angled new air frace business class seat Air France upgrades its business class... but no flat beds
Air France is revamping its business class — excuse me, la classe affaires — with some new seats. But strangely, the flat beds aren’t horizontal. They’re “near-horizontal.” That’s so … 2005.

Rollout will take three years, so you’ll be seeing old and new seats across the fleet.

But seriously, isn’t 180-degree flat bed seating the standard today? Why would Air France opt for something that’s less than the standard?

I’ve got nothing.

Categorized in: Air France, business class

lan Business class deal: US to South America on LAN, with free roundtrip domestic ticket thrown in LAN Airlines has an interesting special for those looking to travel in comfort from the US to South America, especially to Argentina, Chile, Peru, or Ecuador:

They’re running a strong sale for business class, and throwing in a free (economy) domestic roundtrip ticket. The domestic roundtrip isn’t a connection: it’s a separate ticket that’s valid as long as the dates are embedded between the dates of the international flights.

These business class fares are pretty strong. (The flights to Chile are the least interesting, but still below the norm.) Consider:

  • $899 (plus tax) roundtrip to Ecuador. Then for your domestic ticket, think Galapagos…
  • $999 (plus tax) roundtrip to Peru. Connect to Cuzco for a trip to Machu Picchu?
  • $1799 (plus tax) roundtrip to Brazil. No free domestic ticket this time. Bummer.
  • $2199 (plus tax) roundtrip to Argentina. Side trip to Bariloche or Mendoza, perhaps?
  • $2599 (plus tax) roundtrip to Chile. Domestic freebie options: Calama, Puerto Montt, Punta Arenas

Some of these flights require 30 days advance purchase (Brazil, Ecuador, Peru), while others require 50 days advance purchase (Argentina, Chile).

Here’s the fine print on the free domestic ticket:

Complimentary domestic roundtrip ticket available with purchase of new Premium Business Class Sale ticket by September 29, 2010 from the United States to Argentina, Chile, Peru or Ecuador.** Complimentary ticket must be booked at the same time as the Premium Business Class Sale ticket and used within the travel period applicable to the Premium Business Class Sale ticket purchased. Complimentary domestic ticket is for economy class travel to the following destinations: Mendoza, Iguazu or Bariloche in Argentina; Calama, Puerto Montt or Punta Arenas in Chile; Galapagos Island in Ecuador; Cuzco, Arequipa or Iquitos in Peru. Complimentary ticket not available in Brazil. MINIMUM STAY: To PUERTO MONTT, PUNTA ARENAS/CALAMA/IGUAZU, BARILOCHE/MENDOZA: 4 days. No minimum stay for CUZCO/AREQUIPA/IQUITOS/GALAPAGOS ISLANDS. Passenger responsible for any applicable taxes or airport fees. Seats are limited and might not be available on all flights/dates. Complimentary domestic round trip tickets do not have a cash value and/or cannot be substituted or transferred

UPDATE: I followed up with the company regarding the actual process of booking this deal, which isn’t brazenly apparent on the website. Here are the instructions:

…customers should select their final, domestic destination when booking flights. They will be ticketed through the hub in the corresponding Latin American country (example, final destination is Cuzco, ticketed through Lima and given complimentary domestic flight to Cuzco).

Presumably, booking it as a multi-city itinerary would be the way to go if you are embedding the domestic flights in the middle of the itinerary.

Categorized in: business class

continental at newark Business class deals trickling out now for holiday travel
Business class fare sales are like clockwork, at least in the northern hemisphere: You’ll see one fare sale for mid-summer travel, and one for December. In both cases, business travel slows significantly as people take time off and spend it with family. In both cases, airlines respond (often proactively) by slashing business class fares.

Take Continental’s latest fare sale to Europe, for example. It’s notable for being early. Summer isn’t over yet, and we’re seeing late summer and early winter biz sales.

The fares are solid, such as $1272 from Newark to London roundtrip, $1370 to Paris, or $1420 to Frankfurt.

Dates?

  1. Depart November 21 through 27, 2010, returning November 25 through December 1, 2010.
  2. Depart December 20, 2010 through January 7, 2011, returning December 24, 2010 through January 13, 2011.

The fine print has both good news and bad news. Bad news: fuel surcharges. Good news: You can fly airlines other than Continental, such as Lufthansa. (Continental is rolling out upgraded flat seats in their “BusinessFirst” class, but the rollout is far from complete as of this writing.)

Fares listed do not include fuel surcharge. Round-trip travel required. Advance purchase of at least 21 days required and must be ticketed within 72 hours of booking. A minimum three-night stay is required. Fares are nonrefundable and require a $400 change fee. Not combinable with any other fares. Other restrictions apply. Offers are only valid for flights on Continental, Air Canada, Lufthansa and United. December travel period excludes flights to Bristol, Delhi, Mumbai and Tel Aviv.

Continental may be early on this, but other airlines are bound to follow suit. And there’s always the all-premium class OpenSkies connection from Newark or DC to Paris, which is currently running $1530 roundtrip fares, but that’s likely to go lower as we enter fall…

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2010

Hypothetical situation: Let’s assume you work for a company that pays for business class travel on long haul flights. If your company’s travel manager offered you $2000 cash for flying in economy on a trip where they would otherwise pay for your seat in business class, would you take the money — and the downgrade?

That’s the bargain that employees at Energizer and other firms are being offered, according to this article in the NY Times.

[Energizer's] solution [to increasing travel costs] was an incentive program: it pays employees to fly coach, instead of business class, when traveling overseas.

“What we do for all locations except for Asia is we share the difference in the ticket price for up to $2,000,” said Doris Lee Middleton, the human resources and travel services manager at Energizer. “For Asia, it’s $3,000.”

