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Business class is a travel class available on many commercial airlines and rail lines, known by brand names which vary by airline or rail company. In the airline industry, it was originally intended as an intermediate level of service between economy class and first class, but many airlines now offer business class as the highest level of service, having eliminated first class seating. Business class is distinguished from other travel classes by the quality of seating, food, drinks, ground service and other amenities. Full business class is usually denoted 'J' or 'C' with schedule flexibility, but can be many other letters depending on circumstances.
Airlines began separating full-fare and discounted economy class passengers in the late 1970s. In 1976, KLM introduced a Full Fare Facilities (FFF) service for its full fare economy class passengers, which allowed them to sit at the front of the economy cabin immediately behind first class, and this concept was quickly copied by several other airlines including Air Canada. Both United Airlines and Trans World Airlines experimented with a similar three-class concept in 1978, but abandoned it due to negative reactions from discount economy class travelers who felt that amenities were being taken away from them. United also cited the difficulty of tracking which passengers should be seated in which section of the economy cabin on connecting flights. American Airlines also began separating full-fare economy passengers from discounted economy passengers in 1978, and offered open middle seats for full-fare passengers.
Around this time, there was speculation in the airline industry that supersonic aircraft would corner the market for the highest-paying premium passengers, and that a three-class market would emerge consisting of supersonic first class and subsonic business and economy classes. In 1977, El Al announced plans to reconfigure its aircraft with a small first class cabin and larger business class cabin on the assumption that most transatlantic first-class passengers would shift their business to the Concorde.
British Airways introduced "Club Class," a separate premium cabin with numerous amenities, in October 1978 under CEO Colin Marshall as a means of further distinguishing full-fare business travelers from tourists flying on discounted fares. Pan Am announced that it would introduce "Clipper Class" in July 1978, and both Air France and Pan Am introduced business class in November 1978. Qantas claims to have launched the world's first Business Class in 1979.
On November 1, 1981, Scandinavian Airlines System introduced EuroClass with a separate cabin, dedicated check-in counters and lounges for full-fare passengers. Simultaneously, first class disappeared from their European fleet.
Domestic and regional
Australia and New Zealand
Both Qantas and Virgin Australia offer Business Class on their domestic networks as well as on trans-Tasman flights to New Zealand. Flights between Perth and Sydney typically feature lie-flat seats, with deep recline cradle seats on other routes.
On the other hand, Air New Zealand does not offer Business Class on its domestic network or trans-Tasman network, except for some flights from Auckland to Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, and all flights from Auckland or Christchurch to Perth, which operate using Boeing 777-200/300 aircraft (and from October 2014, Boeing 787-9) and have lie flat seats. Bulkhead and emergency row seats with additional legroom ("Space +" seats) can be reserved for an additional fee.
Air Canada calls its domestic business class product "executive class", which evolved from a premium economy "Connoisseur Class" that was available for full fare paying economy passengers, essentially a guarantee of a vacant adjacent seat if possible and free alcohol service. Domestic First on Air Canada, available only on wide bodies, ceased to exist from 1992 as did International First, replaced by a somewhat diminished "Executive First" class.
In the United States, true business class is usually only offered on transcontinental flights (and even then typically only on premium routes between New York City and Los Angeles) and flights from the East Coast to Hawaii. US carriers generally designate "first class" as the front cabin on other domestic two-cabin aircraft, although the service is closer to a premium economy product in other parts of the world.
European carriers generally offer a "business class" consisting of enhanced economy seating with better service. There may be a curtain to separate business from economy class, based on demand, but the seats are in the same cabin. Some airlines such as Air France and Lufthansa use convertible seats that seat three people across in economy, or adjust with a lever to become two seats with a half seat length between them for business class use. British Airways uses convertible seats on their European Regional network (but not domestic flights).
Business class has started to disappear from some short/medium haul routes, to be replaced with full fare economy and discount economy (KLM and SAS). On these routes, the seats are the same for all passengers, only the flexibility of the ticket and the food and beverage service differs. On shorter routes (typically less than one hour) many airlines have removed business class entirely (e.g. BMI on many routes) and offer only one class of service. British Airways offers "UK Business" on their domestic system, offering the same service as Economy with the addition of expedited check-in, baggage reclaim, lounge access and priority boarding. In flight drink, tea or coffee and a snack are served to all customers, with a Hot breakfast on flights prior to 9am.
Most low-cost carriers, such as Ryanair and Easyjet in Europe, Tiger Airways in Australia, Southwest Airlines in the United States, and even some national carriers such as Aer Lingus and Air New Zealand on their domestic and regional networks do not offer any premium classes of service. Some, however, have options above a standard coach seat:
- AirAsia charges a premium for passengers to sit in front of the aircraft or the exit seats which also offer more legroom as well as board first (such seats are called "Hot Seats").
- On their domestic and trans-Tasman networks, Air New Zealand has "Space +" seats available complimentary for Koru Club elite members and for a small charge at check-in for others. Other than a few more inches of legroom the seats are identical to normal economy seats.
