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Question about pmCO's premium classes before BF

Question about pmCO's premium classes before BF

Old Oct 11, 2023, 7:56 pm
  #1  
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Question about pmCO's premium classes before BF

Apologies upfront if this doesn't belong in this forum, but I wasn't sure where else to ask.

I know CO introduced BusinessFirst around 1993 or so. Prior to BF, what was CO Int'l F like, and did CO have 3-class Business? If so, what was it like? I'm guessing CO Int'l F was probably much like BF, but maybe a bit fancier, and Business might have been simpler and more Y-like, but with a nicer seat and slightly nicer meals. Is that correct?

I tried searching online but couldn't find anything, and the historic guru in me is curious about pre-BF CO.

Thanks!
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Old Oct 11, 2023, 8:15 pm
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Originally Posted by MrAndy1369
Apologies upfront if this doesn't belong in this forum, but I wasn't sure where else to ask.

I know CO introduced BusinessFirst around 1993 or so. Prior to BF, what was CO Int'l F like, and did CO have 3-class Business? If so, what was it like? I'm guessing CO Int'l F was probably much like BF, but maybe a bit fancier, and Business might have been simpler and more Y-like, but with a nicer seat and slightly nicer meals. Is that correct?

I tried searching online but couldn't find anything, and the historic guru in me is curious about pre-BF CO.

Thanks!
so instead of the J meals O gets today, CO gave Yish meals in J?
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Old Oct 11, 2023, 8:31 pm
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3 class Business? What does that mean? Before the current alignment, there was First, Business and Economy.
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Old Oct 11, 2023, 8:44 pm
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It's been a long time, and I flew CO very little so may be wrong, but I thought they had two-class service only.
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Old Oct 11, 2023, 8:58 pm
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They had 3 classes. I remember flying HNL SFO in business on 747 upstairs in 1989 or so
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Old Oct 11, 2023, 9:13 pm
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Into the 90s, Continental had a first class that was about standard for the day. It was a multicourse meal service, with caviar, carved roasts, fruit and cheese cart, higher-end wines and Champagnes, etc. The seats had a little bit more pitch and recline than the original BF product, but it was close.

Most airlines had a more extravagant first class meal service than generally exists these days. That was offset by much more limited entertainment options, worse seats, denser cabins with less privacy, and fewer nonstop flights to where you needed to go.

The business class of the era is probably closer to a premium economy product today
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Old Oct 12, 2023, 3:42 am
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Originally Posted by EWR764
Into the 90s, Continental had a first class that was about standard for the day. It was a multicourse meal service, with caviar, carved roasts, fruit and cheese cart, higher-end wines and Champagnes, etc. The seats had a little bit more pitch and recline than the original BF product, but it was close.

Most airlines had a more extravagant first class meal service than generally exists these days. That was offset by much more limited entertainment options, worse seats, denser cabins with less privacy, and fewer nonstop flights to where you needed to go.

The business class of the era is probably closer to a premium economy product today
Granted that I only have a single data point, and I was young and therefore 40% shorter than my adult height, but I couldn't disagree more. My mom and I were flying BOS to LAX via IAH and there was a misconnect in IAH, so we were rebooked in business class on CO 001 (their flagship route that continued onto HNL and SYD. The experience was simply amazing. I'm pretty sure the seat was a little better than my recent PE flights, but I'm not positive because I was small, but everything else was truly great.

TMK, when QF and PA launched the "business class" concept around 1980, the seats weren't all that different from economy (but, bear in mind the economy was tolerable during those days). However, the main value proposition was a better overall experience. It was popular with business travelers because whose companies prohibited "first class" because the price point wasn't much more than Y and companies couldn't really disagree with a class of service that was marketed specifically towards their road warriors. But, at some point, "business class" itself began to symbolize corporate waste, so now we have PE. I am allowed to buy biz sometimes, but more often than not, I end up in PE. I don't mind it, but I try to load up on food in the airport pre-flight.
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Last edited by moondog; Oct 12, 2023 at 4:00 am
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Old Oct 12, 2023, 4:06 am
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Originally Posted by Unitedloyalflyer
so instead of the J meals O gets today, CO gave Yish meals in J?
No way! It was served in courses, the steak was far better than anything I've experienced on an airplane since (JL F excepted), and dessert was a hot fudge sundae.
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Old Oct 12, 2023, 4:33 am
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Northwestern University has a collection of menus and other memorabilia from a former airline exec that has an extensive archive of 90s pmCO F & C menus:

