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More Business Travelers Flying Coach

The International AIr Transport Association reported that business- and first-class tickets were down 16.7 percent globally in January, year-over-year. The reason? The struggling economy and less demand for the expensive seats.

While searching for more inexpensive tickets has been a long-time business goal, the economy seems to have spurred on the trend. In North America, the drop was 17.6 percent, but the weakest market was in Asia. There premium tickets fell about 25 percent across the Pacific. Africa was the only region with an increase in business-class travel. (Perhaps this is partly the reason US Airways, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines are looking to cut international flights?)

According to Portfolio.com, this could mean the restructuring of plane seats -- the airline will rip out premium seats and replace them with coach. Already more airlines are creating smaller first-class and business-class seating areas, about 20 percent less.
One of the main reasons for the drop in business travel is the collapses in the banking industry, where corporate bean counters weren't worried about first-class tickets or perks when billions of dollars were on the line. That view has changed, and now companies must answer to the government and taxpayers when requesting any funds to keep them afloat or to save money in a tough economy.

But wasn't the whole idea of creating a business class for the captains of industry perhaps a bad one? By creating an entire business class, airlines contributed to a new elitism -- the highest class of passenger being a financial industry executive. The same industry which arguably took down the global economy with risky investments and little oversight, perhaps because of that self-same feeling of entitlement and elitism. Sure, it brought airlines (and at one time, probably investors) money, but now that turbulent segment is almost gone.

Perhaps with fewer premium business traveler, airlines could give coach a little more room? We may be sitting next to an AIG executive.

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