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Air Partner: First-Class Seat Squeeze Benefits Business Aviation
January 5, 2011
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  • By Benet Wilson

    January 3, 2011

    Commercial airlines continue to cancel routes and reduce available first-class and business-class seats, leaving executive travelers in the lurch and searching for alternative options, all of which is fueling a rebound in business aviation, says a new report.

    The new report, published by London-based aviation service provider Air Partner, notes that beginning in 2008, major commercial airlines canceled flights to nearly 100 communities across the U.S. Mergers, such as those between Continental Airlines and United Airlines, will eliminate additional routes.

    Airlines are expanding their economy classes, and some carriers are adding a premium economy seating class in lieu of the traditional first class, says the report. “For example, United Airlines eliminated 20% of its international first-class seat count in 2009 and has further chopped up its first-class seats in favor of adding the Premium Economy class,” it says. “This is causing a limited availability and increased competition for premium business and first-class seats.”

    Commercial aviation is finally making a profit in the wake of the recession, but airlines are hesitant to add back routes or first-class seating that had been previously removed, says the report. According to a report by the International Air Transport Association, leisure and business travel are both on the rise. “But rather than reinstall more first-class seats, they continue to be eliminated,” notes Air Partner. “First-class passengers and business travelers are finding that the convenience they once experienced flying commercially has disappeared.”

    Charter operators accommodate the first-class passenger in ways that commercial airlines are no longer able – namely through convenience, flexibility and the ability to arrive at any remote destination, the report notes. There are roughly 5,000 public-use airports in this country, but commercial airlines use only about 500 of them.

    “A surplus of business jets in the market has brought costs down and has lowered the barrier for many first-class passengers to afford private air charter,” says the report. “This can make it [charter] an economical choice, particularly for businesses sending a team of employees on the road.”

    Phil Mathews, president of Air Partner, says, “This really is the perfect storm for air charter. “The continuing difficulties faced by executive travelers who fly commercially only adds to the value of private aviation.”

    Date: 2011-01-03