By Mark Chesnut
The competition for business travelers is always fierce — and now, as business travel rebounds, airlines are introducing comfy new seats and amenities to lure you to the front of the cabin.
United Continental Holdings, which owns the recently merged United and Continental Airlines, is working to make the flight experience more consistent on both of its brands. In May, both carriers introduced Premier Access, a new package of airport services that includes designated check-in counters, priority security screening, “front of the line” boarding through special Premier Access lanes and priority baggage handling, all available to elite-level frequent flyers and people flying in business and first class. The new feature will debut throughout the system over the next several months. In addition, United is introducing lie-flat business class seats on many of its international routes, and Continental has installed similar seats in its 757-200 aircraft.
Delta Airlines, meanwhile, has directed some of its $2 billion upgrade investment toward business travelers as well. The company has introduced flat-bed seats on more than 25 percent of international flights, including all 777 and 767-400 aircraft. By 2013, all of the company’s transoceanic flights with Business Elite service will have these seats. The company has also added some 2,000 premium seats with the debut of first class on 228 of its regional aircraft. US Airways is also adding first class to 110 of its own regional jets.
Across the Pacific, Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways has launched a new business class product, with 82-inch flat-bed seats, side storage compartments and 15-inch personal TVs. The new business class is being progressively introduced on the company’s 777-300ER aircraft.
Mark Chesnut is a travel writer, editor and publisher of LatinFlyer.com, which focuses on business and leisure travel to Latin America.