seats.
Boeing 747 (also called Jumbo Jet) made its first flight on February 1969 offering a new air travel class. This new airplane model has a capacity for more passengers and more space.
In 1975 Japan Airlines ( JAL) launched Tachibana cabin designed for full fare flyers. This new air travel class (called Orange Blossom) let passengers sit between first and economy class and offered a more quiet atmosphere than regular economy.
On the next year KLM adds a new class- Full Fare Facilities which offered separate check-in and priority baggage handling.
In 1975 British Airways changed their economy class cabin seat configuration from 2-4-3 into 3-4-3. Their business class was behind first class and had a 2-4-3 configuration.
But the first air company that officially introduced the business class cabin in the world was Qantas.This happened in 1979 when the company introduced a new class on the routes between USA and Australia.
It cost 15% higher than the regular economy class fare and offered more comfortable seats with:
- more legroom
- radio and videoscreens
- drinks bar
- wine selection
Qantas offered its customers also priority check-in and quick luggage handling.
United Airlines and Air Canada also started offering business class seating to their passengers in 1978. In 1977 British Airways created “Club Class” which was a premium class cabin that was separated from the other and it offered additional services.
The air company also offered Executive Cabin that was placed behind first class on 1 May 1977. This cabin offered more perks such as:
- free boarding pass
- better foods and drinks
- free newspapers
- smoking and non-smoking zones
- quicker service by flight attendants staff
- additional linen pillows
- towels and headrest covers
Thai Airlines also introduced a business class in the same year naming it simply “Business Class”.
In 1978 Air France also started offering a few additional services for full fare passengers such as complimentary glass of champagne, a selection of French cheeses, cognac.
Pan Am offered “Clipper Class” for full fare travelers at a higher ticket price than economy class in 1978. Their business class cabin offered access to first class lounge, headsets, rich meals choice, free wine.
The popularity of business class flights quickly spread. Business class was preferred mostly by frequent travellers who wanted a comfortable air travel better than regular economy class that comes at an affordable price.
Many travelers wanted to get the inflight experience business class offered and therefore got advantage of the business class fares. Business class offered more spacious and comfortable seats than economy class, foods and drinks menu with better quality, personalized attention by the flight attendants and more in-flight services in general.
Business class flights were linked with the upper class mainly. Traveling on business class meant that you have a high status and you fall in the category of the wealthy and successful people.
Business class passengers take 12% of the total number of airline customers but they bring two times the airline revenue than the passengers in the other air travel classes. So there is no wonder that airlines in the past put their effort in increasing their share of the business class travel sector.
To be successful on the business class flights market air carriers invested in different improvements on the business class cabins of their fleets. Competition started to rise as most major airlines started to better their business class seats and add more extras and amenities.
In1983 a new airplane cabin appeared. Economy class passengers were offered the option to upgrade their seat by sitting at a new airplane cabin. That new cabin was dedicated for business travelers or frequent flyers. It was located at the front of economy class and at the back of first class.
The new cabin’s design wasn’t much different from that of economy class cabin but the seats were generally more comfortable and they had a higher pitch. There was a bigger distance between the seats than the seats on regular economy flights.
Gradually more and more air companies started introducing this cabin into their airplanes and offering their passengers more flexible seating choices. This strategy for attracting more customers definitely worked.
Later the seats started becoming wider and cabin dividers also appeared.
Business class started getting wider in 1981. With the introduction of new business class services, the largest part of economy class passengers were placed at the back of an aircraft and the travelers from the other air travel classes were at the front of the aircraft.
Delta improved their business class cabin by adding an additional separate section to the main cabin called “Medallion Service”.The seats there were wide and had cabin dividers.
In the 1980s first class seats were still better in terms of comfort compared to business class seats and only they were lie-flat.
The end of the 90s is the moment when the business class seat undergone considerable changes. The business class seat became wider and it was named “The Cradle Seat”.
Adjustable head, foot rests were added and even massage option on some seat models. The seats also offered more legroom. All this made the new business class seat version better than the previous one.
The technological improvement of business class seats continued. British Airways was the first carrier to offer their passengers business class seating that transforms into fully flat bed.
And these types of seats appeared for the first time on long-haul business class flights.The price for business class flights increased as the seats increased in size taking more floorspace.
Thanks to the cooperation between air companies and seat manufacturers, innovative solutions were used in the creation of business class seats. New seat configurations with a unique design appeared such as Yin-Yang by British Airways and Zodiac by United Airlines,offering maximum comfort and privacy for business class flyers.
After the birth of premium economy class major airlines were inspired to add even more amenities for their business class customers.
- Qatar introduced their Qsuite cabins on business class
- Emirates offered an in-flight drinks bar for travelers on business class
- LATAM Airlines upgraded the interior of their business class cabin
LATAM’ latest improvement gave their business class seats more elegant and comfortable design that offers highest level of comfort and privacy for each passenger.