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Class Conflict

Expanded business class seating puts the squeeze on economy-class passengers.

Airlines such as US Airways, TWA and Lufthansa have been giving their planes' front seating sections facelifts to draw business travelers.

But there's a downside to the improvements: Airlines adding legroom to their first-class sections may squeeze economy-class seats closer together to make space. That's what happened when TWA enlarged its Trans World First cabin from 12 seats to 20.

"The temptation to make economy class more narrow is enormous," says Vince Vitti, president of corporate travel agency VTS Travel Enterprises Inc. in New York City. "But if you put in one more row, everyone winds up with their knees in their noses."

US Airways removed a row of economy-class seats when it introduced its new Envoy Class to Europe, but the remaining economy-class seats weren't moved closer together in the process.

TWA's economy-class seats used to be the roomiest in the business, until it expanded its forward cabins. For its part, TWA is unapologetic for putting the squeeze on passengers. According to Jim Brown of TWA, the extra space was moved to the forward cabins because airline officials realized they had been giving economy-class passengers additional legroom free of charge.

Christopher Elliott is a writer in Los Angeles and a columnist for "ABC News Online."

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Christopher Elliott is an Orlando, Fla., writer and independent producer who specializes in technology, travel and mobile computing. His work has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines and online. You can find out more about him on his website or sign up for his free weekly newsletter.

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This article was originally published in the July 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Class Conflict.

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