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As Airlines Focus on Business Class, Will Coach Decline?

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United, Delta, American and now JetBlue are competing for travel dollars, but not those of the average coach traveler who flies once or twice a year. Instead, the major U.S. airlines are revamping seats and service to draw in a specific kind of passenger: the premium traveler.

Those travelers will soon be able to fly in JetBlue’s new lie-flat seats between Los Angeles/San Francisco and New York. Meanwhile, leg room on coach planes is declining. Currently, coach seats offer between 31-33 inches of leg room.

Why is the focus shifting away from the largest populations of travelers, the coach traveler? Business and First Class seats offer a significantly higher profit margin or yield for an airline. In fact, if they fill the first-class section of the airplane with paying customers, coach can be empty and airlines will still turn a profit. But if they don’t fill the First or Business Class seats with paying customers, they will barely break even from a completely full coach cabin.

By the current model, you can argue that the airlines are saying coach passengers matter less.  And, true to the laws of unintended consequences, as  low-cost options decline, inter-city bus travel is on the rise.

Watch Peter’s latest CBS This Morning report to see why the coach passenger is losing value in the current travel economy.

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