There is a growing chasm between the 1% and the 99%, especially it comes to airline travel and service.
The “haves” — passengers in premium seats or with “special Gold” status — are pampered beyond imagination. The privileged are greeted with trained obsequiousness by fawning attendants.
They do not wait outside the gate in plastic seats with the rest of the hoi polloi.
Instead, they are sitting comfortably in the Club Room, where the chairs are plush and the drinks, food and internet are free. Complimentary copies of the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal are available for reading.
The gate attendants invite these elite travelers to board early, and they reserve overhead bins exclusively for their use. Of course, when you’re in first class, you never pay for checked baggage, no matter how many pieces you have.
They are served glasses of champagne before the plane takes off, while the common passengers struggle and fight to settle in their seats.
“Can I take your jacket and hang it in the closet?”
“Would you like some slippers or some more pillows? Some noise quieting headsets?”
“Would you like a complimentary limo to the airport?”
If you are a high-value customer to an airline, the world is your oyster.
Rest assured you will never be dragged from your seat like the unfortunate Dr. Dao, who was selected for deplaning by United by an algorithm which identifies the poor slubs who don’t count.
On Mideast and Asian airlines, First and Business class seats are practically flying living rooms, with onboard lounges and bars and showers.
Meanwhile, U.S. carriers are struggling to catch up. American Airlines has upgraded its business class, and this year Delta will roll out a new business-class suites, small cabins with flat beds that can be closed off from others.
United, trying to keep up with its transatlantic rivals, recently rolled out its new Polaris seating and upgraded business class.
The cabin sports fully reclining seats, bedding by Saks Fifth Avenue and noise-canceling headsets. United is rolling this out on its San Francisco-Hong Kong route. A round-trip ticket for a May flight lists at about $5,000.
British Airways, meanwhile, is spending about $500 million to upgrade its premium classes. BA, which popularized the fully reclining business-class seat in the mid-1990s, is planning a new business-class seat design.
So what is behind the growing chasm between the air-traveling haves and have-nots? As always, it’s the stiff competition from budget airline prices that drive legacy airlines to keep cutting costs.
But if you’re a business class traveler, thankfully, you don’t have to worry about that.
Read more travel industry secrets on our blog.
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