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Class Dismissed

Goodbye, first class. Hello, business class.

More airlines are pulling out their huge forward cabins seats and replacing them with smaller business class seats. The latest carrier to zap first class is Delta Air Lines, which introduced its BusinessElite seats earlier this year. The new sleeper seats have more leg room than the ones in its old business class, plus electric reclining controls, video screens and portable computer hookups.

These days, you can practically count the number of airlines with three-class service on one hand: American Airlines is still a holdout as are British Airways, Lufthansa and several Asian carriers. Most U.S. airlines, however, have gone to a two-class configuration.

Businesspeople don't like the changes. A recent poll by the Cleveland executive search firm Christian & Timbers concludes that passengers are dismayed by the disappearance of first class amenities. "True first class appointments have lost priority in the industry," says Jeff Christian, the company's chief executive.

Perhaps the most disconcerting aspect of the elimination of first class is the way the line between premium and tourist seats is being blurred. British Airways' new economy class seats, which offer an ergonomic design, or even Virgin Atlantic's cheap seats, which come with a video entertainment system, nearly match the business class offerings on other carriers. That may be bad news when you want to travel in style, but for business owners looking to save a few bucks, the lower cost of business seats is a silver lining.


Christopher Elliott is a writer in Annapolis, Maryland. Contact him at http://www.elliott.org

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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 May 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Class Dismissed.

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