Fewer elite fliers could dampen airlines' recovery hopes

British Airways says first- and business-class travel was down almost 9% in September due largely to the financial crisis gripping London and New York. The slide in premium-fare passengers is bad news for an industry that seems otherwise well-positioned to ride out a recession. "If you start to lose one-half of 1% of those high-yield, front-of-the-plane travelers, that can change the economics of a flight in a snap," says Kevin Mitchell of the Business Travel Coalition.

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