- JetBlue offers Even More Space (the first 9 rows on the A320 and the bulkhead and emergency row on the E-190) for between $20 and $90 extra per segment. EML includes priority boarding and priority security screening but no other benefits.
- Spirit Airlines has Big Front Seats in the first row of all their aircraft. The seats were part of Spirit's former First Class offering, Spirit Plus, but now offer no benefits other than bigger seat pitch and a 2 by 2, rather than 3 by 3 arrangement.
- Virgin America offers Main Cabin Select and includes a guaranteed bulkhead or emergency row seat, free alcohol, food, pay-per-view movies and checked baggage. Unlike JetBlue and Spirit, where the cost is under $100 per segment for the upgrade, Main Cabin Select is marketed as a true premium economy product, and can easily double the cost of a regular economy ticket. Upgrades are also available at check-in for between $70 and $160 each way. Elevate Silver and Gold members receive complimentary space available upgrades. Virgin America also offers 'First Class' which are 6 seats at the front of the plane in a separate cabin that recline more, have a leg rest electronically controlled, and have free movies, music and games and offer free drinks and snacks.
Long haul business class seats are substantially different from economy class seats and many airlines have installed "lie flat" seats into business class, whereas previously seats with such a recline were only available in international first class. There are essentially three types of long haul business class seats today. These are listed in ascending order of perceived "quality".
- Cradle seats are seats with around 160 degrees of recline and substantially more leg room compared to the economy section. The seat pitch of business class seats range from 33–79.5 in (84–202 cm) (usually 55–62 in (140–160 cm)), and the seat size of business class seats range from 17.5–34 in (44–86 cm) (usually 20–22 in (51–56 cm)). Although many airlines have upgraded their long-haul business class cabins to angled lie flat or fully flat seats, cradle seats are still common in business class on shorter routes.
- Angled lie flat seats recline 170 degrees (or slightly less) to provide a flat sleeping surface, but are not parallel to the floor of the aircraft when reclined, making them less comfortable than a bed. Seat pitch typically ranges from 55 to 65 in (140 to 170 cm), and seat width usually varies between 18 to 23 in (46 to 58 cm). These seats first appeared on Northwest, Continental, JAL, Qantas and several other airlines in 2002 and 2003.
- Fully flat seats recline into a flat sleeping surface which is parallel to the floor. Many airlines offer such seats in international first class but retain inferior seating in business class to differentiate the two products and fares. British Airways, which introduced flat beds in first class in 1995, was among the first airlines to introduce fully flat business class seats with its Club World product in 1999.
- Herringbone seating, in which seats are positioned at an angle to the direction of travel, is used in some widebody cabins to allow direct aisle access for each seat and to allow a large number of fully flat seats to occupy a small cabin space. The concept was first developed by Virgin Atlantic Airways for its Upper Class cabin and has since been used by Delta, Cathay Pacific, Air Canada and Jet Airways, among other airlines.
- Cabin seat, These seats are designed to give the business class traveler the most privacy they can attain while in flight. These seats are typically positioned in a 1 - 2 - 1 arrangement on a wide body jet. On each side of the seat is a privacy panel about 4 feet in height. Aircraft such as these offer the best ergonomic comfort on long haul business class flights. These where first introduced on US Airways 
As with first class, all alcoholic beverages are complimentary and meals are of higher quality than economy class. Economy class passengers are usually not permitted in the business class cabin though First class passengers are generally allowed to cross the curtain between Business and First class.
While flying on a long haul business class flight, airlines such as Swiss, Lufthansa, SAS Scandinavian Airlines, and many more offer in-flight gourmet meals with a choice of entree. Once one sits in one's seat, one is presented with a choice of champagne or water, with a 3 - 5 course meal to follow during the flight. Some airlines such as US Airways allow travelers to request a specific meal to their liking if it is not on the menu. The bar choices for the business class cabin are generous, with airlines offering different premium wines, and an assortment of beers and liqueurs.
The exact name for business class may vary between operators. Bold text indicates airlines for which business class is the highest class of service offered.
