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The Rise of ‘Luxury Leisure’ Travelers Has Made Business Class Seats Harder to Find

Fliers are willing to pay for the more expensive cabins after being grounded for so long.

business class Seat with champagne waiting for a Passenger Bertlmann/Getty Images

With the easing of lockdowns and border restrictions across the globe, international travel has well and truly ramped up. So too has the number of passengers willing to shell out for a premium flying experience.

Seats in the top-tier cabins are being snapped up by a new breed of “luxury leisure” travelers flush with cash saved during the pandemic. At the same time, fliers are getting savvier with leveraging airline status and mileage to ensure they get the best deal. As a result, many airlines are upgrading amenities to attract high fliers. Air France, for example, recently revealed plans for a new business cabin with fully flat seats. Virgin Atlantic is also rolling out its new premium economy and business suites in the fall.

“Premium continues to lead with load factors and yields higher than 2019,” Delta Air Lines president Glen Hauenstein told Robb Report via email. “And as we increase the mix of premium seats in our fleet, improve the display in sales channels, and see progression in the recovery of the business, the premium will continue to grow.”

Business class
Business seats become more competitive as travel continues to make a bounce back. Pete Ark/Getty Images

It seems more travelers are prepared to fork out for expensive seats on leisure trips after being grounded for so long. According to Travel Agent Central, roughly 12 percent of US travelers planned to splurge on more luxurious accommodations in 2021, with searches for “luxury hotels” and “luxury spas” higher than usual. In addition, more professionals are opting for premium cabins on business trips.

“We had record paid load factors in every one of our premium cabins during the quarter,” Hauenstein adds. “Actually, the encouraging factor is the continued momentum in corporate authorizing premium travel for their employees who are frequently traveling.”

According to data gathered by aviation analytics company Cirium, there was a 10 percent increase in the price of a business class seat across international flights between June 2019 and June 2022. With domestic flights, however, there has been the opposite effect. The average price for a business class seat on a domestic flight in 2019 was $1,708 and it dropped to $1,447 in 2022. Although the price of tickets may fluctuate, it appears the demand for a seat is most definitely there.

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