What’s in a name?

April 12, 2022

If the past two pandemic years have taught us anything, it is that we don’t have to fly all over hell’s half-acre to get stuff done, and done well.  Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams, and the like have made working from home productive.  The result of which, I think, is a new norm: fewer people traveling by air on business than previously.

So I’ve begun to wonder if the descriptive term for the international pointy end flying cabin—“Business Class”—is now anachronistic.  Maybe not all at once, but like a slowly leaking tire, travel for business in what is now called Business Class will soon deflate.  Bygone, defunct, obsolete, dead: pick your word; it’s time to rename.

I live in Raleigh. It’s a thriving area of central North Carolina, part of the Research Triangle area that includes Durham and Chapel Hill.  Jobs galore are moving here, such as when Apple announced last year 6,000 new positions. And that’s just one example. We are blessed with prosperity and good quality of life.

High tech, high-quality office space abounds in these parts.  Yet my wife, a 20+ year white-collar employee, hasn’t worked in her office in the Research Triangle Park, a 20-minute commute in good traffic from Raleigh, since April 2020.  She conducts or participates in multiple large-group video meetings all day, every day, and she hasn’t missed a beat since the lockdown commenced.

Ditto for me.  In my role as a member of the Board of Trustees for the regional transit authority (GoTriangle) and in carrying out responsibilities for other civic and community organizations, I Zoom all the time. I never heard of Zoom before March of 2020.

For the seven years through 2019, I traveled on business annually to transit conferences and transit learning opportunities in Washington (several trips), Pittsburgh, Denver, Salt Lake City, Twin Cities (several trips), Dallas/Ft. Worth, San Francisco, Vancouver, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Vienna—to name the ones I remember. 

During Covid, however, I instead attended eight conferences online and only one by air (to South Florida once).  Admittedly, I didn’t enjoy the virtual conferences nearly as much as being there in person, nor was I able to network with others face to face, but I’d be lying if I said the online events lacked value.  And participating from home sure saved the public sector organizations I represent a ton of travel dollars—that’s tax dollars not spent.

Coming out (we hope) of the Covid era, my wife and I have little need now to travel on business. Just like many Americans.  If we’ve all learned to make remote work effective, and if working partly from home becomes SOP, then I am convinced that a goodly number of everybody’s routine pre-pandemic business trips by air will decline.  If I’m right, then, like I said, the name “business” class becomes archaic. 

Certainly, too, the astonishing rise in oil prices will goose already frightfully steep international Business Class airfares to ever-higher levels, making business travel in Business Class even less an attractive option versus conducting business virtually.

If already low business travel demand sinks further, then I wonder who will be paying those astronomical fares to fly up front going overseas.  Affluent leisure travelers, I’m guessing. 

If so, then airlines will sooner or later come up with a new moniker for Business Class that accurately reflects the non-business customers occupying those comfy lie-flat seats.  Here are a few of my off-the-cuff renaming suggestions:

  • Top Class
  • Sharp End
  • Front Cabin
  • Elite Cabin
  • Premium Cabin
  • Exclusive Class
  • High Class
  • Finest Class
  • Suite Class
  • Exceptional Class
  • Gold Class
  • Platinum Class
  • Diamond Class
  • Special Class
  • Luxury Class
  • Best Class
  • Superior Class
  • Quality Class
  • Easy Class
  • Comfort Class
  • Rest Class
  • Escape Class
  • Relaxation Cabin
  • Indulgence Class
  • Resort Class
  • Leisure Class
  • Delight Cabin
  • Clipper Class (used by PanAm way back when)
  • Ambassador Class (tip of the hat to TWA’s Ambassador Clubs)

And a few more—perhaps too cheeky—ideas for renaming the forward cabin:

  • FU Class
  • Bite-Me Class
  • Conceit Cabin
  • Arrogance Cabin
  • Haughty Class
  • Snooty Class
  • Smug Class
  • Snub Class
  • Snob Class
  • Me-Proud Cabin
  • Limousine Cabin
  • Country Club Class
  • Lack-of-Humility Cabin
  • Far-Out Class
  • Not-Coach Cabin
  • Least-Worst Class

Kidding aside, my favorite new term for the international forward cabin is the old one: First Class.

Yeah, I know some airlines (e.g., Emirates, QANTAS, Singapore, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa) offer First Class on some routes now, but nothing prevents the carriers that offer only “Business” Class from renaming their product First Class. Delta is a step ahead of that game, already calling their front cabin Delta One, clearly inferring First Class.

What should we call it on other airlines now that business travel is ephemeral?

With thanks to readers for these suggestions:

Connoisseur Class – Used by United about 1990. Pan Am had trademarked it, so United had to buy it. (Corey Clinger)
Envoy Class – US Air. I always wondered if it was really Envy Class! (Corey Clinger)

One thought on “What’s in a name?

  1. Or go back to what is old is new again:
    Connoisseur Class – Used by United about 1990. Pan Am had trademarked it so United had to buy it
    Envoy Class – US Air. I always wondered if it was really envy class!


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