Why Does Anyone Fly Business Class?
Which raises the puzzle of the title. I am a reasonably well off inhabitant of one of the world's richest countries. Where do the airlines of the world find enough customers willing to pay ten times what I would be willing to pay to fill their business class (and first class) seats?
One possible answer is that I am not as well off as I think I am, relatively speaking, that there are a lot of people a lot richer than I am, willing to pay a much higher price for comfort. Another is that many people are more profligate—alternatively, less stingy—than I am. A third is suggested by my own experience—that a lot of those people are not paying for their own tickets. But that only replaces the question of why they are willing to pay the price with the question of why someone else is.
Perhaps that someone else is flying the passenger somewhere to do something important the next day, and having him rested and competent is worth the price. I doubt that can be the explanation for very many passengers. I expect that, in most cases, the cost of an extra day or two of recovery time would be considerably less than the extra cost of a business class fare.
Perhaps the explanation is the value of status. Passengers paying a business class fare are buying the feeling that they are Very Important People. Organizations that pay a speaker's fare are demonstrating that they consider him a Very Important Person, and the fact that their speakers are Very Important People makes them Very Important Organizations. That fits my later observation—I am now revising this post on my return flight—that several of the organizations I gave talks for over the past two weeks put me and my wife up in much fancier, and much more expensive, hotels than we would have chosen for ourselves.
Perhaps I'm just a tightwad. Or perhaps, as my wife suggests, the advantage of business class seats is greater for passengers who are more than five feet three and a half inches tall.