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Until recently, flying business class did not involve much decision-making, other than choosing to spend several thousand dollars for an upgrade at a major airline.
But with the arrival of all-business carriers and on-demand jet services, the market became more competitive, with ever-increasing options in routes, services and prices.
For big spenders who like to journey on private jets, or budget-conscious executives who need a good rest and a decent meal, there's a flight to match.
In the last three years, airlines offering only premium seats and services
began luring business travelers. Their draw: competitive prices, uncrowded planes, exclusive lounges and personal attention. The setback: limited routes and schedules.
However, this segment appears to be growing in spite of high oil prices and a weakening economy. Its key players, Eos and Silverjet, plan to add destinations in the near future.
U.K.-based Silverjet is the lowest-priced all-business airline, with standard roundtrip fares of $2,198 for the popular New York-London route. The same business-class trip costs more than $3,500 at major airlines.
Silverjet flies twice daily from Luton Airport -- 32 miles from central London -- to Newark Airport, and once daily from Luton to Dubai. Its
Boeing(BA - Get Report) 767 aircrafts fly 100 passengers (This model normally fits 300 passengers).
Seats have a back massager and recline to become 6'3" beds (with a 6-degree incline). When not sleeping, travelers can watch TV shows or newly released movies on a portable high-definition screen with noise-canceling headphones. Renowned British restaurant Le Caprice designed the meals.
At the company's Silver Lounges, the staff helps with expedited check-in and security lines, meaning passengers can arrive 45 minutes before the flight. The loyalty program awards a free flight for every 10 purchased. Companies that sign up earn free trips when any employee uses the airline, and any employee can use the award.
Potential new destinations for Silverjet include South Africa, Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago, said a spokesperson.
Eos airlines heralds first-class service at business-class prices. The American company flies several times a day from Stansted Airport -- about 30 miles from central London -- to JFK. Daily service to Newark will begin in May, and to Dubai in July. A New York-London ticket typically ranges from $3,000 to $8,000.
Eos' Boeing 757 aircrafts carry 48 passengers (these planes were designed to carry 200 passengers), and are equipped with fully flat 6'6" beds in a 21-square feet space. Amenities include cashmere blankets, down pillows, and entertainment consoles with Bose headphones.
On the ground, the staff helps guests with bags and guides them through security and customs. Eos offers complimentary ground transportation to and from Stansted Airport, as well as helicopter service from Wall Street and the East 34th St. Heliport to JFK, for passengers who purchase unrestricted fares.
Their Club 48 rewards program exchanges points for flights on Eos or any major airline, or merchandise at stores like Barneys and Harvey Nichols.
In light of the industry's push to lure business travelers, major airlines are giving their premium services a makeover.
Asia's prominent carrier
Singapore Airlines recently announced the launch of all-business class flights between Singapore and Los Angeles, and Singapore and Newark. The airline is refurbishing five Airbus A340 planes for the new service, which begins in mid May. The current two-class, 181 seat aircrafts will have 100 seats that turn into fully flat beds, plus the carriers renowned business-class services.
British Airways will launch all-business flights between New York and London City Airport, just six miles from central London and three miles from the Canary Wharf financial district. The airline says it ordered two Airbus A318 aircrafts with 32 lie-flat seats (Airbus318 planes can normally fit 100 passengers) for the launch. Fares have not been announced.