The airlines at South Florida’s airports are in a fierce battle.
Airlines at both Miami International Airport and Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport are raising the bar on luxury offerings in order to lure business class passengers.
“American is investing $3 billion to improve our customers’ experience in the air and on the ground,” said American Airlines spokeswoman Alexis Aran Coello.
Lie-flat seats on international aircraft, satellite-based WiFi with improved connectivity and high-end food and drink options are some of the highlights American hopes will attract higher paying travelers to their business class flights.
Even before boarding, passengers who have opted into American’s new Admirals Club lounges get access to a full bar, showers, a conference room, free WiFi, unlimited snacks, and a make your own guacamole bar. A restaurant will be added to this list later this year.
“For an airline to be able to fill up its business class is first thing,” says MIA Airport Director Emilio Gonzalez.
And the reason is money. A handful of business class seats dwarf the masses in the back of the plane when it comes to revenue.
A quick check of flights from Miami to London this summer showed a coach ticket on American and Delta averaged $1,600. The price of a business class seat on the same flight cost almost $10,000.
This means for just one fancy flyer, the airlines must put about six passengers in the coach seats.
“We’ll show a prospective carrier that should they begin flying to Miami that they’ll get a sizable chunk of a business class passenger,” explained Gonzalez.
From an airport perspective, Gonzalez says MIA’s impressive growth with attracting new airlines is based, in part, on being able to sell the region’s ability to fill business class seats.
The result is an intense competition for these elite travelers at MIA and to an extent Ft. Lauderdale too. Flights to Europe and even the Middle East are going from Hollywood-Ft. Lauderdale International this year.
Additionally, passengers leaving out of MIA could fill half of the business class section of new routes that will soon go to Asia.
Paul Hudson, who heads FlyersRights.org, told us coach passengers would benefit if airlines fought to lure them.
“We need more competition,” said Hudson.
The pampering, however, isn’t just for high rollers. Frugal flyers can try to get on business class too by joining frequent flyer programs, signing up for airline credit cards, and asking for upgrades when delayed or dealing with lost bags.