Domestic US All-Business-Class Airline?

25 Jul

On l'Avion airplane, which flies between Newark and Orly Airport in Paris. The walk-up airfare for a recent trans-Atlantic flight was $1,650.

An article today in the New York Times (“Demand Grows for All-Business-Class Flights“) discusses how airlines with only business class seating have been successful in the trans-Atlantic flight market. According to the article, four startups, L’Avion, MAXjet, Eos and Silverjet are all doing business only on long (5+ hour) international travel.

This raises the question, could the all-business-class model work for domestic service within the United States? I think it could, and am surprised that I have not heard of airlines pursuing this niche (with one exception, below).

Arguably, the profile of the average business class customer on coast-to-coast flights is not entirely different from those crossing the Atlantic. Whether going from New York to London or Los Angeles to DC, a business traveler has the same needs: quality lay-flat seats for sleeping, on-time departures, limited waiting time and hassle, decent food, and good service. He or she also has the same budget: substantial.

United Airlines is the only domestic airline I know of which offers a service in this arena, which they call P.S. for Premium Service. Having flown this service from San Francisco to Boston, however, I can certify it does not truly compete with the all-business-class airlines.

For one, it suffers from all the standard delays and hassles of flying domestically on United. Additionally, it uses old, outdated aircraft with few modern niceties such as individual video screens. The experience is more akin to flying your typical United flight than to a truly premier airline.

What would an airline need to do to really compete here?

  1. Offer reasonable prices for the quality of service (most likely in the $900 – $1500 range)
  2. Utilize smaller airports with fewer delays and easy access
  3. Equip new aircraft with modern amenities and comfortable, lie-flat seats
  4. Choose routes which are common for business travelers, but under-served by services like P.S. (for now), such as Seattle – New York and San Francisco – Washington DC.
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One Response to “Domestic US All-Business-Class Airline?”

  1. Ben Tsai August 14, 2007 at 1:32 pm #

    May be worth checking out the experience of Midwest Express, positioned as all first-class.

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