Business Travelers Much More Likely To Fly Economy Internationally

Business travelers are starting to give up their free mini bottles of booze and plush, wide seats in favor of lower prices, says a new report. The shift is especially evident in those flying in Europe, as the recent economic crisis has more choosing economy tickets over business class.

Reuters cites the International Air Transport Association, which says people flying for work made a shift to the cheaper seats, most likely because of the economic crisis hitting especially hard in European countries.

The number of first and business class passengers on international flights fell in October, in that it only rose 0.1 percent from last year, whereas in September it had grown by 6.7% compared to that same month the previous year.

Meanwhile, economy seats were up 4% compared to the previous year.

The signs are clear — as economic crisis hits around the globe, people are cutting back on luxuries and settling for coach. Hey, we’ve got free movies back here too!

More business travellers flying economy, IATA says [Reuters]


Edit Your Comment

  1. shepd says:

    Hey, I’ll fly baggage if it’s pressurized and warm (heck, as long as it’s pressurized and nobody cares that I wear 4 or 5 snow suits, I’ll even go for the unheated cargo class).

    • Clyde Barrow says:

      Me too. I know what flying is about. Try flying in a C130 cargo plane with the smell of fuel, barf, poop, and on top of this, the Air Force loves to push the plane into a nose dive without warning. Why? Because they can and they know the Army passengers hate this.

      Do this one time and you’ll think any seat on a comm airline is like flying luxury. lol.

  2. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    My company actually gives our foreign travelers a $500 bonus if they choose to fly economy over business or first class as long as the flight is a certain length.

    The reasoning is the company pays for the flight no matter what, so if you save the company money you get some of it back.

    • iamjustjules says:

      My last company did that too. The difference between First and economy can be thousands of dollars. Luckily I got a ton of money for christmas presents.

  3. Nobody can say "Teehee" with a straight face says:

    The thought of spending hundreds more just for a slightly larger seat for 10 hours would leave me too sick to enjoy it.

    • Don't Bother says:

      If it’s any consolation, I hear the business class barf bags are covered in gold leaf.

    • Rachacha says:

      Having flown internationally several times, and been lucky enough to get a free upgrade from coach to business class because of my frequent flyer status with the airline, the one advantage that flying business or first class affords is being able to rest on the plane so you can land, get cleaned up and go right into a full (or nearly full) day of meetings. Having traveled to Asia 100% in coach and not being able to sleep a wink, and having to make essentially the same trip, a portion of it in business, I can say that I was able to sleep in business class, and arrive a bit more refreshed, and adjust to the local time much more quickly.

      Is that worth a several thousand dollar premium, for some businesses yes, but for many, spending an extra day on the ground to rest and adjust is more cost effective.

    • ARP says:

      When you have meetings the next day, it’s absolutely worth it.

    • Portlandia says:

      Nah, I’ve paid miles and cash for upgrades and believe me it’s well worth the money.

    • jamar0303 says:

      That’s what frequent flyer miles are for.

    • thomwithanh says:

      A J class seat, and the good night’s sleep and peace that comes with it is sometimes is the difference between closing that deal in London the next morning or not. Spending a few thousand for the J class ticket now may pay off with a 6 or 7 figure deal in the long run – depending on the circumstances it may be a worthy investment from a business point of view.

  4. Cat says:

    Note to the former business class travelers:

    We have tiny seats.
    Your seatmate is most likely rude, crude, and socially unacceptable. And probably too big for his / her seat.
    Nothing is free, not pillows, blankets, headphones, or even those little bottles of Grande Marnier or monocle polish.

    Shut up, sit down, strap yourself in, and enjoy the ride.

    • clippy2.0 says:

      International flights are generally far more comfortable. The differences come in overall experience, aka getting a better menu, and seats that fold down into beds. I don’t think I’ve ever been on an international flight where I was uncomfortable; then again I usually fly Virgin Atlantic

      • Cat says:

        Taking an international flight with a US-based carrier is always a downer in economy class. Thats why I avoid US carriers like the plague. But I’ve heard that Alaska Air is good, and I was pretty happy with a Hawaiian Air flight to Asia 3 years ago. Except for that damned ukelele music.

        • Jevia says:

          Yeah, its the worst and unfortunately, most flights to Europe are with US based carriers (i.e. maybe you think you’ve chosen Air France, but in reality, you’ve gotten Delta due to code sharing. same with Lufthansa and US Airways). I find the seats are actually smaller, you still pay for just about everything, and if you are unlucky enough to get stuck on a flight with just the one movie screen, you have to pay for headphones if you want to watch the one crappy movie. Plus, you’re still stuck with the US crappy luggage reimbursement policy.

          If you can book on a European carrier, its so much better.

        • Ratty says:

          Alaska/Horizon is awesome. Free beer and wine! Friendly crew. Yaaaay. I always flew with them to/from the U.S..

