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Despite stalled growth in China, Brazil and Russia, a wave of newly middle-class travelers from the BRICs and beyond will start visiting international destinations in the coming decades — dwarfing the numbers we’ve seen thus far.
Since seats are unique to airlines, decking them out is an important branding strategy. Amid fierce competition for elite travelers, airlines are stepping up their attempts to establish a competitive edge in that department.
“Business class is where competition really is serious,” says Björn Bosler, [Lufthansa’s] manager for passenger experience design, business and premium, who led Lufthansa’s team of dozens of seat designers and engineers. Bob Lange, senior vice president, head of market and product strategy at Airbus, the European plane maker, agrees: “There’s an arms race going on among carriers.”
Billions are being spent on research and development, architects, industrial designers and even yacht designers to pack seats with engineering innovations and fancy features. Just fabricating a single business-class seat can cost up to $80,000; custom-made first-class models run $250,000 to $500,000.