https://findingaids.library.northwes...objects/254950

Some of them have been scanned, I just can't find the link...
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Old Oct 12, 2023, 5:21 am
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Originally Posted by drgreg
img
They had 3 classes. I remember flying HNL SFO in business on 747 upstairs in 1989 or so
Originally Posted by EWR764
Into the 90s, Continental had a first class that was about standard for the day. It was a multicourse meal service, with caviar, carved roasts, fruit and cheese cart, higher-end wines and Champagnes, etc. The seats had a little bit more pitch and recline than the original BF product, but it was close.

Most airlines had a more extravagant first class meal service than generally exists these days. That was offset by much more limited entertainment options, worse seats, denser cabins with less privacy, and fewer nonstop flights to where you needed to go.

The business class of the era is probably closer to a premium economy product today
Interesting, thanks. I thought at the time of the merger they did not have three class service, and for example the "BusinessFirst" nomenclature arose due to not having three class First. Do you know when traditional First went away?

Or am I just remembering all of that incorrectly?
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Old Oct 12, 2023, 5:49 am
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Originally Posted by fumje
Interesting, thanks. I thought at the time of the merger they did not have three class service, and for example the "BusinessFirst" nomenclature arose due to not having three class First. Do you know when traditional First went away?

Or am I just remembering all of that incorrectly?
IIRC, CO pioneered the hybrid business/first concept and was followed shortly by Delta's "Business Elite" and Northwest's "World Business Class". The time frame was around 1993. I think the market for first consisted mainly of rich people, and not many routes were awash with enough rich people to support them. NYC-LAX was an exception because the SAG required F for its members.
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Old Oct 12, 2023, 5:52 am
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Originally Posted by fumje
Interesting, thanks. I thought at the time of the merger they did not have three class service, and for example the "BusinessFirst" nomenclature arose due to not having three class First. Do you know when traditional First went away?

Or am I just remembering all of that incorrectly?
At the time of the merger CO was a 2-class airline -- the BusinessFirst name came from the combination of the two cabins (well before I started flying CO)... IIRC some of the early marketing tried pushing it as essentially "first class service at the business class price your corporate travel department will approve of", but before that they offered 3-class service on larger aircraft
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Old Oct 12, 2023, 6:17 am
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In interesting tangential point to this discussion is the future trajectory of premium economy. I still try to fly business, as long as the fares aren't insane, but if PE were to evolve into an equivalent of 1980s business class, I'd be more inclined to avail of it. I realize that most airlines include "economy" in their product names to appease beancounters, but that doesn't mean it has to suck.
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Old Oct 12, 2023, 6:29 am
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The F/C/Y of the past (lie flat in F, recliner in C etc) of the 1990s has become the C/PE/Y of today
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Old Oct 12, 2023, 7:38 am
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Originally Posted by oliver2002
The F/C/Y of the past (lie flat in F, recliner in C etc) of the 1990s has become the C/PE/Y of today
Agreed.

The business class seats of today are better than FC in the 80s on any airline that I can think of. Possible exception of SQ, I don't know when they rolled out the FC seats they had in the 90s but they were quite good.

CO struggled in their premium cabins, almost no one bought first. BusinessFirst was a smart marketing move for them, but certainly not perfect. I did not like the seats. Not lie-flat at all and you would slide down during the flight and wake up hanging by your armpits caught by the seat belt which was strangely higher than other airlines.

The meals, on the other hand, were among the best anywhere. My only complaint was the service was so "complete" it was slow and took up much of the flight. Flights to Europe out of EWR took forever to serve dinner course by course, then dessert, then coffee. Clean up, turn the lights down so people could sleep, and 1.5 hours later turn the lights back on and start a lengthy breakfast service. They were attempting to deliver a true FC meal service to the entire business class cabin. Such was BusinessFIrst.
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