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There are in-flight meals, entertainment, access to Wi-Fi and airport lounges, but what tops the list of product concerns among transatlantic-flying business travelers? Simple: Lie-flat seats.
Thus said Scott Kirby, US Airways’ president, in citing a 16% uptick in business-class demand, with particular strength in Europe, during the airline’s second quarter conference call yesterday.
If all goes as planned in getting approvals for the merger with American Airlines, now estimated to come in September, this might have been US Airways’ final financial-results conference call as a standalone company.
“We were one of the first airlines to put a fully lie-flat seat, and get it on all of our A330s,” Kirby said. “So in the big business markets for a number of years now, we’ve had the fully lie-flat Envoy seat. That is probably the number one product concern and consideration for the high-fare business customers flying across the Atlantic.”
Road warriors in business class undoubtedly enjoy what the airline describes as “restaurant-style meals,” fine wines, and plenty of movie selections, but they really value dozing for a few hours in those lie-flat seats, as US Airways tells it.
Of course, the increased demand that US Airways felt in the last quarter wasn’t simply attributed to the lie-flat seats in Envoy Suites (at right).
Kirby said US Airways has made a big push in fielding more salespeople in Europe over the last couple of years.
“We’ve increased our penetration of selling tickets to Europeans coming to the U.S.,” Kirby said. “And then, particularly in business, we’ve done a much better job in getting business traffic on our planes.”
If this indeed was going to be US Airways’ swan song and final earnings call, Kirby couldn’t help boasting about the airline’s track record:
“Operationally, of the network U.S. carriers from 2008 through 2012, US Airways has had the number one on-time performance, … has had the lowest mishandled baggage ratio, and the lowest cancellation rate. In the areas that matter most to customers, I want to thank all the people of US Airways for literally making us number 1 in all of these operational metrics for the last 5 years.”
The elephant in the room was the implication that US Airways would soon be bringing a lot of this expertise to American Airlines.