          • humphrmi says:

            Heh, I used to work for Horizon, back in the ’80’s. They did codeshare with United before they were acquired by Alaska. Even back then, they were very entrepreneurial. They wanted to differentiate themselves from airlines, who back then still served free drinks (alc and non) on flights, so they started serving free drinks (non) in the terminal. It was Crystal Light, the packet kind, and one ramp service employee each day was responsible for mixing the powder with the water every couple of hours and keeping the big bucket with a spigot full. Since they flew turbo-prop puddle jumpers, at most airports they unloaded passengers on the ramp and the passengers walked to the terminal. So ramp service guys like me were encouraged to walk up to passengers and offer to help carry their carry-ons for them.

            Oh and the test to see if you could be hired by them? That was fun too. You had to jump as high as you could. With some of the turboprops back then, the bottom of the cargo hold was 4.5 feet off the ground, if you could jump that high you couldn’t get up into the cargo hold to unload bags.

            Ah those were fun days.

            • Ratty says:

              Very interesting. They still use a lot of turboprop planes as well. I’d say 80% of my flights with them were prop planes of some kind.

        • Clyde Barrow says:

          @cat; When I fly to Europe I take Luft or Air France. The foreign flights are nice because the crew is professional and most passengers are returning home so I don’t deal with the white trash ingrates like the ones that fly to Las Vegas for free booze and cheap thrills.

    • humphrmi says:

      I’ve flown business and coach internationally, and I’ve never had to pay for pillows, blankets, headphones, etc. In fact, we got free meals on our family’s trip to the UK last summer. Even better, on the way home, the check-in agent asked if we had “any more luggage to check” after we gave her our one-free-per-person checked bag; I said “Well, gee, I was going to carry this on, but I don’t really need it on the flight…” and without a word, she just put a tag on it and put it on the conveyer.

      Domestic is a different beast altogether, but (so far) international coach is still a bit better.

  5. Guppy06 says:

    In Europe, you also have the option of taking a train like a civilized person.

    • Bsamm09 says:

      You can travel 1,000 miles to a meeting and back in one day?

      • jamar0303 says:

        I’ve done that on leisure, and my question is- how the heck do you do that? Three and a half hours each way leaves how much time to get stuff done at the destination?

  6. physics2010 says:

    1) When flying internationally means 100 miles, then business class is a bit of a waste.
    2) For those flying transoceanic flights the “choice” isn’t always the employee’s, but instead the employer’s. Where previously a 9+ hour flight scored you and automatic upgrade to business it may require a doctor’s note to score business class seats even on a 17+ hour flight.

  7. ARP says:

    My company has stated that international flights must be over 8.5 hours before you can book business class. From the Midwest (ORD) and East coast, most European destinations are 8 hours or less.

  8. misterfweem says:


  9. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    I’ll tell you what: flying standby normally sucks. Like, really, really sucks.

    But when it’s awesome is when the only seats they have left for standby passengers is in Business Class :D

  10. j2.718ff says:

    Can someone please translate?
    “The number of first and business class passengers on international flights fell in October, in that it only rose 0.1 percent from last year”

    How can a number fall by rising?

    • Rachacha says:

      When comparing September 2010 to September 2011, the number of passengers booking first or business class ROSE 6.7%, however when compating October 2010 to October 2011, the increase was only 0.1%

      The data hardly suggests a trend, and it could have just been a fluke.

    • sven.kirk says:

      I am guessing they are using govt’ math. Where they say they ‘cut’ spending, but still spend more than the last year.

  11. Portlandia says:

    I really do miss my company’s old travel policy. Any flight over 3.5 hours and you could book first or business class. Those were the days.

  12. balthisar says:

    I just flew coach 14 hours from China for the first time (every other time was business). That reminds me, I need to call Delta and let them charge me virtually any amount of money that they might ask me for in order to change the return leg.

    There’s a huge difference in four hours versus 14 in tourist class!

    • jamar0303 says:

      Take advantage of their Tokyo hub. Route through there and you get a little breather in between flights. It’s less painful that way.

  13. milehound says:

    How did they arrive at these figures? Did they go by fare classes sold, or actual passengers in B/F class seats on planes? I haven’t seen any difference in the number of passengers in B/F on my usual flights (JFK-LHR). It’s more likely that business travelers with elite status are buying the most expensive economy fares their companies will allow, so they can qualify for space-available free upgrades.

  14. amuro98 says:

    I don’t know where people are getting this “hundreds of dollars” stuff to upgrade from economy to business class. On our flight to Taiwan a few years ago, the difference was closer to $3000. A person.

    Upgrading to First Class was $7500.

    Our tickets in economy were $800. Since the flight left at midnight local time, we slept 8 or 9 hours out of the 12 so I can’t really see business class being worth the money.

    • thomwithanh says:

      I’m going to Australia next winter, cheapest economy ticket is around $1700 round trip, premium economy (equivalent to domestic first in the US) is $5000, business is almost $10,000 and first is a whopping $33,000 – I don’t know why ANYBODY would pay those prices.