Flight service proves class act to follow

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 June, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 June, 1993, 12:00am

THE three classes of air travel have three distinct purposes. Economy is intended to provide relatively low-cost travel - an element of discomfort, particularly on long-haul flights, is reluctantly accepted by passengers as part of the deal.

In contrast, first is all about decadence. Space is ample and service is intended to be highly efficient, elaborately courteous and geared to catering to a passenger's personal whim. Flying in the front end of the plane is an acknowledgement of status, or at least of affluence.

Business class, however, means - or should mean - what it says. It is not merely a half-way point in terms of comfort, between the other two classes.

Its function is to turn what might otherwise have been dead time in the air into potentially productive time for the high-flying executive - either for work, for reflection, or for the necessary rest and relaxation before getting back into action on theground.

So, what are the priorities? Highly significant so far, as almost all business class travellers are concerned, seems to be space.

Leg room and seat comfort are among the most important reasons for paying the higher fare, along with the increased flexibility business class status offers the ticket holder on the ground.

''The main reason I usually fly business class is that I have to maintain a flexible schedule,'' said one frequent flyer.

''If I need to cancel a flight reservation at the last minute - or to get on a plane rather earlier than I'd originally planned - it's essential that I have the option to do so.

'' 'Cattle class' tickets don't give you that flexibility.'' Flexibility, and on-the-ground efficiency on the part of the carrier are clearly important.

Business travellers have to make maximum use of time, and it is essential to them that as little time as possible is wasted on exhaustive check-in procedures.

''The option to check in well in advance in the city is useful, and, if you are checking in at the airport, speedy processing of the formalities can buy you valuable time for those last two phone calls,'' he said.

''Communications facilities in airline lounges are important for that reason, too.'' With regard to service, option is divided as to what level of attentiveness is appropriate, and often split along East/West lines.

''I, frankly, don't like the fawning style of service on a lot of Asian carriers,'' said one expatriate businessman.

''I expect to be served swiftly and courteously, but that's all I require. If I want something, I'll ask for it, but I object to having my train of thought derailed by incessant offers of drinks, snacks and God knows what else.''