THE high-flying first class and business traveller has never had it so good. Airlines have introduced everything from mobile telephones in flight to personal television screens and offers of free air kilometres. Things have changed dramatically since the days when all you had was a reading light, a limited selection of background piped music, and no choice in what to watch on the screen. Cathay Pacific, for example, has installed personal televisions as a standard feature in first class on all long-haul aircraft. The 15-centimetre monitors have been fitted with a filter to prevent flickering screens from disturbing other passengers. The system offers four stereo channels. Early next year, Cathay plans to introduce personal televisions in business class on 747s, which will offer six channels. Northwest Airlines is installing WorldLink in all seats for first-and business-class passengers. This is described as the most advanced interactive in-flight entertainment and communications system. It allows passengers to view films, play video games, receive flight information and order duty-free items from their seats. Emirates Airline boasts a library of 33 movies for first-class fliers to choose from, viewed either from video players fitted into arm rests or on hi-tech screens. Japan Airlines has also introduced personal video screens. It offers a selection of feature films, sport and current affairs on five-inch screens built into the armrests of passengers' seats. Busy travellers can even stay in touch with their office while in the air. Mobile phones are available to make calls to almost anywhere in the world. Malaysia Airlines is among those offering a mobile phone service. It is activated by credit card and costs US$8.70 a minute to any city - useful but, at that price, every minute definitely counts. Singapore Airlines (SIA) introduced Celestel, the world's first global satellite in-flight telephone system, in 1991. It cost US$650,000 per aircraft to install, according to the airline. SIA followed up this year by launching what it describes as the world's first global in-flight fax machine. The airline has said that fax machines will be progressively installed on all SIA's Megatops, which operate on long haul flights worldwide. Twenty Megatops will be equipped with fax machines and telephones by the end of this year. Eventually, SIA plans to have a cabin management and interactive video system linked to Celestal, enabling passengers to make reservations, send data and receive real-time news and other financial services through their in-seat videos. Cathay Pacific says it is waiting for technology to improve before it considers installing cordless phones. A spokeswoman said the phones were still not 100 per cent reliable, and reception was too often poor. She added that consumer demand was still not overwhelming, and the airline had to take into account the expense of introducing them. Many airlines are now luring customers with free air kilometres. The Passages scheme, for example, allows frequent fliers who are members to earn credit for travel on participating airlines, for stays in certain hotels, and for all charges on certain credit or charge cards. Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines are the three involved. Swissair and Austrian Airlines are said to be ready to join the programme, and other Asian carriers may also join in the next two years. Thai Airways International operates its own frequent flier scheme, known as Royal Orchid Plus. The airline trumpets the scheme as everything a traveller would expect from a frequent flier programme and more, from the airline ''that turned service into an art form''. On-board comfort plays a big part in attracting first and business class passengers, with leg room being at the top of many people's demands. Singapore Airlines says it has taken its ''sleeper seats'' one step further, providing greater space to recline, and increasing the height of the leg rest to almost horizontal. Competition for passengers begins before they even board the plane, with priority reservation schemes. Airlines also vie with each other to make flying an ever more comfortable and productive experience: they have upgraded and extended airport lounges. and provided an increasing range of services and facilities. Even after leaving the plane, travellers' custom is still vied for. They can arrange for a business centre to be booked for a meeting at the same time as reserving an airline seat. Once off the plane, the car they choose to rent when making the reservation will be waiting, and they can devote themselves to the business at hand.