Air France-KLM subsidiary CityJet is scrapping business class in favour of a premium-economy product.

The move comes partly in response to changes in demand following the downturn.

"We have done away with classic business class on short-haul," said CityJet chief executive Geoffrey O'Byrne White during a briefing in London today, at which the product was formally launched.

O'Byrne White believes that the business-class cabin on short-haul routes is "pretty well" dead. He explains that business passengers are simply looking for flexibility and to return home as soon as their work is completed.

CityJet, which has a large operation at London City, has replaced its business-class fares with 'CityPlus', a fully-flexible premium-economy product allowing passengers to switch flights, change names and obtain full refunds on cancellation or no-show. They will also benefit from priority status, lounge access and doubled frequent-flyer points.

The business-class curtain at the front of CityJet's aircraft has been removed. CityPlus passengers will still be seated at the front of the aircraft, but the curtain will be replaced with a seat-back marker and the airline will no longer guarantee that middle seats will be kept vacant.

CityPlus will give a passengers a 30% saving on business-class travel. O'Byrne White says: "I see this as a very practical trade-up proposition for business travellers."

Large corporations are switching their travel policy, he adds, opting for "the best price on the day", creating difficulties for airline planning and forecasting.

"There's no doubt about it, a lot of corporate travel policies have changed," says O'Byrne White. "The benefits of business-class travel have been abandoned by a lot of corporate travel people because it's an obvious target for cutbacks, especially on short-haul travel."

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news