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Business class-only flights to the States are catching on. In November, two competing services began between London Stansted and New York JFK. The classier and more expensive service is operated by Eos, a "first class for price of business" operation that has a top price of £2,808 return. This week, Dave Spurlock, founder and CEO of Eos, announced that, in May, an average of 60 per cent of seats were filled on his airline's daily flights.

This is worse than the industry average of 75 per cent, but Spurlock says that he expects better results for June and is happy with the performance: "It has now been proven that our business model can operate profitably." Eos flies Boeing 757s fitted with 48 seats that recline to flat beds.

Eos shares the route with MAXjet, which effectively offers an enhanced "premium economy" cabin, with 102 passengers on a Boeing 767. This compares with some charter versions that can hold three times as many. MAXjet has now expanded its network to include Dulles airport in Washington, DC, four times a week from Stansted.

The lowest return fare to the American capital is £995 return. This is one-sixth higher than the £855 payable to New York, but is pitched below BA's and Virgin Atlantic's premium economy fares to the US capital from Heathrow.

With basic economy fares across the Atlantic very high in July and August, MAXjet's fares to New York begin to look competitive even with the cheap seats. Flying on 22 July, returning one week later, BA's lowest economy fare is £559 return - only 35 per cent cheaper.

Eos and MAXjet may soon be facing competition from Silverjet, an embryonic business-class airline flying from Luton. It plans two flights to New York's Newark airport, using Boeing 767s configured with 100 seats that convert - almost - to flat beds.

Before you stretch out for the long stretch, don't forget that the environmental impact of business class-only flights is significantly higher than for basic economy - particularly if two out of five seats on the aircraft are empty.

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