NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- For most of the vacationing population, the business-class experience behind those curtains is a total mystery. Coach fliers assume it provides at least more legroom and a better sleeping position, but each airline has different ideas about what constitutes luxury, and not all business-class sections are created equal.While it's pretty much impossible to estimate the price of an average business-class seat -- which varies depending on carrier, route, type of aircraft, length of flight, time of year, day of week, place of purchase, etc. -- a review of blogs and articles on the subject suggests that you can fly the friendly skies as a business traveler for about $3,000 to $5,000 for a long-haul flight, which is usually defined as six hours or more. That's often about five times the cost of a seat in coach, while a first-class ticket will tend to cost about 10 times more.
|You can fly the friendly skies as a business traveler for about $3,000 to $5,000 for a long-haul flight, with rewards varying from onboard office space to flight attendants trained to perform magic.|
We start in Italy, where, thousands of years ago, the Roman empire collapsed in no small part due to its residents' lavish lifestyles. That tradition is upheld on the country's flagship carrier, Alitalia, which definitively does away with bland airplane food. Passengers in its Magnifico class are treated to luxurious food and drink in the way only an Italian at home could pull off. The airline highlights a different region of the country at a time. Current Magnifico passengers get a menu from the Veneto region that includes no fewer than four types of bread and espresso brewed in copper espresso machines on some planes. The Tuscan wine list goes just as far, with a 2005 Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico making the prospect of flying Alitalia Magnifico indeed. Virgin Atlantic
Still in Europe, we turn to Virgin Atlantic, which embraces a certain level of British snobbery in what it calls its " Upper Class" seats. Eva Leonard, editor-in-chief of Business Traveler magazine, has seen how Virgin, along with British Airways, launched the luxury travel idea. "European carriers like Virgin and British Airways really led the way in putting flat beds in business class," she says. "Now Virgin has a full-on bar on board some of their aircraft, and you can even get a haircut in their lounge at Heathrow." Leonard also notes, with some nostalgia, that many carriers - including Virgin - have increasingly moved their perks to their lounges at various airports instead of aboard the actual planes. "I don't know if it was an actual masseuse or just a specially trained flight attendant, but I once got a massage on a Virgin flight," she says.