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Virgin launches new Mid Class business service

LONDON -- Virgin Atlantic airlines introduced a new service for business travelers Monday that falls between the frills of first-class travel and basic economy seats.

'The airline business must be one of the only businesses in the world where, until the launch of 'mid class,' customers paying a wide range of (economy) fares have received exactly the same service,' Virgin Chairman Richard Branson said.

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Only 2 percent to 4 percent of those in economy class pay full fare, he said.

'From talking to business people, I found a lot of them would like to have class between upper (first) class and economy,' he said.

Fares for the new business category would be about 60 percent lower than most first- and business-class tickets offered by major competitors, said Virgin, which previously only had economy and first- class seats.

The new mid-class seats, which should be installed on all routes by early July, would be in a separate section and have 38 inches of legroom, offering more space than economy seats.

'We're hoping that there are a lot of travelers in economy class who don't normally travel upper class, but would like to upgrade their seats,' Branson told a news conference.

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The mid-class fare, estimated at 720 pounds ($1,275) for a round-trip ticket to New York, would feature separate check-in, pre-takeoff drinks and seat-arm TV monitors, Virgin said. The 8-year-old airline, founded by Branson, operates scheduled flights to five U.S. cities and Tokyo.

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