First-class airline seats: disappearing species

United Airlines as it completes its merger with Continental is bucking at least one trend: it is adding first-class seats.

These have been steadily disappearing from international flights in recent years, a trend accelerating as business travelers were forced to cut costs to cope with the recession.

Some airlines such as Delta replaced first-class with categories such as “business elite” seats, reports the Ventura County Star.

Last year, Qantas Airways replaced first-class seats with business-class seats on all its Boeing 747-400 planes, saying it was responding to “changing demands.”

“The economy has dictated the move away from premium seats, especially during the recession,” said Rick Seaney, founder of, told the newspaper.

On international flights, Continental offers only economy seating and a “BusinessFirst” section that includes special meals and “flat bed” seats that fully recline.

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