Bridging the gap between private jets and claustrophobic passenger aircraft, many major airlines have been stepping up with better services and seating targeted specifically to the high-end international traveler.

One of the most important international routes for those involved in finance is New York to London, and while walk-up first-class fares can exceed $10,000 roundtrip, the airlines that compete on this route have been investing in better products.

British Airways ( is in the middle of rolling out its next-generation Club World business class. Like the previous variety, these seats recline into a flat and horizontal position so passengers can sleep in a bed-like environment. Other features include audiovisual on demand that enables travelers to stop, rewind and fast forward movies as they wish, larger tray tables and larger personal video monitors. The airline also offer travelers from major gateways along the East Coast and Chicago preflight dining so they can maximize their sleep on board. At the London end is an arrivals lounge with showers, including pressing for clothes and full breakfast if you need to refresh before heading directly for a meeting.

The British carrier also is planning to unveil a new first-class concept later this year, and next spring will move into a new home, Terminal 5, at its London Heathrow hub. In the meantime it is focused on providing high-frequency flights so business travelers can change their schedule as needed. Currently there are ten daily roundtrips between two New York-area airports, JFK and Newark Liberty, and Heathrow. Many other cities have two and three flights a day, and BA serves more North American cities than any other carrier.

Of course, travel to the U.K. has many strong competitors who want the high-yield business traveler. Virgin Atlantic Airways ( is best know for its billionaire chairman, Sir Richard Branson, who can often be found aboard its flights. Lesser known is that the airline is now 49% owned by Singapore Airlines.

While not offering a first-class cabin, Virgin pioneered a value-added business class labeled as Upper Class. Seats in this cabin, like British Airways, recline into a flat and horizontal position to create a bed. On board, Virgin flights are known to be lively, with a masseuse and bar encouraging passengers to have a drink and socialize.

On Virgin the seats are positioned in a herringbone fashion, meaning every seat is an aisle or a window so you never have somebody climbing over you.

On the ground, Virgin has a unique lounge concept-Virgin Clubhouse-serving full hot meals and offering spa treatments and media rooms. Its flagship clubhouse at Heathrow includes a barbershop.

One of the new entrants making a splash in the market is EOS Airlines ( The carrier was started by former BA executive David Spurlock and recently appointed Jack Williams, a former senior executive with American Airlines, as its CEO.

Using a 757 that would normally carry nearly 200 passengers, the airline installed 48 suites (similar to what is found in first class on many international airlines). It currently flies from
JFK to Stansted, a London area airport known more for its regional flights to Europe, but with a direct train connection into the city.

The airline tries to take the hassles out of travel by employing curbside greeters who check passengers in and will take them through priority lines at security if they are running late.
The airline has up to three flights a day and plans to start a JFK to Paris route early in 2008.

EOS claims success by offering a first-class style product but charging business class fares, from just under $7,000 on a walkup basis to special fares for as low as $3,000.

Two other airlines trying to get a piece of the market are Silverjet ( and MaxJet (, which each fly 767s with approximately 100 seats, as opposed to the normal 200, in an all-business-class environment. Unlike EOS, their seating is equivalent to older style business-class seating-seats that recline at an angled position. Both of these airlines pitch fares that range as low as $1,500 round-trip.

Moving to continental Europe, Lufthansa ( has had a major focus on the premium market. Over the past couple of years the airline identified hassles on the ground as one of the biggest complaints of highpaying customers. To circumvent its crowded terminals in Frankfurt and Munich, the German airline created dedicated first-class terminals that are separate from its main facilities. Upon landing in either city, first-class passengers are deplaned into a waiting Porsche or BMW and whisked to the first-class terminal, where any immigration and customs formalities are handled. If they happen to be connecting, they are then driven to the departure area of the next flight segment when it is ready for boarding.

Each terminal has a full restaurant, concierge services, showers and other amenities. Separately, Lufthansa and NetJets collaboratively launched Lufthansa Private Jet, allowing its passengers from North America to connect onto a private jet at an extra charge for their onward flight.

Air France ( also has been making improvements, rolling out new first- and business-class seats. Its first-class seats are in pods with large side tables and plenty of workspace. Its new business-class seats are now into their third version. While the seats went into a flat position, the tilt meant passengers complained that they felt they were sliding down. The latest rendition, currently being installed, brings the seat to a nearly flat 175-degree recline.

At its Paris Charles de Gaulle hub, the French airline is following Lufthansa's playbook by providing planeside boarding and disembarkation to first-class passengers by private car transfer from and to the firstclass lounge.

Looking farther east, Emirates (, the Dubai-based airline, in December starts a nonstop flight from Houston to its home base. It already offers three flights a day from New York JFK, while Qatar Airways, which promotes its high level of in-flight service, started flights to Newark and Washington, D.C.'s Dulles Airport this June. The Dulles flight is nonstop to Doha while the New York flight routes through Geneva, providing a new alternative to travelers who have business along Lake Leman.

Travel to Asia always has been an opportunity to fly with what are considered two of the world's most service-oriented airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways of Hong Kong and Singapore Airlines. With cupboards full of service awards, both airlines aim to please and both have invested heavily in new seating for their first- and business-class cabins.

Cathay ( is rolling out a new suite concept in first class that provides considerable privacy, and even a private coat closet. In business class the airline is installing fully flat seats similar to those being used by Virgin.

Singapore Airlines ( meanwhile has focused on creating extra-wide seats in both first and business cabins, with its business seats being the widest any airline is offering. Both the first and business seats convert into flat beds.

Korean Air ( also is making a move for a larger share of the premium market to Asia and particularly China. It currently serves more than 20 cities in China with a connection at its ultramodern hub at Inchon from 12 North American gateways. Its new first-class seating is state-of-the-art, flat-bed pods that include high-tech audio-visual on demand.

Another concept that is changing travel is all-business-class or premium long haul service from the major airlines. Lufthansa offers this service as scheduled flights using Boeing business jets and Airbus corporate jets with less than 50 business seats. The flights are used to link cities that don't have the traffic to support nonstop flights with larger planes. While these flights don't offer a first-class cabin, they have become extremely popular as the small amount of people traveling mean easy boarding and quick luggage retrieval.

KLM, the Dutch carrier, now uses this all-business/premium concept to offer a second flight from Houston to Amsterdam, while Swiss operates such a flight between Munich and Zurich. More of this new concept will be big news for business travelers in 2008. With a new air travel agreement between the European Union and the United States, both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have announced their intention to begin next year all-premium flights between the U.S. and cities such as Zurich, Milan and Paris using these small aircraft.