I started serious business travel in 1989 & the company policy was economy only.
My first flight in business was with SIA from MAN to SIN which was part of a holiday with my wife & paid for with Star Alliance air miles – maybe 1995. We were both thrilled at being seated ‘up front’
My Second was with BMI from MAN to ORD using one of the 4 ‘Gold upgrade vouchers’ issued by BMI – however, I got to check in and was told I was upgraded anyway, without having to use the voucher. Incidentally, BMI used to ‘collect’ business class pax from the lounge and escort them directly to the front of the queue when boarding – a practice I think certain other airlines could benefit from.
The company I work for these days, is good enough to allow my long haul travel in Business so it’s more of an everyday occurence now but, I am still grateful each time I sit in the CW cabin.