In the 1980s(1), airlines faced with an overwhelming number of business travelers who were forbidden to buy expensive First Class tickets but tired of flying Coach came up with a new concept: Business Class. For about half the price of a First Class fare, a Business Class seat offered longer legroom, wider seats, tastier food, and more personalized service than Coach. It was a huge success--at least for a few years, when companies went through their next round of cost-cutting.
Today, most business travelers travel in the class of service created for them only when they're able to broker an upgrade from a Coach fare. Aware of the strict "bottom line"-centric price controls increasingly in place at American companies, U.S. low-cost carriers like Southwest have seen an opportunity to jump into the fray with a new take on business travel. For an extra $10 to $30 per ticket, road warriors booking Southwest's Business Select fares earn the right to board first--a coveted privilege on an airline that has no reserved seating.
Not to be outdone by its sky-borne counterpart, commercial bus carrier Greyhound announced its own initiative. Like Business Select, Priority Boarding offers passengers advance boarding but goes a step further by allowing them to actually reserve specific seats online--and it costs just $5 to boot, handily undercutting Southwest's fee.
Now, to be fair, Southwest's Business Select provides a few other benefits. Passengers earn additional credit in the airline's Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program, and each booking comes with a coupon for a complimentary alcoholic beverage that you pointedly won't be offered on Greyhound. But then again, when you as a business traveller are faced with the reality that the amenities you'll get on your flight are only a slight step ahead of taking the bus, you'll probably need that drink.
(1) Strictly speaking, the first Business Class seating was introduced by Australia's then-national carrier Qantas in 1979. However, it was during the 1980s that the offering was first offered by U.S. airlines.