- Aer Lingus "Business Class" (formerly "Premier Class")
- Aeroflot "President (long haul)" "Президент", "Premier (short and mid haul)" "Премьер"
- Aerolíneas Argentinas "Club Cóndor"
- AeroMéxico "Clase Premier"
- Air Algérie "Rouge Affaires"
- AirAsia X "Premium XL"
- Air Austral "Club Austral"
- Aircalin "Hibiscus class"
- Air Canada "International Business Class (formerly "Executive First")", "Business Class (Domestic, formerly "Executive Class")"
- Air China "Capital pavilion (International)", "Business Class (Domestic)
- Air France "Affaires" (translated "Business")
- Air Greenland "Nanoq Class" (translated "Polar Bear Class")
- Air India "Executive Class"
- Air Koryo "Business Class"
- Air New Zealand "Business Premier"
- Air Pacific "Tabua Class"
- Air Seychelles "Pearl Class"
- Alitalia "Magnifica" (translated "Wonderful Class"); "Ottima" (Short Haul)
- All Nippon Airways "Business Class" (formerly "Club ANA") (international) or "Premium Class" (domestic)
- American Airlines "Business Class"
- Asiana Airlines "Quadra Smartium"
- Austrian Airlines "Business Class" (formerly "Grand Class")
- Avianca "Business Class" "Clase Ejecutiva"
- Bangkok Airways "Blue Ribbon Class"
- British Airways "Club World", "Club World London City", "Club Europe", or "UK Business"
- Cathay Pacific "Business Class"
- China Airlines "Dynasty Class"
- Copa Airlines"Clase Ejecutiva"
- Cyprus Airways "Apollo Class"
- Delta Air Lines "BusinessElite"
- EL AL"מחלקת עסקים"
- EgyptAir "Horus" "حورس"
- Emirates "Business Class"
- Ethiopian Airlines "Cloud Nine"
- Etihad Airways "Pearl Business"
- EVA Air "Premium Laurel"
- Garuda Indonesia "Executive Class"
- Gulf Air "Falcon Gold"
- Hawaiian Airlines "First Class"
- Hong Kong Airlines "Club Premier", "Club Classic" and "Business Class"
- Iberia "Business Plus" and "Business Class"
- Icelandair "Saga Class"
- Iran Air "Homa Class"
- Japan Airlines "Executive Class Seasons" (international) or "Class J" (domestic)
- JetBlue "Mint"
- Jetstar Airways "Star Class"
- Jet Airways "Premiere (international)" or "Club Premiere (domestic)"
- Kartika Airlines "Deluxe Class"
- Kenya Airways "Premiere World"
- Kingfisher Airlines "Kingfisher First"
- KLM "World Business Class"
- Korean Air "Prestige Class"
- LAN Airlines "Premium Business"
- LOT Polish Airlines "Elite Club" (B787 only) "Business Class"(other aircraft)
- Lufthansa "Business Class"
- Malaysia Airlines "Golden Club Class"
- Mexicana de Aviación "Elite Class"
- Middle East Airlines "Cedar Class"
- Nepal Airlines "Shangrila Class"
- Norfolk Air "Bounty Class (now Premium Economy)"
- Olympic Air "Business Class" (On some services Gold Business Class; the name in Greek literally means "distinguished class")
- Pakistan International Airlines "Business Plus+"
- Philippine Airlines "Mabuhay Class"
- Qatar Airways "Business Class"
- Qantas "International Business" and "Domestic Business"
- Royal Air Maroc "Premium Class"
- Royal Jordanian "Crown Class"
- Saudi Airlines "Horizon Class" "درجة الأفق"
- Scandinavian Airlines "Business Class"
- Scoot "ScootBiz"
- Singapore Airlines "Business Class" (formerly "Raffles Class")
- South African Airways "Gold Class"
- SriLankan Airlines "Business Premier"
- Swiss International Airlines "SWISS Business"
- TAP Portugal "tap | executive"
- TAM Airlines "Executive Class" or "Classic Class"
- TAROM "Business Class"
- Thai Airways "Royal Silk"
- United Airlines '"United BusinessFirst"' (international longhaul), "United Business" (international shorthaul), "United Business p.s." (JFK-LAX/SFO), "United First" (domestic)
- US Airways "Envoy" (Brazil, Europe, Israel), "Business Class" (Canada, Caribbean, Mexico), "First Class" (US Domestic)
- Vietnam Airlines "Business Class"
- Virgin America "First Class"
- Virgin Atlantic Airways "Upper Class"
- Virgin Australia "Domestic Business" and "International Business"
- America West Airlines "America West First"
- Canadian Airlines "Business Class"
- Continental Airlines "BusinessFirst"
- Midwest Airlines "Signature Service"
- Northwest Airlines "World Business Class"
- Pan Am "Clipper Class"
- Spanair "Premium Class"
- Spirit Airlines "Spirit Plus" (re-branded as "Big Front Seat" as part of Spirit's transition to a no-frills carrier. Seats are physically the same but the service is no different than economy.)
- Trans World Airlines "Ambassador Class" (until the 1980s), "TransWorld One" (after TWA transitioned international service from 3 class to 2 class in the early 1990s)
On Amtrak in the United States, "business class" is the premium class of service on medium-haul trains, such as most Northeast Corridor trains and the Pacific Surfliner, and the main class of service on Acela Express. "First class" is the premium class of service on Acela Express and is also the designation for bedroom accommodations on sleeper trains.
Until June 2009, Via Rail in Canada premium class service was called "Via 1", on short range routes oriented towards business travel. The premium service on the transcontinental route (The Canadian) is called "Silver & Blue". In June 2009, "Via 1" was renamed "Business Class" and "Silver & Blue" (The Canadian) and "Easterly" (The Ocean) were renamed "Sleeper Touring Class" and "Totem" (The Skeena) was renamed "Touring Class".
Limousine (chauffeured service)
In France, "business class" is a premium service of chauffeured limousine.
- Perry Garfinkel (2008-03-10). "On some airlines, business class goes first". The International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2008-03-11.
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- Business Classe Services – Location de véhicule avec chauffeur à Lille
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Business Class.|
- Qantas History including business class history
- Business Class Community with pictures
- BusinessClass Business Networking Opportunities