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
Going To Extremes
Entrepreneurs play as hard as they work.
Entrepreneurs are finding thrills in their own backyards. In the past five years, 98 million Americans "roughed" it while on vacation, according to the Travel Industry Association of America. One-third of these people engaged in such adventure activities as mountain biking and scuba diving.
Too busy to get away for a week? Technology brings adventure to people who can't travel far. The latest night vision goggles, for example, let you enjoy the outdoors after nightfall. "It allows executives to lengthen their day," says Richard Hall, sales manager of commercial products for ITT Industries Night Vision.
The eyewear is also being used on wilderness excursions in Arizona and rafting trips in Colorado. But seeing in the dark doesn't come cheap--one pair of goggles can cost upwards of $1,900.
If you prefer something offbeat, hotels offer adventures you once had to travel thousands of miles to experience. At The Equinox in Manchester Village, Vermont, guests sharpen their off-road skills at the Land Rover Driving School and handle birds of prey at the British School of Falconry. "You're given everything you need. The adventure is self-contained," says Meryl Pearlstein of The Equinox.
But you don't have to leave your office for a taste of adventure. The Travelon.com Web site details packages ranging from scuba diving to hiking. Also included are vacation tips, forums, and a search engine (should you find the time for that adventure after all).
- TWA frequent fliers can now earn 50 Aviator miles per day on qualifying car rentals at participating Avis airport locations worldwide. For more information, call (800) 221-2000.
- Hertz offers a new currency conversion tool on its Web site. The enhancement allows you to view the anticipated cost of a rental in dollars; the destination currency; or the new euro, if applicable. Visit http://www.hertz.com to check it out for yourself.
- US Airways Vacations has a new Web site that lets you choose from among 50 destinations. Simply specify your city of origin, dates of travel, and the number of people in your party, then book your trip. For further details, log on to http://www.usairwaysvacations.com
Christian & Timbers, (216) 464-8710, http://www.ctnet.com
The Equinox, (800) 362-4747, http://www.equinoxresort.com
ITT Industries Night Vision, (800) 448-8678, http://www.ittnightvision.com