Taxable, but still. That’s real money.

The plan isn’t without its downsides: On the one hand, as the article argues, it potentially creates divisions within the employee base. Those who travel get extra cash. Those whose job descriptions don’t include travel aren’t getting anything extra, and can be resentful of a backdoor raise.

Further, the kickback scheme perverts incentives to travel. If you know you’re going to get paid extra cash to fly, you’ll find reasons to take a longer trip than might be necessary.

From where I sit, the Energizer plan seems like a decent deal for the employee, since the offer retains a choice. From a manager’s perspective, I’m surprised they don’t move to this model:

There are other variations on incentives, too, that feel less rewarding to employees but nevertheless reduce companies’ travel costs. One is allowing employees to fly business class if they book a flight on a less expensive route, but requiring them to fly coach on a more expensive itinerary.

And then there’s this option:

A few companies do another variation on travel incentives — reimbursing employees who use their own points to take a trip. “As an employee, it allows you to monetize your frequent-flier miles,” Mr. Steiner of Ovation Corporate Travel said.

This seems like a bad idea. If I’m running a business, I don’t want to depend on the vagaries of award availability. And if I’m the employee getting paid for the miles (a taxable event), I might be concerned that the airline would nix my account if they ever got wind of the sale of miles. And will the cents-per-mile rate at which the company compensates the employee be sufficiently generous?

I’m still stuck on the idea being bought off — getting paid cash to fly coach, essentially splitting the difference between coach and business class with the company. Is this a great option or a further step in making business travel miserable? Would you take the deal? Vote in the poll, hit the comments, and speak your mind.

Would you accept $2000 cash to downgrade long-haul business travel to coach?

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loading Getting kickbacks for downgrading to coach? [poll] Loading ...

(Can’t see the poll? Reading this via the feed? Click here to visit the site to vote in the poll or leave a comment.)

Categorized in: business class

open skies seats Sign of a recovery?: All premium class airline OpenSkies expands to DC Paris market
Oh, 2007, the heady days of all-business class airlines like Maxjet, Eos, and Silverjet, with a newcomer popping up every few months to offer premium service on heavily-traveled business routes? …And who could forget MiMa? (Milan to Manhattan, quote…)

Well, beginning May 3, 2010, OpenSkies, the British Airways subsidiary (formerly known as L’Avion) is expanding its two-cabin premium configuration to the Washington-Paris market.

OpenSkies offers lie-flat seats (“BizBed”) at the front of the plane, and old-style business-class/new-style premium-economy cradle seats (“BizSeat”) in the the rear of the plane.

To me, the significance of this is two-fold:

For starters, it shows that British Airways, which had reportedly been shopping the OpenSkies subsidiary to prospective buyers a few months ago, has recommitted to the brand. This should give customers a smidge of confidence that their OpenSkies bookings are less likely to be canceled anytime soon.

Second, it’s a sign that premium-cabin demand may be coming back. The five Washington-Paris flights per week aren’t being added at the expense of the 17 weekly existing Newark-Paris flights. And the airline’s routemap webpage claims that they “plan to operate non-stop flights from New York to additional Continental European cities including Brussels, Milan and Frankfurt.” We’ll see if the latter claims actually pan out, of course, but even adding a DC flight to the mix says that business travel is starting to pick up.

Fares on the new route are being pitched at $815 plus taxes each way for the “BizSeat” option, and $1570 plus taxes each way for the “BizBed.” Not rock-bottom cheap, to be sure, but far less than the cash fare for an equivalent seat — even on a discounted Z fare — on a major airline. And hey, you earn BA miles.

Categorized in: business class, open skies

virgin atlantic upstairs Upgrades and Downgrades: Virgin Atlantic, mistake fares, TSA SOPs, Continental upgradesDowngraded: Upper Class, upstairs, on Virgin Atlantic
Upgraded: Economy Class, upstairs, on Virgin Atlantic

Like many airlines, Virgin Atlantic has been cutting seats in business class, in response to the economy’s woes. But the upstairs section of the 747 has always been sacred space for the premium-cabin travelers. Until now. The airline will slowly roll out “configuration 4,” which moves some regular economy seats to the back of the upstairs cabin. Virgin Atlantic Upper Class loyalists will object to the lack of exclusivity. Which, in turn, should be an improvement for economy customers who get the service boost of a small cabin.

Upgraded: Consumer rights for “mistake” fares
As I’ve argued in the past, it’s sometimes impossible to know if a low fare is an error, or just a deal. (1 cent fares, anyone?) So I’m pleased to read that, in the U.S., the federal government is warning airlines that they’re (at least partially) on the hook for mistake fares. The DOT ruled: “We believe that all airlines should accept some responsibility for even the erroneous fares they publish.” Customers with canceled tickets must now be “made whole,” though this doesn’t mean that tickets will be honored. Still, a good move.

Downgraded: TSA’s mad redacting skillz
Seth, over at the Wandering Aramean has been digging through a document detailing the TSA’s standard operating procedures. The document was redacted, but Adobe Acrobat doesn’t delete the text hidden behind the black boxes. Oops. Now the TSA says the policies were never implemented, after all. (Then why were they posted, and redacted?) Seth has links to the original documents on his site.

Upgraded: Continental systemwide upgrades for top-level elites
In a further alignment of Continental OnePass with United MileagePlus, Continental is systemwide upgrades and a double-secret invitation-only ultra-elite level for high-spend elite frequent fliers.

Upgraded: United’s long-range aircraft… eventually
After slicing and dicing their fleet over the years, and recently killing off their 737s, it’s finally time for United to look at renewing their fleet. They’re ordering 25 Boeing 787s and 25 Airbus A350s, which will replace their 767s and 747s, respectively. …in 6 to 9 years.